'Is my money also abominable?':|
bishops exchange letters on Lambeth, aid
by Doug LeBlanc
The Lambeth Conference's resolution on human sexuality presents a "considerable impediment" to funding a project in Uganda, one bishop has written to another.
Bishop Ronald H. Haines of the Diocese of Washington wrote the letter to Bishop Eliphaz Maari, acting vice chancellor of Uganda Christian University, on Sept. 18.
Haines wrote to Maari about one American's response to the Lambeth resolution's "rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture."
"One gay person said to me, 'If I am an abomination, is my money also abominable?' As a diocese we would like to be in a greater partnership with brothers and sisters in Africa, but for the present time we have a considerable impediment presented by the Lambeth decision," Haines wrote.
"I would welcome any insight that you can give me because we sincerely want to be in partnership, but there is no way we can be in partnership without gay and lesbian people being involved on our side," Haines added in the letter. "Our diocese consists of baptized people who are seeking to follow the Lord Jesus. We do all we can not to exclude anyone and to be inclusive even as we seek to grow from grace to grace. The Lambeth resolution is seen here as highly exclusive. Your insight would be greatly appreciated."
Haines said in a telephone interview that he has written similar letters to several other bishops.
"I've had dialogue with several bishops over there, by letter, and it hasn't slowed down our grant-making. But we have talked to each other, which is important," Haines said.
African bishops "tend to say we have many differences, but we also have many needs, and I agree with that," Haines said. "We need to hear each other as we address the needs."
The two bishops met while Maari visited the United States in June 1998, and again at the Lambeth Conference.
Maari said he has not received any funds from the Diocese of Washington.
"It was very clear to me and to others that unless we supported the gays' cause, we can't expect support from congregations in the Washington diocese," Maari said in a telephone interview.
In his response to Haines, Maari reaffirmed his support of the Lambeth resolution but also expressed support for further discussion.
"Many of us were rather worried that the Anglican Communion might be divided over the issue, but we were greatly relieved and thank God that such a crisis never occurred. In spite of the Resolution the Communion still holds together. This gives more opportunity for dialogue and who knows what further revelation God might shed on this matter."
The full texts of Haines' letter and Maari's response follow this report.
Maari said he found Haines' letter ironic in light of widespread accusations that conservative Episcopalians bribed African bishops during the Lambeth Conference.
"We feel insulted for someone to say we were bought," Maari said. "Our Christian conscience is a matter of life and death. I would like anybody to point out anybody who gave me a single dollar at Lambeth."
Maari said the 461-student school has received support from St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Morristown, N.J. (Diocese of Newark), and from the Diocese of Long Island.
At best, Maari said, the university has received only about one twentieth of the nearly $3 million it seeks for scholarships, construction and expansion of the campus library. The $3 million request would cover improvements in four academic years, beginning in 1998-99 and ending in 2001-02.
Anyone who wishes to support the university may send donations to Uganda Christian University, Account Number 10831035, c/o Citibank N.A. International Private Banking, Citicorp Center, 153 E. 53rd St., New York, NY 10043.
September 18, 1998
The Rt. Rev. Eliphaz Maari
Dear Bishop Maari:
It was good to see your letter of July 8th when I got back into the office following Lambeth and some holiday time. I also am aware that you have written to the Rev. Geoffrey Price at St. Paul's Church and I do believe they have an interest in at least a portion of your project.
I hope I may now speak in candor as a brother in Christ. The Lambeth Conference was both an exciting witness of the diversity of the Anglican Communion, but also its resolution on human sexuality has created a sharp negative reaction amongst a significant number of clergy and lay leaders here in the Diocese of Washington. I believe the feeling in this diocese is reflected in most of our urban diocese. We did not hear each other very well at Lambeth across cultural lines.
While I hold what I believe is a high biblical theology and a conservative one, my priority is to express biblical truth with liberal love. I do not believe that we were able to hear each other and come to a common definition of homosexuality. In the broader picture, I don't believe that we were able to deal candidly with the ethical and moral norms of heterosexuality. Scripture says what scripture says and I have no desire to change it or to give it some ingenious interpretation. Scripture also says what it says about the divine right of kings, forbidding contraception, divorce and the charging of interest and accruing interest, etc., etc. I have said to the flock here that homosexuality was discussed through the principle of scriptura sola where revelation was confined to scripture. Heterosexuality and other subjects were not so treated. We obviously had to interpret beyond scripture in matters of the ethical challenges posed by high-tech, global finance and debt and euthanasia, just to name a few subjects. The singling out of gay and lesbian people for some particularly hurtful rhetoric has caused deep concerns in this diocese.
Our cultural situation is that this city and diocese has had a significant gay and lesbian community for decades. Over the years many of those individuals have been faithful members of many of our congregations. There are gay and lesbian people at all levels of leadership and decision making in the church, in the government and in the military. That is not to say that they are identifiable by their lifestyles because they are not. They hold the same social and Christian values as anyone else. We have a common expectation of gay and straight people, namely that they will either lead a chaste life or be in a monogamous relationship. In other areas we expect all Christians to be forthright, honest and equitable in their dealings with others, with power and with money. The most oft quoted phrase of the Vision Statement of this diocese is that we are a Christian community . . . "where all are accepted and none are despised." That is far from saying anything goes. We have high standards of ethics, morals and behavior, but it is consistent for all people. I realize that concept is quite abstract to many in other parts of the globe. I can only share with you and others that I see the gift of the Spirit and dedication to ministry exhibited as much in gay people as I do in straight people. The gay and lesbian community has been particularly graced with the gift of generosity. That leads to some of our present difficulty.
One gay person said to me, "If I am an abomination, is my money also abominable?" As a diocese we would like to be in a greater partnership with brothers and sisters in Africa, but for the present time we have a considerable impediment presented by the Lambeth decision. In the area of grant making, I do not believe there will be any impact upon African Palms or the Companions in World Mission. Both of them operate with their own Board of Directors. On the other hand, the Diocese of Washington received a major legacy called the Soper Trust. We use all of the income from the trust for grants and we had been looking into some grants for Africa. With the Soper Trust we are able to make grants in the $5-20,000 range and extend them over several years. There probably would not be more than one grant made per year, but it could make a difference. We are trying to form an additional coalition with St. Paul's Church, Rock Creek, so that we can use our finite resources to the best advantage of God's kingdom. I do not speak at all for St. Paul's, Rock Creek, but I can say that our Soper grants must be approved by the Bishops and Council. Bishops and Council as reflected in this letter are gravely concerned about where the Lambeth decision leads us.
I would welcome any insight that you can give me because we sincerely want to be in partnership, but there is no way we can be in partnership without gay and lesbian people being involved on our side. Our diocese consists of baptized people who are seeking to follow the Lord Jesus. We do all we can not to exclude anyone and to be inclusive even as we seek to grow from grace to grace. The Lambeth resolution is seen here as highly exclusive. Your insight would be greatly appreciated.
Yours in Christ,
Ronald H. Haines
cc: The Rt. Rev. Jane Holmes Dixon
10 October 1998
The Rt. Rev. Ronald H. Haines
Dear Bishop Haines
Thank you for your letter of Sept. 18, 1998, which I received yesterday.
I am really sorry to hear that the Lambeth Conference Resolution on human sexuality was not well-received in your diocese and that it might affect our partnership.
Many of us were rather worried that the Anglican Communion might be divided over the issue, but were greatly relieved and thank God that such a crisis never occurred. In spite of the Resolution the Communion still holds together. This gives more opportunity for dialogue and who knows what further revelation God might shed on this matter.
Personally, I believe both groups either for or against the Resolution were sincere. I am glad they spoke their mind because hypocrisy is dangerous and does not promote mutual understanding. I wish to remind you that in spite of that Resolution, love for homosexuals and lesbians was emphasized.
Most of African Bishops believe that gay orientation is part of our fallen human nature due to Original Sin and that one can be redeemed by the power and grace of God through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At Lambeth, we were convinced by evidence of living testimonies by non-Africans whose gay orientation had been transformed by Jesus Christ. Even in Africa we have similar testimonies. This experience is scripturally based. I appreciate the value for continued friendly dialogue with open minds, ears and hearts to allow God's truth, through His Holy Spirit to convict us, teach us, guide and convince us. This should apply to all areas where Christians find themselves in disagreement.
Finally, as regards our application for financial support for the University Projects I leave it entirely to you and the members of Soper Trust and St. Paul's Church, Rock Creek, to decide.
As long as we still claim to belong to the same communion and the same Lord Jesus Christ our partnership still remains in spite of our disagreements provided we are sincere and honest with each other.
We can only hope and pray that through dialogue we shall increasingly come to a better understanding of each other. In the meantime, I wait to hear a response to our requests.
Yours in Christ
Rt. Rev. Eliphaz K. Maari
cc: The Archbishop Livingstone