Tutu: Focus on Africa's woes, not gay clergy

Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Friday urged the African Anglican church to concentrate on the continent’s grim problems rather than on the row over gay clergy, and said persecuting gay people is akin to racism.

The debate over the role of homosexuals in the church threatens to split the world’s 77-million Anglicans, pitting traditionalists in developing countries against liberals in the West.

African Anglican bishops have threatened to refuse to sit at the same table as Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who heads the United States Episcopal Church and supports gay clergy, at a global meeting in Tanzania next month.

“I am deeply disturbed that in the face of some of the most horrendous problems facing Africa, we concentrate on ‘what do I do in bed with whom’,” the South African Nobel Laureate Tutu told a news conference in Nairobi.

“For one to penalise someone for their sexual orientation is the same as penalising someone for something they can do nothing about, like ethnicity or race. I cannot imagine persecuting a minority group which is already being persecuted.”

Tensions in the loose worldwide union of churches over homosexuality reached boiling point with the appointment of openly gay US Bishop Gene Robinson in 2003.

“The God I worship would not consider that [gay clergy] to be a priority concern,” Tutu said, adding that churches should instead be thinking about poverty, HIV/Aids and conflict resolution.

Homosexuality is taboo in most African societies, and most of the African church says ordaining gay clergy goes against the Bible.

The South African church, which has a strong liberal tradition nurtured under the anti-apartheid struggle and financial links to the US, is the lone African voice in support of Jefferts Schori.

Tutu, retired Archbishop of Cape Town, is in Kenya to attend the World Social Forum where over 80 000 people are expected to campaign over trade, poverty, war and the environment.—Reuters


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