/ 18 February 2008

Uganda’s Anglicans threaten to secede

Uganda’s Anglican Church threatened on Monday to secede from the rest of the 77-million member fellowship unless United States clergy condemn homosexuality.

The announcement was the latest salvo in a fierce debate about homosexuality that has gripped the global Anglican Communion since its US wing — the Episcopal Church — consecrated its first openly gay bishop in 2003.

”Anglicanism is just an identity and if they abuse it, we shall secede. We shall remain Christians, but not in the same Anglican Communion,” Church of Uganda spokesperson Aron Mwesigye said.

There are about seven million Anglicans in Uganda, according to the church’s website.

Last week, Uganda’s Anglican bishops said they would boycott a once-a-decade gathering of worldwide church leaders this summer because of the Episcopal Church’s stance on homosexuality.

Mwesigye said the Ugandan church is now considering a complete severing of ties ”because we have complained against homosexuality several times but no action is taken”.

”If they don’t change, and continue to support homosexual practices and same-sex marriages, our relationship with them will be completely broken,” Mwesigye added.

Tensions between more liberal and conservative branches of Anglicanism mounted in 2006 with the election of Katharine Jefferts Schori, who supports ordaining gay people, as the first female leader of the US church.

Supporters of ordaining gay people believe the Bible’s social-justice teachings take precedence over its view of sexuality. However, most Anglicans outside the US believe gay relationships are sinful, and they are distancing themselves from the US church.

Mwesigye said that if the Uganda church does break off, it will enlist other African churches to form a separate fellowship that does not condone homosexuality.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the communion, has struggled to hold off one of the biggest meltdowns in Christianity in centuries, but he lacks any direct authority to force a compromise. — Sapa-AP