Monday, 3 October 2016


As the dust settles on the Anglican Church in Southern Africa’s most recent synod, our Archbishop Thabo Makgoba is being quoted globally regarding the pain he is experiencing from a decision not to allow our clergy to bless same sex marriages. 

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba 

Please note that I speak of a simple blessing, not marriage, yet 16 of 22 bishops voted against this. Archbishop Thabo speaks of a double edged sword. 

Allow me to introduce a third edge...

As I write this, my own pain centres around an aspect seldom acknowledged - those gay Christians who actually believe their gender “leanings”, “temptations”, “preferences” are an abomination to be resisted. To the extent that they pray and fast their way out of their natural sexual identity in order to be saved. This, as a CNN journalist said about Aleppo, “It is what Hell is really like and then it got worse.” 

Marrying for Jesus

These 'good' gay Christians all too often go to the extent marrying someone of the opposite sex.

Yes, many manage to be relatively happy, they love their spouses, their children, the holiness of family. But the need to suppress their sexual drive looms larger as the years pass. Inevitably their denial of self takes its toll on the relationship and mostly on the person committed to Christ and the Church. Some soldier on. Others don’t resist temptation and are caught. Others, in their maturity have stopped reading the Bible literally and decide to do the honourable thing by confessing to their spouses.

It seldom works

Having counselled several of these committed Christians, all men admittedly, I am appalled at the excruciating pain this can cause everyone from the family to the secret gay partner.

They were Anglicans, Methodists and Lutherans and, where love, mutual respect and concern for the children were dominant elements of the marriage, I witnessed some remarkable solutions. A generosity of soul not always found in  our pews.

Other situations, involving righteous judgment and literal Scriptural interpretations, have left an unholy trail of devastation – fathers unjustly accused of pedophilia and banned from interaction with their beloved children. Off spring whose minds were poisoned and whose emotional wellbeing was mortally wounded. Vocations had to be abandoned.

I'm not gay

Let’s be clear: I’m not a Lesbian, trans or bi sexual. My children aren’t gay and I don’t’ have LGBTI siblings to campaign for. I wasn’t a gay activist before re-joining the Anglican Church 35 years after my Confirmation. I didn’t need to be one because nobody in my secular social circle was bothered with judging our gay friends or condemning them to hell. We were all too busy getting on with life.  I had no concept of the hell too many Christian gays go through.

Called to priesthood at the turkey-necked age of 51, I was far more concerned with political activism. Desmond Tutu was an important role model and the main reason I asked to be trained in Soweto. Truth be told, I had visions of becoming the Mother Theresa of the townships. What arrogance and what ignorance of God’s sense of humour. I was too old to suit the Church’s pension fund so self-supporting ministry was my only option. In other words, I had to keep earning a living as a PR consultant. 

Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane

It’s how I became Archbishop Njongonkulu’s international media liaison consultant and how I jumped into the deep end of one of his signature ministries – HIV/AIDS.

It's NOT...

All this at a time when the disease was increasingly identified as punishment for homosexuality. That stigma became the incubator for millions of deaths. I thank God for ++Jongo who insisted on a communication campaign that would “shout from the roof tops that AIDS is an illness like any other, and not a punishment from God.”

A frightening number of Anglicans ignored the message.

The third edge

Inevitably my personal ministry veered into that arena. Our national Health Department was refusing to provide antiretrovirals. I was clocking up funeral services at an alarming rate and working with passionate activists, several of whom were Anglican priests and gay.  Some were infected others weren’t, all suffered the pain of being open about their sexuality in a Christian environment.

I had stepped into the realm of the "third edge”.

More broad minded?

But I was not your typical Anglican priest: I hadn’t attended church for 35 years; I was battling to curb a vocabulary learned in a news room (still am); I was a divorcee who had had two long term live-in relationships; and, I loved to party.  Perhaps it is because my gay associates felt I would be more understanding that they began recommending me to married gay men seeking counselling.

What a learning curve for me. I encountered an awful aspect of Christian cruelty, good intentions gone awry and responses that caused excruciating pain to EVERYONE in the affected family and even their extended families.

Can you begin to imagine the pain of being rejected by a Church that is part of your DNA?

And don’t for one millisecond think you can crack it with “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  It is that very approach that gnaws at family and friends who fill our pews and share Communion. We hurt them by judging their loved ones and relegating them to hellfire. 

How we must hurt the Tutus

Leah and Desmond Tutu

Revd Mpho von Furth Tutu and her wife, Marceline

I worry about the hurt Desmond and Leah Tutu must feel because  since her marriage their daughter Revd Mpho is not licensed in Southern Africa. Yes, she could return to the USA and minister there but her parents are in their twilight years and the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation needs her management.  

Time to revolt?

I never bothered to become a marriage officer and I applauded priests who refused to act as marriage officers when mixed race marriages were banned. I now applaud those who either ignore the ‘gay’ rules or are heeding the call to hand in their licences.

Too many of my brother and sister priests have gone through 30 years of the Anglican Church saying “soon there will be a breakthrough.”   Too many have battled the Church’s trade-off: “be celibate and you can be licensed to be a priest”.     

If social demographics apply, some 10% of our priests are gay. Maybe more because it makes so much sense for God to call natural nurturers into our vocation.

Older and wiser

I do, however, take comfort from the fact that age invariably brings a more mature interpretation of Scripture and greater confidence in the findings of modern science as well as confidence in God’s abiding love.

As Rabbi Dr Jay Michaelson Ph.D. writes in Behold I make all things New, “God versus Gay isn’t just a false dichotomy.  It’s a rebellion against the image of God itself.”
Rabbi Dr Jay Michaelson

Allow me to share more of the rabbi’s quotes:
“As a rabbi and long-time LGBT activist, I’ve counselled many Orthodox young people who are terrified of having to choose between happiness and their religious way of life.  Families have been torn apart by this issue and as long as the false choice between God and gay persists, our brothers, sisters, cousins, and friends will continue to struggle. They will torment themselves and be excluded from their families and communities.”

“Before I came out, I was certain that being openly gay would spell the end of my religious life.  I was an Orthodox-practicing Jew which gave meaning and shape to my life.  I repressed my sexuality, acting out occasionally but regretting it afterwards.  I tried, for years, to change.  Eventually, after 10 years in the closet I had had enough. The pain, isolation, loneliness, and shame had grown so great that I was ready to forsake my religion for the sake of my happiness.”

“Coming out was the doorway to greater religious faith and joy than I had ever imagined.  My relationship with God and my religious community grew stronger. My spiritual path began to unfold; my prayer life began to awaken. My love for other human beings slowly unfurled and expanded.”

“Imagine believing that because of something you cannot change God hates you.”

“Whose fault is it that 40% of gay teenagers consider suicide – four times as many as straight kids?  Ours, of course.”

"It's not African"

I know that a number of the bishops at the synod hailed from countries far more conservative than South Africa, where same sex marriages are legal, but I quote a Nigerian, The Revd. Rowland ‘Jide’ Macaulay LLB, MTh, “Historically, Africa has always been the friendliest and most tolerant continent. Homosexuality and same-gender behaviours date back to before colonialism and the intervention of religion. The arrival of colonialism contributed to the mass hatred and also the influence of religious fundamentalism. It contributed to the debased argument for homophobia. Yet Christianity teaches and encourages Love thy neighbour as thyself.”

I am busy working on a manuscript that examines how faiths based on rebirth and karma -Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Hinduism – affirm the dignity of queer identities and sexualities. In it Devdutt Pattanaik, author of more than 30 best-selling books and lecturer on the relevance of mythology in modern times, says “the well-meaning doctrine of ‘all religions are the same in essence’ has led to the assumption that all religions are intolerant of all things LGBTIQ.” 

He adds, “When faiths affirm the dignity of the queer, they empower them psychologically, politically, and economically.” 

That third edge

 In all this let us not lose sight of the third edge of the sword the Anglican Church continues to wield. I have watched young priests grow old while waiting to be affirmed. One of the saddest stories I was told was how, many years ago, seminarians were told that a bishop was refusing to ordain single priests. 
The young man, fighting his gay sexuality, proposed marriage to a woman who knew about his personal battle, but also believed they would conquer all through prayer and faithfulness to the Church.

As it turned out, in order to have sex, and for her to conceive, he would have to read porn and then pounce on her as he was about to climax.  Of course the marriage didn't last. 

As the Lord says:
“My people, what have I done to you?”

Watch Mpho Tutu van Furth speak about human sexuality and her marriage -

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