Thursday 3 March 2011

The legacy of Homophobia overtaking a ministry and the gospel

Court in controversy

In February, I watched an edition of CNN’s Open Court programme that deals with the sport of tennis covering events and personalities.

[This blog has a very religious tone to it for detail and context.]

One feature of the programme was titled “Where are they now?” and this time Margaret Court [1] was featured who is the most celebrated winner of grand slams with 62 to her name, a record that is most unlikely to be broken in the foreseeable future.

She now resides in Perth, Australia, a minister of the gospel with a Pentecostal leaning as the video showed a church service where she was presiding, ministering and preaching.

So, I decided to do a search for her full biography and was lead to her Wikipedia entry [2] where apart from the general historical background and the records she had broken there were main topics about her faith and her views about homosexuality with stridently fundamentalist views that span at least a 12-year period.

Whilst to members of her congregation she might be respected, honoured and revered, this seemingly inconsequential issue might well have closed the doors of her chapel to people who in terms of the purposes of the gospel one would think she should be ministering to.

A vile gospel

The sad issue here is people have a religious ministry and inadvertently when engaged in social discourse lack savvy that they end up preaching what essentially is a Gospel of Condemnation.

It then begs the question as to what ministers of the gospel want to be known for; controversy that thrives on wedge issues and moralises to galvanise those already in the tent or that gospel most representative of the ministry of Jesus Christ that opened doors to those who would normally not fit in the moral framework of the “holier than thou.”

The erstwhile Anglican Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola [3] would be at pains to get the truth of the gospel to the hearing of others because the last years of his blessed ministry were overtaken by a virulent and vicious homophobic message that accelerated schism within the church alienating many.

The Archbishop obviously and honestly thought he was on the right path but between the causes of homosexuality and homophobia in Africa, one can aver that the latter is more unAfrican than the former.

Slamming the doors

The new Anglican Primate of Nigeria, the Most Revd N.D. Okoh was on pastoral visit to the UK and when confronted with this matter seemed to have taken on the mantle of his predecessor with a double portion of that poisonous anointing.

These were his words [4], “Let me say this; the Anglican Church in Nigeria, emphatically does not accept gay people. Our bible is against it, the word of God is against it. Gay or lesbianism or whatever… it is like saying we condone drug users. What we offer them is repentance and deliverance from that evil spirit. Do not come here to tell me about grace; what grace? We will never accept it.”

This view is interesting because if gay people will not be accepted, they will not have access to the gospel that offers them the supposed condition the archbishop wants them to attain.

The question then is what gospel he professes to preach because it offers no peace, no light, no hope, no encouragement and really no Christ.

I can understand that the most difficult gospel vocation is loving one’s enemies and if homophobia were defined in terms of a type of enmity, wherefore is the love?

No respect for others

The archbishop newly in this role has already painted himself out of the corner of glad tidings to the declaration of war on a section of those his gospel if it were good and wholesome, imitating the gospel of the word of God who need to hear better than all this vitriol.

A new low in African homophobia [5] fuelled and fostered by “so-called” preachers of the gospel was displayed in January at the funeral of David Kato, the Ugandan LGBT activist who was bludgeoned to death at his home.

In what was supposed to be a solemn, sad and reflective occasion allowing for people to bury the unfortunate man with some dignity and respect, a pastor seized the microphone and began an unseemly homophobic and hateful attack on the dead and the audience.

Whilst the situation was retrieved eventually to commit the departed to the ground, very few religious leaders condemned this affront to everything good and wholesome even if it were not a religious setting – this barbarity of the gospel needs to stop.

Return to the examples you so profess

Going back to the Nigerian Archbishop; if he were to live in the historical times of the bible he would condemn the fact that the Israelite spies allowed themselves to consult and be hidden by Rahab the harlot [6] when they visited Jericho.

King David [7] would have had no recourse than to be a convicted murderer sent to the gallows for committing adultery with Bathsheba and scheming the inadvertent death of her husband in battle, depriving us of Psalm 51.

Surely, no matter how thirsty he was, Jesus should not in the 4th chapter of John have been talking to the Samaritan woman [8] in the first place, then to learn that she had had 5 husbands does not bear thinking of, but this same woman was that one who announced the coming of the prophet to her townsfolk.

As for the woman caught [9] in the act of adultery, the archbishop would have thrown the first stone and repented long after she was dead. It is unlikely he would have had the Christ-like compassion to say to her, “Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more.”

The Church in Corinth was as sexually depraved [10] as you could get a congregation and it was to them that Apostle Paul wrote the epistle about love in 1st Corinthians 13 [11] and gave information about the miraculous workings of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1st Corinthians 14 [12].

The gospel and this other gospel

I think grace was at work, compassion mattered and love allowed for God in his dealings with man to overlook a lot to draw them close to the message of the gospel He had for them.

The legacy people have of their ministry would endure long after they are gone, some ministers would have to look at how their message which may not be ministering to the needs of a wider society with attitudes and views so diametrically opposed to the church, because it is to those same people that the gospel really needs to be preached and they will not hear a word of it if the reputation that precedes the preacher is that of condemnation.

I dare say as in the epistle to the Galatians, they preach another gospel [13].


[1] YouTube - Margaret Court, record holder in tennis

[2] Margaret Court - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3] Peter Akinola - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] New Archbishop of Nigeria Anglican Church declares support for homophobia « Justice for Gay Africans Society

[5] Violence Erupts at Kato Funeral | News | The Advocate

[6] Bible Story about Rahab Helping the Spies

[7] Story of David and Bathsheba for Kids

[8] Jesus and Samaritan Woman

[9] Jesus and the Woman Taken in Adultery

[10] 1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father's wife.

[11] I Corinthians 13 - Passage Lookup - New International Version, ©2011 -

[12] 1 Corinthians 14 - Passage Lookup - New International Version, ©2011 -

[13] Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree that what ministers frequently preach on this issue marks a low point in human relations. At the same time, I believe that - so long as they accept that there is a concept of rule of law which goes beyond particular views, homophobes, too, should be treated in a tolerant way. Take the case of Owen and Eunice Johns in Britain, for example. It wouldn't be nice to think of a fostered child of theirs having a "coming out". But that shouldn't be the only concern when judging peoples' suitability as foster parents. After all, natural parents can be homophobes, too.

I'm deeply skeptical of intolerant views of the world, and even more so when they come in a "religious" guise. But I'm becoming more skeptical of political correctness, too. Terror by the virtuous is still terror.

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