|Letter to the Church of Uganda
By the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi
February 21, 2007
[CAPA - Uganda]
21st February 2007
First, I want to thank all the members of the Church of Uganda and others who were praying so fervently during this meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion. It was the most intense meeting I have ever attended. Even until the last night of our meeting, we were in a deadlock. But, the Lord has prevailed. Biblical authority is being restored, and from that, we are hopeful that Biblical mission will be the result. Thank you for upholding me and all of the Primates in your prayers.
ACTIONS TOWARD TEC
In 2003, the Episcopal Church USA, now abbreviated as TEC, culminated years of their theological revision by consecrating as Bishop a divorced man living in a same-sex relationship. This was a blatant action in violation of Scripture and the historic teaching of the Church.
As the Primates wrote at the end of an emergency meeting in October 2003, this action has torn the fabric of the Anglican Communion at its deepest level. In fact, the Church of Uganda, along with 21 other Provinces of the 38 Provinces in the Anglican Communion, broke communion with TEC. Accordingly, I have not received Holy Communion at any Primates meeting since then; I did not receive Holy Communion in 2005 in Dromantine, Northern Ireland, and the two times we celebrated Holy Communion at this meeting in Tanzania, I did not receive Holy Communion.
Scripture teaches that before coming to sit with one another at the Lord's Table we must be reconciled. (Matthew 5:23-26 and 1 Corinthians 11:27-29). I, along with several other of my brother Primates, were unable to come to the Holy Table with the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church because to do so would be a violation of Scriptural teaching and the traditional Anglican understanding of Holy Communion. The Prayer Book invitation to Holy Communion makes this very clear. It says, "Ye that do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith." (Book of Common Prayer)
The Primates Communique from our last meeting in 2005 in Dromantine, Northern Ireland, put in place several recommendations in order for trust to be restored within the Communion, which TEC was supposed to address at its General Convention in June of 2006. While TEC may have done the best they could at the time, it was not good enough. We need reassurance that they are really serious. So, we have asked for two simple things before 30th September.
1. The House of Bishops of TEC needs to make an unequivocal common covenant that the bishops will not authorise any Rite of Blessing for same-sex unions in their dioceses or through General Convention
2. The House of Bishops of TEC needs to make a statement that all its members will definitely NOT consent to the consecration of any person as a Bishop who is living in a same-sex union
If they do not give these assurances, it will have "consequences for the full participation of [their] Church in the life of the [Anglican] Communion." TEC's Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, signed this Communique. We pray that she will take it more seriously than her predecessor did when he signed our Communique's but proceeded to denounce and violate them.
The Church of Uganda remains in broken communion with TEC until they demonstrate true repentance. We continue to reject funds from official TEC sources and from American dioceses who have revised historic and Biblical faith and morality.
Once again, I take this opportunity to urge our Church to embrace this season as a God-given opportunity to vigorously pursue self-sustainability for our Church. We are a strong, healthy, and vibrant Church. We have tremendous assets - natural and human resources. I urge us to pray and work for the release of our God-given creativity to harness these resources not only for the self-sustainability of God's Church here in Uganda, but for it to thrive and even support the mission of God's Church in our neighbouring countries. God has blessed us in Uganda. And, when God blesses, we have a spiritual obligation to be a blessing to others.
Since the dramatic and unbiblical decision of TEC in 2003, a number of congregations in America have appealed to the Church of Uganda to provide a safe place of refuge for them. Ten of our Bishops are now providing ecclesiastical oversight to more than 20 congregations in America. I want to assure our Bishops here and our congregations in America that we stand with you. You are safe and secure in the Church of Uganda. We will not abandon you or repatriate you until there is truly a safe and Biblically faithful ecclesial entity in America. That has been our promise, and we stand by it.
We continue in full fellowship and Communion with the members of the Anglican Communion Network, the Anglican Mission in the Americas (a mission initiative of the Church of Rwanda), the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (a mission initiative of the Church of Nigeria), and on an individual basis with those Bishops and Dioceses who have explicitly put policies in place that prohibit the blessing of same-sex unions and the consecration of bishops in same-sex relationships, according to the Windsor Report.
THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION
I want to thank my brother Primates from Africa who have elected me to represent them on the Primates Standing Committee; it is an honour and a huge responsibility. We are comprised of five Primates from the five main regions of the world in which the Anglican Communion is present, and chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
This Primates meeting has not solved the current crisis in the Anglican Communion. We hope we have clarified the steps needed for trust to be restored, healing to take place, and for our full bonds of affection to once again flourish.
Anglicanism has always stood for a Biblical faith grounded in Holy Scripture as its primary source of authority. In the 16th century, British church leaders were martyred for this faith. In Uganda, our children were martyred at the hands of Kabaka Mwanga. Our former Archbishop, Janani Luwum, who we honoured last Friday, stood up for the Gospel in the face of unbiblical tyranny.
Not only will I honour the memory of these Anglican ancestors on the Primates Standing Committee; not only will I represent Africa, but my greater responsibility will be our Lord Jesus Christ, who "was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification." (Romans 4.25).
I want to take this opportunity to highlight, once again, the appointment of one of our own to be the Anglican Observer to the United Nations. Hellen Wangusa, a former member of our Provincial Staff, was installed on Sunday during a service we held in Zanzibar. Hellen represents Uganda and all of us in the Global South who seek to see the fulfillment of the UN's Millennium Development Goals for our people, so many of whom are suffering the ravages of extreme poverty, preventable diseases, and lack of access to education. Together with our grassroots efforts and Hellen's work at a governmental and policy level, we pray for God's Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
It is not enough, however, to "make poverty history." We must also "make greed history." That is why it is not enough to substitute support for the Millennium Development Goals for the fullness of the Biblical understanding of God's mission in the world. Evangelism, repentance, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and Biblical discipleship are as much a key to the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals as all the programmes and strategies we will put in place. And we have and will continue to put them in place. But, the whole counsel of God in Scripture must be proclaimed and embraced as the only way to the full and abundant life that Jesus promises.
I want to restate what the Church of Uganda stands for:
1. The Church of Uganda upholds the biblical teaching on sexuality, namely that sexual intimacy is reserved for a husband and wife in lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous marriage. For us in Uganda, this is a matter of life and death. For our own good, the Bible teaches abstinence before marriage, and faithfulness in marriage. And, marriage is defined as between one man and one woman.
2. Therefore, the Church of Uganda also supports the 1998 Lambeth Resolution, which states that "homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture."
3. At the same time the Church of Uganda is committed to providing pastoral care for those struggling with sexual temptation, for example, homosexual urges, heterosexual pornography, pre-marital sex, and post-marital adultery. There is no sin too big for God. Sadly, many of our girls have also been defiled and sinned against, and they grow up with confusion about Godly sexuality. The gospel of Jesus Christ offers the only way to a transformed life, including a transformed sexuality. The gospel of Jesus Christ is about transformation, not inclusion. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery, "Go and sin no more," not, "Go and sin some more." For the North American church, pastoral care means providing services for the blessing of same-sex unions. We do not mean that. For us in Uganda, pastoral care means leading people into the fully transformed life that Jesus promises to those who call upon His name. We welcome all those struggling with sexual temptation, and those suffering from sexual violation, to find healing and deliverance through Jesus Christ.
4. I call upon our government leaders to uphold marriage between one man and one woman, and the family they produce, as a foundational building block for our society and our country. This part of our African culture is affirmed in the Bible and we must not let Western influence pressure us into abandoning this part of our heritage.
In my Charge at my Enthronement, I said, "I desire to see the Church rise and shine." Isaiah 60:1 says, "Arise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you." Three years later, that is still my desire. I have a lot of hope for the Church in Uganda, and, if our recommendations are taken seriously, I have hope that the Anglican Communion can be put back on its Biblical foundations, for that is the only place where it can flourish.
The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi
ARCHBISHOP OF CHURCH OF UGANDA