Leaders of 2 agencies decry laws targeting gays

Leaders of the two United Methodist general agencies — the Board of Global Ministries and the Board of Church and Society — have issued statements critical of countries enacting laws that target homosexuals. 

“This kind of legislation predictably is leading to increased marginalization, harassment, and exploitation in our global civil society,” said Global Ministries’ statement issued by Raleigh (N.C.) Area Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, the agency board’s president, and Thomas Kemper, its top executive, on Feb. 28.

“Whatever our understanding of sexual orientation, the criminalization of homosexuality is not compatible with the United Methodist Social Principles including the one that states that basic rights and civil liberties are `due all persons … regardless of sexual orientation.’” 

The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries is the denomination’s mission agency. The United Methodist Board of Church and Society, which advocates for the denomination’s Social Principles, issued a similar statement.

“Legislation that denies the human rights of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender is being deliberated and enacted in states of the United States and countries around the world,” the agency’s board said. “Such legislative actions that discriminate, abuse and commit violence against persons on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or expression violate human rights and should be condemned. Religious and cultural traditions do not excuse any form of discrimination, abuse and violence.”

The United Methodist since 1972, officially has held that the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. The denomination does not allow the ordination of homosexuals as clergy. Under church law, clergy are not allowed to officiate at same-sex unions and churches are not allowed to host such ceremonies.

Kemper and Ward said the denomination also has “a strong insistence on the fundamental rights and sacred worth of all people in all places,” and called on United Methodists to advocate for “full human and civil rights in their respective countries and on the international level,” and to pray for victims of repression.

The statement by Ward and Kemper specifically mentioned Uganda, Nigeria, Russia and India.

Legislation signed in Uganda

The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, signed legislation Feb. 24 that would impose sentences of up to life imprisonment for those convicted of engaging in homosexual acts. 

President Obama spoke against the measure, and Museveni’s decision to sign it prompted a boycott of financial aid to Uganda by the World Bank, Norway and Denmark, according to news reports.

Uganda is not alone among African nations in criminalizing homosexuality. Amnesty International reports that 38 countries on the continent have laws against homosexual acts.  

Nigerian President Goodluck Johnson recently signed a measure passed by his country’s parliament, outlawing same-sex marriage and civil unions, with convicted offenders at risk of lengthy prison terms. The law also bans clubs, societies or meetings of homosexuals, again with the threat of incarceration.

Russia now has a law against what it terms as the distribution of homosexual propaganda to minors, and, in December, India’s high court upheld a colonial-era law banning homosexual acts.

The Global Ministries’ leaders’ statement described a “concerning trend” in legislation targeting homosexuals.

Uganda bishop raises other pressing issues

Meanwhile, Bishop Daniel Wandabula, leader of the East Africa Episcopal Area including Uganda issued his own statement complaining of an imbalance of attention to issues.

“For instance, so many women and children have suffered rape, so many displaced, so many have lost their lives and so many are starving in refugee camps and yet almost all the emails in my inbox this week are focused on a single issue namely, the plight of the homosexual community.” Wandabula wrote March 1. “Painful as it is, this issue is leaving so many, equally important issues in the shadows.”

Wandabula’s statement did not address the Uganda law specifically but did call for unity and reconciliation.

“No matter how we understand the issue of homosexuality, God calls us to love all of God’s people,” he said. “We cannot claim to be Christians if we harm others by our words or actions, regardless of how they perceive the issue.”

Letter to African bishops

Los Angeles Area Bishop Minerva Carcaño released last week a letter she wrote to retired and active African bishops of the United Methodist Church.

Carcaño, who favors changing the restrictive positions on homosexuality in United Methodist Church law, said news of Uganda’s law prompted her to write her African colleagues.       

“I beg you to act in behalf of those whom Jesus also considers his beloved,” Carcaño wrote. “I do not ask you to stand in support of homosexuality. I ask you to raise your voices against hatred and violence. At my end I pledge to do all I can to challenge U.S. forces that contribute to the fomenting of this hatred and violence in Africa.”

*Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]


Like what you're reading?  United Methodist Communications is celebrating 80 years of ministry! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community.  Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

umnews-subscriptions
Mission and Ministry
Schoolchildren drink from a borehole at Kalumba Primary School in Mangochi, Malawi, in September 2020. The borehole was drilled by the Malawi government. In response to water scarcity in this east African country, United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., has helped fund the drilling of more than 80 boreholes since September. Photo by Francis Nkhoma, UM News.

Church helps drill more than 80 boreholes in Malawi

Since 2010, a partnership between Kansas and Malawi United Methodists spans over 9,000 miles and provides life-changing ministries.
Evangelism
The Rev. Tom Berlin (left) presents a copy of his book, “Courage,” to Massachusetts National Guard Chaplain Chad McCabe in the chapel at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. McCabe, whose unit was assigned to help provide security at the U.S. Capitol after the January riot, contacted Wesley Seminary asking for Bibles, novels and board games for troops stationed there. Photo by Lisa Helfert for Wesley Theological Seminary. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Church responds to chaplain's call to help soldiers

A National Guard chaplain got Bibles, games and 150 copies of a new book about courage when he turned to Wesley Theological Seminary for help keeping soldiers occupied in Washington in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection.
Mission and Ministry
United Nations peacekeepers from Zambia visit with a family while on patrol in the Central African Republic in February, 2020. Following a volatile presidential election there, United Methodists are offering humanitarian aid to people seeking refuge from armed rebels. File photo by Hervé Serefio, United Nations.

Church helps displaced in Central African Republic

Following a volatile presidential election, United Methodists offer shelter and other humanitarian aid to people seeking refuge from armed rebels.