The Listening Process

Reports from the Provinces - The Church of the Province of West Africa.

The Archbishop, aware that issues of human sexuality were both significant and sensitive, asked a group of theologians to look at the issues and produce a report. The report is entitled “Sexuality”.

The report points out that it is not the habit of African societies to talk openly about sexuality. Apologies are given prior to any mention of such subjects and “this makes the discussion of the subject difficult, if not next to impossible.” Language is guarded and there is much work to be done in enabling West Africans to value sexuality.

The report looks at gender roles and notes a traditional valuing of men above women. It further notes that women are vital in the role of enabling the continuance of the family and the clan. In the traditional culture “gay practices are a threat to the continuance of the society.” “The issue is not just ‘my right and my freedom’ but the security and continuance of the family and society.” In this context celibacy is not encouraged. Homosexual acts are known; they are part of war and known in boarding schools, but are not considered acceptable in settled, integrated communities.

The Church of the Province of West Africa wishes the debate on homosexuality to be within the bounds of a debate between “text and context, Scripture and African identity and wavelength, Apostolic Tradition and African traditions”. Care should be used not to allow any racism or colonialism to shape conversation. “By the same token, doing violence to persons of different sexual orientation, whether in word or deed, calling them animals, is not an option and avenue for Christians because the essence of religion, especially Christianity, is what is human.”

The discussion of sexuality will have to include social, legal, religious (biblical) and freedom of opinion in a diverse society.

The study finishes its consideration of human sexuality with a quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury:

“it is a question agonisingly difficult for many, as to what kinds of behaviour a church that seeks to be loyal to the Bible can bless, and what kinds of behaviour it must warn against (and what are excluded) – and so it is a question about how we make decisions corporately with other Christians, looking for the mind of Christ as we share the study of the Scriptures”.