Tuesday, June 24, 2008

GAFCON: People of Color vs. Gays in Church Power Struggles

Courtesy of Waldo Decker's Journal blog (http://waldolydeckersjournal.blogspot.com/2008/06/united-by-what-they-hate.html), I'm fascinated to read an article in today's Guardian (London) that reinforces a point I've made repeatedly in postings on this blog.

The point is that neo-conservative groups in worldwide Christianity are seeking to divide the churches and promote a reactionary political agenda by playing people of color against gay people. The article to which Waldo Decker's journal links is Stephen Bates's "Vicious Hot Air Currents." It's in today's Guardian, and is Bates's appraisal of the GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) now underway in Jerusalem (see www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jun/24/anglicanism.religion1).

GAFCON is a coaliation of right-wing Anglican groups who are determined to divide the church in retaliation for the Episcopal Church USA's ordination of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, as bishop. Some choice quotes from Bates's analysis:
. . . [W]hat is happening is a power struggle in which the conservatives of the US church - and, to a lesser extent, English evangelicals - have summoned up the developing world to seize the church from the forces of liberalism and relativism. If the battle over gays is lost, they say, everything is lost. The visit of many African bishops to the conference has been facilitated by US money.

. . .

Homosexuality is a useful unifier for conservative flocks. The little-noticed irony is that those meeting in Jerusalem agree on very little else: some American conservatives are more high church than the Pope, whereas the conservative archbishop of Sydney says he could never see himself attending mass.
A sorry business, this: the use of gay human beings to score political points in church power struggles (and in political power struggles in which the church is involved). As I have noted repeatedly on this blog, I have serious reservations about the commitment to racial justice of those within the U.S. church who are funding this movement.

The use of race as a wedge issue is exceptionally cynical, coming as it does from the same groups within American Christianity that bitterly resisted the end of segregation fifty years ago, and that resisted the ordination and empowerment of women after that. These are not Christians who are conspicuously concerned about human rights.

They are Christians intent on trying to maintain the domination of men over women and of white men over everybody else in the world. No matter how many pictures of happy, singing native peoples they post on their websites, no matter how many essays they post decrying humane treatment of gay human beings as the church's captivity to culture, the bottom line will remain the same: the impetus behind this movement to play "good" minorities against "bad" is politically reactionary, nasty, and goes hand in hand with racism and the attempt of men to subject women to their control.

Stephen Bates is author of God's Own Country: Power and the Religious Right in the USA. He knows whereof he speaks, in his assessment of GAFCON.


colkoch said...

It does appear that GAFCON has been bought and paid for by some interesting and sleazy people.

What's really sad to me is that if the gay issue is the only thing they have in common, then where is the unity of belief in Jesus? Perhaps Christianity at the highest levels has never been about Jesus. Perhaps it's always been about power at someone else's expense.

William D. Lindsey said...

Colleen, you're making an excellent point. I think Dostoevsky would agree with you about the corruption at the highest levels of institutional Christianity. That was the point of his parable of the Grand Inquisitor, as I recall it.

And you raise an important theological point: when Christians are united in a crusade to attack and exclude a selected group of people, is it Jesus who unites them? One has to wonder . . . .