No gay priests, please May 27, 2008Posted by nitinkarani in English, Gay, Homophobia, Times of India.
Tags: Gay, Homophobia
Manoj R Nair
In July, the Anglican Church will hold its once-a-decade conference at Lambeth in England. The meeting that will be attended by hundreds of bishops will discuss issues affecting the church. But a large group of conservative bishops who do not agree with the meeting’s host, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams’s liberal views on homosexuality and gay priests will defy him and hold an ‘alternative Lambeth’ next month.The Indian counterparts of the Anglican church, the Church of North India (CNI) and the Church of South India (CSI) have a conservative stand on the issue. Years ago, when the issue was first debated, the Indian bishops had joined the traditionalists. However, at Lambeth, Indians will be among the 880 church leaders who will be present. The Indian church’s stand on the issue vis-à-vis the Lambeth conference is now non-committal. While the church has always said that it does not back the liberal views on homosexuality, it says that they have no plans to join the conservatives at their parallel meeting in Jerusalem.
About two years back, when a few churches in the West announced their plans to admit openly gay priests in their fold, their Mumbai counterparts had made their conservative views clear. Rev. Victor Gollapalli, the stewardship director of the Mumbai diocese of CNI says, “At that time, we wanted to put it on record that we do not agree with the stand taken by some western churches on the issue. We still value our social values.”
From Mumbai, Rev. Prakash Patole, the bishop of Mumbai, will be attending the Lambeth meet. Says Patole, “Most bishops of CNI and CSI will attend the meeting. I will go too. We are not concerned with the problem (homosexuality in the clergy).”
According to Rev. K I Dyvasirvadam, pastor of St Stephen’s Church, Bandra, the local church looks at the issue of gay priests as a western problem. “We have not given the subject much thought because it is still a superficial issue for us,” says Dyvasirvadam.
While the issue of admitting openly gay priests in the church has not led to a formal split in the church yet, many fear that with the conservative group having their own meeting, hopes of preventing a formal schism or split in the church is fading. The conservative bishops, most of them from Africa, will participate in what will be called the Global Anglican Future Conference 2008 in Jerusalem between June 15 and 22.
While the meeting has already been labelled as the ‘alternative Lambeth’, the organisers of the meeting have, however, said that their meeting is not a challenge to the July meeting or that it is just about gays in the church. Some of those who will attend the Jerusalem meeting are also expected to go to England in July.
The Indian counterparts of the Anglican Church, which was formed after Independence by the merger of several Protestant denominations, said that they have the liberty to take a stand on the issue. “Every diocese is an independent body and the Mumbai diocese has the power to decide its views on the subject,” says Gollapalli. “Personally and professionally, I will not accept homosexuality because the Bible does not sanction it. Even those who argue that the church should take a liberal view on the issue will not be able to prove that the Bible approves it.”
President of Indian Church Voice, Dr Abraham Mathai, is certain there is no scope for a gay and alternative lifestyle in the church. “It is not accepted in the Bible. Those who have a liberal point of view on the issue are in a minority,” he says.
The issue of acceptance of homosexuality by the church is debatable, feels Dyvasirvadam. “Some may say that it has no Biblical sanction. But on the other hand, others can argue that if we go by the Bible’s view that every person is an image of god, that standard means there should be no discrimination based on a person’s sexual preference.”