Savi Hensman, Ekklesia, wonders if the Archbishop of Canterbury is guilty of romanticizing the church in Africa and elsewhere while ignoring the human rights abuses in those places:
Rowan Williams made many valuable points in his presidential address to Synod, the Church of England’s key decision-making body. Yet his lack of acknowledgement of the Church’s mixed record raises some concerns.
What religious leaders and local Christian communities are achieving in difficult circumstances is indeed impressive. But he perhaps fell into the trap of romanticising churches in the South rather than admitting that these – like everyone else – have positive and negative aspects. This is as unbalanced as the view of critics who demonise Christianity as a whole.
For instance, some Anglican leaders in these countries have clearly abandoned lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people, failing to challenge human rights abuses and positively stoking up hostility. They have even denounced churches overseas for being too inclusive.
For instance, in 2004, bishops declared that “the Anglican Province of Congo strongly condemns homosexuality and wishes to disassociate itself from relations with Dioceses and Parishes involved in homosexuality” and warned of “active homosexuality ravaging the western world”. Such hostility was not good news for LGBT people there, already living in fear of ostracism and social penalties.
Likewise the treatment of victims of domestic violence by churches across the world has often been less than impressive. Here, it is a less a matter of open hostility and more a matter of bolstering sexism and playing down the terrible impact such abuse can have on victims’ sense of personhood. But perhaps these too are not important enough to be noticed. The Archbishop is a compassionate person, but sometimes naive about the dynamics of power.