Canadian and African theologians correspond about sexuality

In a kind of high-level pen pal relationship, theologians from five African dioceses are now exchanging essays about sexuality with theologians from three Canadian dioceses. Dr. Kawuki (Isaac) Mukasa, General Synod’s coordinator for dialogue, paired up dioceses during two trips to Africa, including visits to South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda from July 31 to Aug. 21.

Mr. Mukasa, a native Ugandan, considers this work essential to improving communication within the Anglican Communion, which is divided over the place of gays and lesbians in the church.

In Canada, the dioceses of Niagara and New Westminster have agreed to bless same-sex unions, and several other Canadian dioceses are considering following suit. Most African Anglican churches are conservative on the issue.

In his journeys, Mr. Mukasa has noted much miscommunication about mission between different parts of the Anglican Communion. He said he often explains to African clergy that the Anglican Church of Canada is involved in other areas of mission beyond sexuality, including church planting and youth ministry.

“When these dioceses are talking directly to each other [in these theological dialogues] they seem to be much more civil than say when one bishop is trying to respond to what they perceive to be going on in North America,” he said.

Mr. Mukasa said that the established conversations “have been going well.” He is encouraged that several theologians are now discussing broader areas of mission. It was also an honour for him to be named a canon of the cathedral in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

However, it has not all been smooth sailing. Mr. Mukasa attempted to include the Diocese of Nairobi and at least one diocese of Uganda in the conversation but their leaders did not want to participate.

The five current African-Canadian conversations will culminate when six African bishops and five Canadian bishops meet at the Anglican Communion Office in London from Feb. 24 to 27, 2010. They will share their findings and explore how the papers can be integrated with the Anglican Communion’s continuing indaba, a listening process that seeks a common mind on divisive issues.

These African-Canadian conversations also address General Synod 2007’s request for further study of sexuality, one of several requests relating to sexuality  that the Faith, Worship, and Ministry Department has been working on in preparation for  General Synod 2010.

The dioceses currently in conversation are:

  • The dioceses of Central Tanganyika and Dar es Salaam (Anglican Church of Tanzania) with the Diocese of Niagara
  • The Diocese of Mombasa (Anglican Church of Kenya) with the Diocese of Ottawa
  • The dioceses of Cape Town (Province of Southern Africa) and Tanga (Anglican Church of Tanzania) with the Diocese of Toronto

The Diocese of Botswana (Province of Central Africa) is also discussing financial self-reliance with the Diocese of Ontario. As a broader discussion about mission, this conversation will also be included in the Anglican Communion’s listening process.

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