African Anglican and other mainline churches’ opposition to the gay rights activism of American denominations, such as the Episcopal Church, is well-known, but such attitudes are not merely a carryover from the U.S. culture wars, writes Philip Jenkins in the New Republic magazine (October 8) Jenkins writes that Africa’s highly competitive environment, where mainstream churches such as the Anglicans compete against new Pentecostal denominations and Islam, makes it crucial for the oldline bodies to avoid suggestions that they are any less rigorous on such matters. Against the background of rivalry and violence between Muslims and Christians, there is a hesitancy of the latter to concede anything to Islam in terms of “commitment to strict morality.”
The Muslim historical context also explains the anti-gay sentiments, especially in a country such as Uganda, where Arab slave raids included the practice of pederasty. The Christian refusal to submit to such demands often led to martyrdom and an enduring association of Arab and Muslim imperialism with sexual immorality, according to Jenkins. He concludes that the South African church’s relative liberalism on homosexuality, as well as the presence of Anglican gay groups in Uganda and Nigeria, suggest a growing diversity on the continent, even if such cases will remain a distinct minority for the near future.