Canadian and African theologians correspond about sexuality

September 15, 2009

In a kind of high-level pen pal relationship, theologians from six African dioceses are now exchanging essays about sexuality with theologians from four Canadian Anglican dioceses. Kawuki (Isaac) Mukasa, coordinator for dialogue for the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, paired up dioceses during two trips to Africa, including visits to South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda from July 31 to August 21.

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, 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 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.

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 honor for him to be named a canon of the cathedral in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

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

The six current African-Canadian conversations will culminate when six African bishops and five Canadian bishops meet at the Anglican Communion Office in London from February 24-27, 2010. They will share their findings and explore how the papers can be integrated with the Anglican Communion Listening Process.

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.

Participating in the conversations are:

* the dioceses of Central Tanganyika and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) with the Diocese of Niagara;
* the Diocese of Mombasa (Kenya) with the Diocese of Ottawa;
* the dioceses of Cape Town (South Africa) and Tanga (Tanzania) with the Diocese of Toronto; and
* the Diocese of Botswana (Botswana) with the Diocese of Ontario.