ANGLICAN bishops attending the All Africa Bishops Conference in Entebbe have reiterated their firm stand against homosexuality.
In speeches, most of which received standing ovations, the prelates said the practice was alien and an “innovation of the truth”.
Present was the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, whose open support of the practice has made him the centre of attraction for the media at the conference.
The seven-day conference, at the Imperial Resort Beach Hotel, attracted over 400 bishops, a quarter of whom are from Nigeria. Participants were excited by the attendance of bishops from the Muslim countries of Sudan and Egypt.
As most clergy stood to clap at speeches critical of homosexuality, Archbishop Williams and two aides, who sat in the front row, were the only ones who remained seated.
The Rev. Canon Grace Kaiso, said the conference is expected to design strategies to curb poverty, conflict and disease on the continent.
Prayers and Bible study will be held every morning in the conference hall.
In a sermon earlier, Williams did not talk about homosexuality, an issue which has put the African church on a collision path with their Western counterparts, who have ordained gay priests.
The chairman of the Conference of African Prelates Association, Archbishop Ian Ernest, challenged the clergy to ensure that African values are not diluted with “misleading alien beliefs”.
“The time is right to address issues from an African perspective without alien impositions. We should make choices which strengthen, not weaken, the church’s credibility,” he said.
Before Christianity went to Britain, he added, there was a church in North Africa.
“So Christianity did not begin in Britain; we should counteract false ideologies that creep into the church and blur the truth,” he argued.
He said in order to maintain the integrity of the church, African bishops should never “innovate the truth”.
Addressing journalists, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi said the Church of Uganda and the Anglican Church in Africa believes in the traditional way of marriage.
“In Uganda, homosexuality is against our culture,” Orombi said.
“We are happy that Archbishop Rowan Williams (of Canterbury) is here. We will explain to him our stand on homosexuality and engage him.”
Orombi also condemned corruption in Africa and noted that although the church was not pure, its leaders must preach against the vice.
“We cannot sit down and keep quiet as leaders continue to take away what belongs to the masses,” he said.
Opening the ceremony, Prime Minister Prof. Apolo Nsibambi praised the bishops for their stand against homosexuality, calling it the “right move”.
He asked them to be steadfast in the campaign against homosexuality.
“Africa is grappling with many intriguing problems: terrorism, homosexuality, corruption and absence of national unity. But African bishops have been exemplary in not accepting homosexuality,” Nsibambi said.
“We need exemplary leaders and followers who are not sycophantic to deal with these problems.”
The Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi of Burundi said homosexuality should not be left to the church alone to fight because it is “an issue of humanity”.
However, he called on the church to engage those who practice homosexuality rather than running away from them.
Williams had earlier urged the bishops to question the leadership in their countries to weed out corruption and bad governance.
“As bishops, we have been called to question leadership. We cannot refuse to take risk for our people. So we have not to seek safety and comfort, but risk,” he said.
Williams also commended the management of the Mild May Centre on Entebbe Road for caring for hundreds of children living with HIV/AIDS.
He visited the centre on Monday. He urged Christians to develop such a big heart.
By Cyprian Musoke,
and John Ssemakula
Photo: Nsibambi bids farewell to Orombi and Rowan Williams, the head of the Anglican Church, in Entebbe yesterday