A South African church leader has defended the appointment of an openly gay bishop in the United States against the criticism of other African archbishops.
The Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, Winston Njongonkulu Ndungane, said an appointment in one part of the Anglican church was not a matter that should concern leaders in another part of the church.
Gene Robinson’s appointment as bishop of New Hampshire in August led to warnings from evangelical and conservative Anglicanism particularly in Africa, that it could split the church.
Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, who leads the largest single church in the 70 million-strong Anglican Communion, led criticism describing it as “a Satanic attack on God’s church”.
But Mr Ndungane said the subject of women priests and divorce was treated differently by various Anglican communions and homosexuality should be no different.
“Each of the autonomous churches within the Anglican church has its own structures. We have to respect these structures whether we agree with them or not, ” he said.
“If the church in the US wants to do its thing then that’s its business”
Mr Ndungane also warned against the selective use of bible passages in the debate on homosexuality, adding that in the past quotes from the bible had been used to defend slavery and apartheid.
“There is an assumption that there are no god loving and god fearing people in the United States,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa.
In comments to the British Guardian newspaper, Mr Ndungane said it was arrogant to assume that Americans did not know what they were doing and said there were other issues that should be priorities for the Anglican church – such as world hunger, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Aids.
He also urged Africa’s leaders to be careful of appearing hypocritical.
“There is a woman waiting to be stoned to death for adultery in Nigeria and yet we are not hearing any fuss from the leadership of the church there about that,” he said.
“It is no secret that there are gay clergy and there are gay bishops, and the institutional church seems to be turning a blind eye when we should be encouraging honesty. If Gene Robinson had kept quiet there would have been no issue.”
The spiritual head of the Anglican church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has called an emergency meeting next month in London to discuss the impact of Mr Robinson’s appointment.