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Scholars Anticipate Impact of Homosexual Marriage Debate in the Global South

The majority of Christians in the Global South believe homosexuality is wrong.
( [email protected] ) May 31, 2004 05:31 PM EDT

As the issues involving homosexual marriage in American religious denominations is growing global, few of American scholars are noticing the impact of liberal positions promoted by American Christians toward homosexual marriage on the relationship shared with churches in the Global South ¡¦Asia, Latin American, and especially Africa.

It is anticipated that many African churches would break alliance with American churches that are supportive of homosexuality. Anglican bishops from Africa and Asia are considering breaking ranks with the Episcopal Church in the United States unless it removes an openly gay bishop.

Presbyterians in Kenya already broke its ties with a Presbyterian group in Washington, D.C., over its support for gay ordination. In response to the decision made by National Capital Presbytery, a regional governing body based in Washington, to lift the ban against ordination of homosexuals, the Kenya-based Presbyterian Church of East Africa severed a missions partnership with the presbytery in April, saying that the Kenyan body ÅÄannot have fellowship¡¦with any church that advocates for homosexuality.

Looking at African delegates taking an outspoken role in the successful effort to tighten language against homosexuality at a legislative General Conference of the United Methodist Church in May, Maxie Dunnam, president of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky., and a leading conservative organizer in the United Methodist Church, said ¡¦growth in the) Christian population of the world is moving from North America and Europe to Africa and China and Latin and South America."

He added, "If we are a world church, we can't disregard (them), much less condescendingly respond to them.¡¦

Philip Jenkins, sociology professor at Pennsylvania State University, also noted growing influence of denominations in foreign countries.

Africa has 360 million Christians, up from just 10 million in 1900, said Jenkins, author of the 2002 book, "The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity." Latin America has 560 million Christians and Asia 313 million, with perhaps 50 million in China alone, he said.

"In another 40 to 50 years, there will be 3 billion Christians, and only one in five will be a non-Latino white," Jenkins has predicted. "We're talking basically about a black and brown religion."

Not only the number of Christians are growing in the Global South but Christians in those regions hold more traditional and conservative views on the Bible, theology, sexuality and the supernatural events than American Christians, Jenkins wrote.

Homosexuality is "very strange to our understanding, to our culture," United Methodist Bishop John Innis of Liberia commented.

Western Christian missionaries taught their African converts to reject polygamy and accept marriage as between "one man and one wife," Innis said, adding that many believe that Westerners today should apply the same rule to show that homosexuality is wrong.

Catholics are also noticing the global trend on the homosexuality debate.

Rev. Cyprian Davis, professor of church history at St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana said Vatican Cardinal Francis Arinze, who is a Nigerian, and other Global South church leaders mirror Pope John Paul IIÃÔ mix of moral conservatism and social activism

Such leaders will intensify "the Catholic Church's (support for) the poor, attitudes regarding race, all of these items which would be considered part of the liberal agenda," Davis said.

In the United Methodist Church, too, African leaders combine their opposition to homosexuality with advocacy for international debt relief, fighting AIDS and malaria and combating racism, according to the Rev. Randy Day, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries for the denomination.