A senior Anglican leader has vowed African churches will never accept same-sex marriage as he accused the Western church of a quasi-racist attitude towards former colonies.
Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, a global body representing Anglicans in more than 165 countries, claimed African churches "are already progressives" because they do not conform to liberal Western values. Instead they live in "accordance with the will of God in the kingdom of God, which is the real future for humanity that measures all human progress", he said.
A deep rift exists between Western Anglican churches particularly in the US, where same-sex marriage is celebrated and openly gay clergy are welcomed, and the more conservative African churches who believe the Bible prohibits gay relationships.
"We will never allow our churches to be taken over by views and programmes which suggest that the Bible is wrong," Idowu-Fearon told African church leaders last week. "We will not crumble or bow the knee to a godless secular culture that despises the Bible and what it teaches," he said in his address to the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA).
Idowu-Fearon said he was "deeply disturbed" by the acceptance of gay relationships in the Church and said poorer Anglicans have been "swept aside by a campaign to change the churches' teaching on marriage and so-called rights of equality".
The Nigerian primate accused Western churches of not having African churches' "best interests at heart" because they "present us as being 50 years behind the rest of the world.
"Their view of progressivism places them at the forefront of historical and social development — with us Africans bringing up the rear."
But he promised African leaders: "We will never allow ourselves, or our identity, or our churches, to be defined by the pride of those who see us as lagging behind them in our economies, our politics, our communities, our families, and our theology."
The Archbishop called on the African church to "set the pace for the Anglican Communion" when it comes to gay marriage, a call welcomed by the leaders gathered.
The official edict from the conference reaffirmed their commitment to "uphold the Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 on Human Sexuality", seen as the benchmark for conservative Anglican's teaching on same-sex marriage. The resolution, passed in 1998, states that "marriage [is] between a man and a woman" and rejects "homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture". It speaks of the "ordering of relationships" for those with "a homosexual orientation" and speaks against "legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions".
The Archbishop of Canterbury has called for another meeting of global Anglican leaders in a further attempt to heal the deep divides. The last meeting in January 2016 imposed "consequences" on The Episcopal Church in the US for its decision to go ahead with same-sex marriage.
Although the primates committed to walk together despite their strong disagreements, the next meeting scheduled for October 2017 may prove even more divisive after the Church in Canada and The Scottish Episcopal Church have both since made steps towards same-sex marriage.