American Churches Offshore Homophobic Leadership

Apparently lacking sufficiently homophobic leadership in the US, some American churches are turning elsewhere for their fire and brimstone. The Journal’s Andrew Higgins reports:

MBARARA, Uganda — The Rev. John Guernsey, rector of a church in a middle-class Virginia suburb, stood early this month before thousands of Africans here on a rickety, ribbon-bedecked podium. Clutching a wooden staff in his left hand, he shouted in Runyankole, a local tribal language: “Mukama Asimwe!” — Praise the Lord!

Mr. Guernsey, 54 years old, had reason to rejoice. A defector from America’s Episcopal Church, he had just been made a bishop — by the Church of Uganda.


Mr. Guernsey represents a religious byproduct of globalization: A small but growing number of Christians in North America are turning to developing countries in Africa and elsewhere for spiritual direction. Some priests call the phenomenon “theological offshoring.” They are looking to Africa and other poor lands not just for inspiration but, in a very literal way, they are moving their theological base offshore.

Three days before Mr. Guernsey’s consecration in southwestern Uganda, the Anglican Church in neighboring Kenya minted two other U.S. bishops — one from Massachusetts, the other from Texas. Rwanda, another of Uganda’s neighbors, has said that it will elevate three more Americans to the rank of bishop by January.

None of these new bishops will work in Africa. Their new missions call for them to return home and combat what they see as growing disregard for traditional interpretations of the Bible, especially pertaining to homosexuality. The Episcopal Church, the American branch of a global Anglican movement with more than 80 million members, outraged conservatives in its own ranks and abroad when it appointed a gay Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.


Uganda “is certainly very different” from Woodbridge, says Mr. Guernsey, who first visited Africa as a student. The average family income of around $54,000 a year in Virginia is 154 times that of $350 in Mbarara. But the African country’s church is in tune with the Bible-based spirit of his Virginia parish, says Mr. Guernsey. “This is about fundamental issues of scripture that won’t go away.” Homosexual acts, for instance, are illegal in Uganda, where politicians and priests denounce them as Satanic.