by Loren Seibold | 21 June 2023 |
Almost three months after Seventh-day Adventist archbishop Moses Maka Ndimukika of Uganda stood with other clergy in support of a law that would punish LGBTQ people with life imprisonment for being gay—which, according to the New York Times, led to LGBTQ people being hunted like animals—the Adventist News Network has shared a statement from the archbishop.
Here (interspersed with my commentary) is the statement:
As a unit of the global Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Uganda Union Mission (UUM) is committed to full and complete alignment with all official beliefs, policy statements, and teachings approved by our world church including the strong commitment by the church to stand firmly for the biblical position on human sexuality with the understanding that marriage is between one man and one woman and that alternative human sexual practices are not in harmony with God’s loving design for humanity which is revealed in His Word.
Whether “the understanding that marriage is between one man and one woman” is biblical or not is debatable. Inasmuch as there is also a clear biblical stance in favor of polygamy, it is also unclear that “alternative human sexual practices are not in harmony with God’s loving design for humanity.” Jesus, for example, never said a word about homosexuality, nor did he condemn polygamy.
Still, one wonders at the mind of someone who, in defending himself against supporting a law that mandates life imprisonment or even the death penalty for LGBTQ people, leads off with, “We haven’t really changed our minds.”
The mysterious “we”
Along with our Seventh-day Adventist brothers and sisters around the world, we decry every form of persecution, violence, and bigotry against any individual or group of people as a result of our biblical belief that all who have been created in the image of God need to come into conformity with God’s Holy Word through His power.
Please note this use of “we”: “we,” the church in Uganda, decry “persecution, violence and bigotry.” Keep that in mind as we read on. Because our good archbishop personally supported a law that said:
- Individuals or institutions which support or fund LGBT rights’ activities or organizations, or publish, broadcast and distribute pro-gay media material and literature, also face prosecution and imprisonment.
- Media groups, journalists, and publishers face prosecution and imprisonment for publishing, broadcasting, distribution of any content that advocates for gay rights or “promotes homosexuality”.
- The death penalty for what is described as “aggravated homosexuality”, that is sexual abuse of a child, a person with disability or vulnerable people, or in cases where a victim of homosexual assault is infected with a life-long illness.
- Property owners also face risk of being jailed if their premises are used as a “brothel” for homosexual acts or any other sexual minorities rights’ activities.
The obfuscation continues:
The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Uganda is totally committed to the mission of the global Seventh-day Adventist Church body and is focused on propagating the everlasting gospel of the three angel’s [sic] messages to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people (Revelation 14:6 NKJV) calling all people into a saving relationship with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our involvement and interaction with any other group of people or organization is in the context of the Church’s mission and is therefore not meant to align, support, or condemn. Rather, we seek to reach all with the saving gospel of love, grace and with the compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The whole business about the three angels’ messages is boilerplate stuff. Padding. Because, as you know, if you parrot Adventist eschatological buzzwords, you really can’t be bad. Doctrine trumps everything.
Massaging the truth
But seriously, by sitting with the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, who, according to the news site Monitor,
had vowed to do everything possible to have the anti-same-sex bill returned to Parliament, as one of the measures to tackle the spread of homosexuality, especially in schools
our dear Archbishop Moses Maka Ndimukika had no intention to “align, support, or condemn”? I suspect he (or whoever wrote this for him) is massaging the truth.
(In fact, he admits to his involvement and support a few paragraphs down. Read on.)
We neither seek, nor advocate, the imprisonment or killing of individuals engaging in LGBTQ+ practices. On the contrary, we believe that every human being deserves our love and compassion as people for whom our Savior gave His life and whom He has called into a biblical way of living and human sexuality. We believe that on the cross Christ made it possible for anyone to be pardoned for all of their sins. We therefore seek to love and serve everyone on His behalf so that they can experience the great hope that we have found in Him. Our faith teaches us that there is great hope for all of humanity through trust in Christ for salvation and the power to live in accordance with the Word of God. It also inspires us to trust in His commandments as the guide for a purposeful and hope-filled life.
Again, who is this “we”? Officially, the church doesn’t advocate for killing or imprisonment of LGBTQ individuals. “We” officially love everyone. Elder Ted Wilson has major hang-ups about LGBTQ people and brings them up suspiciously often, but I’m certain he wouldn’t personally kill them.
Yet as for the archbishop himself, this part of the statement goes precisely against what he said and did with the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda. You can almost see the archbishop’s nose growing.
In the next section, the excuses reach a fever pitch:
It is important to note that the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Uganda has never met to consider the new law regarding homosexuality and therefore does not have any action regarding it. As an individual, I participate in various committees and boards outside the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and these bodies often promote projects and policies for the Ugandan society. However, even I do not speak for the church in such circumstances unless our church representatives discuss and come to conclusions, and no such process has occurred regarding this law.
So the archbishop falls (rather awkwardly) on his sword. The most important thing he has to say is that he didn’t speak for the church. He spoke for himself. Even though he is a leader and representative of the church, even though it was as a representative of the church that he was included in the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, he was just being himself. I guess that makes it okay.
Yet please note: nowhere in this statement does Archbishop Moses Maka Ndimukika say that he personally is against the imprisonment and killing of LGBTQ people. “We” as a church aren’t for this, even though the archbishop publicly threw in his lot with the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda for the improvement of Ugandan society.
In short, I see no repentance here. I see no admission of or retreat from the archbishop’s personal position. I see a letter crafted by lawyers to make it clear that the archbishop didn’t speak or act for the church—and to imply, without saying it, that he never said what he said or did what he did.
But as you will see, this isn’t the first time than an African church leaders has spoken his mind and then denied it.
A long history of lies
In 2010, the then-president of the Ugandan Union Conference, John Kakembo, voiced his support of early anti-LGBTQ measures in Uganda’s New Vision newspaper:
Seventh Day Adventist’s John Kakembo noted that homosexuality has been in Uganda since the 1960s. He called on Parliament to quickly enact the Bill into law, so as to curb the vice.
(The New Vision story is no longer on line, but was reported at the time by Alex Carpenter on the Spectrum website.)
The denomination made this rather tepid response:
Our inquiries with the Uganda Union indicate that not all that is being reported or interpreted in the media coverage is factual. Our office has taken steps to inform the Uganda Union president’s office about the officially articulated position of the church regarding homosexuality.
“He probably never said it, and we’re going to talk to him about saying it.” That should have ended, no?
No. Again in 2012, at a meeting at the Mbarara Adventist Church, Blasious Ruguri, the division president in East and Central Africa, spoke about another version of the Ugandan bill. His words were recorded by a reporter who was present, and quoted in a major Ugandan newspaper.
Our stand is “zero tolerance” to this vice and to western influence on this crucial issue because God says no to it. We are together with the President and the Speaker and we fully support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I call upon all religious ministers, all Ugandans, and all Africans to say no to Homosexuality. Let us stand for our sovereignty as Ugandans and as God fearing people even the heavens fall.
Not long after that, though, Ruguri denied that he said what he said.
It is unfortunate that the media took the liberty to extend my statements to suggest what I did not say or imply. I have never seen that bill. Mine was a general statement to disapprove of homosexual practice and behavior. Our church is a ministry of mercy, and as a minister in the Seventh-day Adventist Church I cannot condemn homosexuals to death or to hell.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. But three times?
Frankly, if three leaders in East Africa merely stumbled into support of these heinous laws—if they repeatedly were quoted as saying the complete opposite of what they believe—Africa has some of the most incompetent leaders in the entire world church.
When one pastor in the church admitted to being a celibate gay man, the president of the General Conference made a huge fuss about it, showing himself gathered with all of his fellow suits to condemn the judicatory that had him on the payroll.
Yet here, Ted Wilson is silent. The General Conference (GC) has nothing to say. They let Archbishop Moses Maka Ndimukika make his own excuses.
Elder Wilson, you would fire church leaders who would deny the investigative judgment. You wanted to fire church leaders merely for supporting women’s ordination. Yet you remain silent about church leaders who participate in a national bill to kill and imprison a whole population of people?
Loren Seibold is a retired pastor and Executive Editor of Adventist Today.