Skip to comments.West seeks spiritual refuge in war-torn Uganda
Posted on 12/26/2005 10:25:23 AM PST by sionnsar
Churches in the United States are turning their backs on religious liberalism at home and looking 9,000 miles away to "biblically orthodox" Uganda for a spiritual refuge.
In November, Anglicans at South Riding Church in Fairfax, Virginia, became the latest congregation to break from their roots and join the Church of Uganda instead.
A dozen others have done the same, a symptom of religious conservatives' deep discomfort over scriptural revisionism and the Church's growing acceptance of homosexuality.
It is a further sign of the widening schisms threatening the Anglican communion and comes as reforms implemented last week allow homosexuals in Britain to get "married".
The trend to turn to Africa was started by three Californian churches outraged that their leader, the Rev J Jon Bruno, the Bishop of Los Angeles, supported the ordination of the homosexual canon Gene Robinson and reportedly said that Jesus did not rise from the dead.
These traditionalist congregations felt betrayed and trapped, says the Rev Dr Alison Barfoot, originally from Kansas and now working with Uganda's most senior clergyman, Archbishop Henry Orombi.
"They were looking to their leaders for guidance and were hearing things like Jesus is not the only path to salvation, that anyone can write scripture, that the resurrection was not a fact," she said from the shaded veranda at the Archbishop's palace, high on a hillside in a Kampala suburb.
"Then they look to Uganda and see that there is the spiritual vitality here that they long for, where they can have confidence to express the view that God is a reality, not an intellectual construct.
"Believers in the West see religion being rationalised, psychologised and demystified. Here they feel that weight lifted from their shoulders and they can breathe easier."
The first three churches to break away, St James in Newport Beach, All Saints' in Long Beach and St David's in North Hollywood, chose to link with the Diocese of Luweero, 60 miles north of Kampala, after long correspondence with its Archbishop, the Rt Rev Evans Kisekka.
It is a long jump from California to Luweero. The main road leading to Uganda's war-ravaged north separates twin rows of shuttered shops, selling torch batteries, beer and cut-price mobile phones.
Occasional white and blue minibus taxis trundle past, overloaded but still honking their horns hunting for customers. Cyclists dodge cows with 4ft horns grazing in unkempt shrubs.
The Anglican St Mark's Cathedral, once a modest single-storey structure, is now wreathed in scaffolding undergoing a radical upgrade optimistically due for completion by May.
It may seem sleepy and backward, until church services start at seven on Sunday morning. "Here people are very happy to be going to church and singing and praying and praising the Lord," said Jimmy Lubanga, 22, the guitar-playing leader of the congregation's youth wing who wears an Everton shirt to church.
"I have heard there [the US] people will say God does not exist or other things which we see written in the Bible."
The Rev Barfoot says members of the US congregations regularly visit for spiritual rejuvenation. Sermons are compared by e-mail and several priests and deacons have been ordained at St Mark's.
The cathedral's renovation is being part-funded from across the Atlantic.
The Ugandan churches' magnetic pull on American Christians is, officials say, due to packed pews, booming congregations and a faithful interpretation of the Bible rather than its opposition to homosexuality.
Uganda has 9.2 million practising Anglicans, compared to fewer than one million in British churches on Sundays. Nigeria, where Christianity is growing fastest worldwide, has 17 million.
"It is not only about sexuality," says the Rev Andrew Quill, the son of a priest from Ulster, who has lived in Luweero for six years with his wife and three children.
"That is a symptom, and cannot be ignored, but this is equally about wholesale rewriting of Biblical facts, of breaking Articles of the Bible.
"That is what is driving people away and it will continue to happen until some sense returns to the way their supposed church leaders are thinking."
Obviously the New Age Leaders are there to tear the Church down, not to do anything else. No one should be forced to participate in their own destruction.
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