Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bishop Mwamba Speaks To The Diocese Of North Carolina

By Nancy McLaughlin
Staff Writer
SATURDAY, JAN. 19, 2008 3:00 AM

He's not asking people to change their positions, necessarily, but an Anglican bishop says there can be middle ground in the lingering and angry debate over the ordination of an openly gay man as a bishop by U.S. Episcopalians.

"When I hear all these harsh tones being exchanged," said the Right Rev. Musonda Trevor Mwamba of Botswana, "... I ask if anybody is praying."

Mwamba, speaking Friday to the 192nd annual meeting of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina in Greensboro, has been working for mutual tolerance by speaking out about the things that he says should be drawing people of his denomination together: bringing people into the kingdom of God.

There has been much talk in recent years about a possible split in the worldwide Anglican Communion, of which Episcopalians in the United States are members, over the ordination of Eugene V. Robinson of New Hampshire, who lives with his partner.

Actually, Mwamba said, most of those who have been labeled as incensed over the ordination of a gay bishop really aren't wrapped up in whether God particularly cares about people's sexual orientation. The loudest voices do not constitute a majority of the thought in the Anglican community, as has been claimed, he said.

"The truth of the matter is ... we must understand the majority of African Anglicans, about 37 million, are not bothered by the debate about sexuality," Mwamba said.

"The majority of African Anglicans," he said, "they have their minds focused on life and death issues, like AIDS, poverty ... and not what the church thinks about sex or the color of your pajama pants. Villagers who live on less than $1 a day aren't aware this is going on. The majority of Africans who can afford TVs and radios, they don't want to see the communion incinerate."

Mwamba was invited by Bishop Michael Curry, who oversees the diocese that includes Greensboro and who voted with the majority of the U.S. bishops to confirm Robinson in 2003. Curry and Mwamba's diocese are working on a "companion relationship" to spread the ministry.

"I know that will be new news to Americans," Curry said after the speech. "What the bishop said is in fact accurate. These are not front-burner issues (in Africa). It's 'How do I get my children a good education?' It's 'Where do I find clean water and food to eat?' They go to church to praise the Lord and to find the strength to live another week."

The core message among Christians should be enlarging the Kingdom of God, Mwamba said, and not looking for ways to make it smaller.

"So why do we keep thinking separately — us and them?" Mwamba asked. "Could it be because we have lost sight of the height and depth of the kingdom ... the infinity of God in us?"

Anglicans, he said, have a history that is rooted in moving beyond each other's differences.

"We may discover," he said, "that the person we fear or resent is 'just like me,' is 'just like us.'"

But Mwamba reminds us that man does not have the final say-so.
"Let us beware of excommunicating each other on Earth ... we shall find in heaven we are still bound together at the table of God," he said.

Contact Nancy H. McLaughlin at 373-7049 or

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