Volume 19 Issue 42 | March 2 - 8, 2007

African churches turn down charity over same-sex unions

Although theological differences over the blessing of same-sex unions have caused some African churches to refuse funds from Trinity Church-St. Paul’s Chapel, the Lower Manhattan parish continues to expand its grant program.

“There are three or four churches who will not accept funding from American churches,” Rev. Canon James Callaway, deputy for the Trinity Grants Program, said in a telephone interview. These churches are in Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda. However, with the nearly 20-year civil war still causing mass devastation in Northern Uganda, Callaway said some parishes have defied the order and accepted funding anyway.

“While some feel that the divisions are such that they can no longer take money,” Callaway said, “it’s an enormous continent.” Many American Episcopal parishes bless same-sex unions, but last week the international Anglican Communion issued a Sept. 30 ultimatum for them to cease the practice.

Callaway is leaving this week for Boksburg, South Africa, just outside of Johannesburg, with Rev. Dr. James Cooper, rector of Trinity, and Rev. Canon Benjamin Musoke Lubaga from Uganda to attend a conference on social development and H.I.V./AIDS prevention. About 400 religious leaders from throughout the Anglican Communion are expected to gather for the conference.

During their trip, Callaway said, “We will also be visiting a church in Swaziland, which has the highest H.I.V. infection rate on the continent.” Trinity granted the Swaziland church $130,758 in May of 2005 to fund the establishment of an H.I.V./AIDS education program.

Rev. Cooper announced recently that Trinity Church would be distributing grants totaling $1 million to churches around the world. While the majority of these funds will go directly to support parishes, about $50,000 has been set aside for a new program, called the Trinity Global Partners Initiative.

“This is the first time we have supported partnership links with other churches,” explained Callaway. He said that since Trinity’s own partnerships have been successful, they decided to encourage other churches to pair with parishes in developing nations.

Three grants have been awarded with a focus on health care and health education in partnerships between the dioceses in South Carolina and the Dominican Republic, Central New York and El Salvador, and Tennessee and Ecuador.

An additional partnership between the dioceses of Colorado and Haiti will go towards training Haitian women to be self-sufficient in the fields of cuisine and tailoring.

Callaway said the partnership’s focus on Latin American countries is in no way connected to the sharp criticism that some Anglican African leaders have expressed over the American Episcopal church’s stand on same-sex marriage. He said the new program is in addition to work Trinity has done in Africa and will not replace it.

Trinity also continued awarding grants in its established categories, giving almost $1 million to 17 churches and programs in New York City, across the United States, in Portugal and across the continent of Africa.

“One thing we have learned as Christians is that partnership is a two-way street,” Callaway said. “We have a world of things to learn from each other.”

—Brooke Edwards

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