Jonathan Merritt wrote an excellent article last week about the more traditional and conservative American churches pointing to third-world Christianity in the debate over homosexuality. This is a topic that is huge in Anglican circles (which I am part of) right now because of the divide between the current Episcopal Church and the former parishes who split off under African leadership over this social issue.
The two major items Jonathan writes about are:
- Are we comfortable with how extreme many of these countries are on this issue (often calling for civil punishment up to execution for all homosexual persons)?
- Are we willing to listen to other things that these Christians may have to say to us Americans on topics like colonialism and missionary abuses in the past? Or are conservative Christians simply using their international brothers' and sisters' voices on this one topic for their own advantage instead of engaging in true dialog?
It's also important to remember how influential the conservative, fundamentalist worldview was in the last 100 years of missionary work. That we cannot point to these mission fields and say the Christians there are speaking on pure, culturally-unaffected faith, because they largely inherited the same biases and perspectives as their local missionaries.
I'm also reminded of a story told by pastor and author Brian McLaren about an attendee of his church breaking down in tears after being invited to participate in communion. You see, this attendee was from a conservative church in Africa, and because he was the child of a third wife (polygamous marriage before conversion), he was denied communion in that church. Is that the variety of Christianity, from any country, which we want to uncritically embrace? Not all third-world Christians have these perspectives of course, just as American Christians have differences. We're simply saying that it may not be a good argument to point uncritically at a non-American group of Christians to somehow make the case that American non-conservative Christians are apostate.
Jonathan says it better, so read the full article at: http://jonathanmerritt.religionnews.com/2015/05/08/follow-other-countries-lead-on-gays-be-careful-what-you-ask-for/