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African bishops reject aid

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Anglican bishops in Africa who are refusing millions of dollars from liberal AmericanEpiscopal sources to protest homosexual clergy say the price of their protest has been higher than they thought.

"To be honest, there is not enough money for the needs we have in Rwanda after the [1994] genocide," said Rwandan Bishop John Rucyahana of the Diocese of Shyira, "but if money is being used to disgrace the Gospel, then we don't need it."

The Rev. Alison Barfoot, assistant to the Anglican archbishop of Uganda, said the Anglican province has no working phones in its Kampala headquarters because it lacks the funds. Conservative American churches haven't pitched in enough -- "definitely not to the extent of what we've given up," she said.

Bill Atwood, general secretary of Ekklesia Society, an international Anglican network, just returned from a tour of Tanzania, Malawi, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda and called the lack of money for Africans "scandalous."

"I just met with some archbishops a week ago," he said, "They were saying how painful it was, with people starving to death to make these choices."

Africa, which has 12 Anglican provinces each containing numerous dioceses, is the fastest-growing portion of the 70-million-member Anglican Communion, which includes the U.S. Episcopal Church. The 2003 election of New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who is divorced and living in a homosexual relationship, split the Anglican Communion.

Since then, the archbishops of Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda, overseeing 30.5 million Anglicans, announced they will not accept grants from the Episcopal Church. Some Rwandan and Tanzanian bishops are following suit.

Edwina Thomas, national director of Sharing of Ministries Abroad, a Virginia-based international Anglican group, said African prelates debated the matter in Nigeria last year.

"The archbishop of Congo stood in front of the bishops and said, 'My people are starving. They are having as little as one meal every other day,'" she said. "I remember the archbishop of Nigeria saying, 'We need to help you.'"

So do more Americans, Mr. Atwood said.

"Say there are 1,000 conservative Episcopal churches that spend $1,000 a month for air-conditioning," he said. "That's $12 million a year. The amount of money they are spending on air-conditioning each year is what is being sent to run all the Anglican provinces in Africa."

Whatever the conservatives come up with is dwarfed by major grants that have announced by Episcopal heavyweights, such as Trinity Episcopal Church on Wall Street, the United Thank Offering and Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD). It's been estimated that 70 percent of all African funding comes from the Episcopal Church, whose headquarters alone has a 2005 budget of $49.6 million.

Its largest diocese, the Diocese of Virginia, has a 2005 budget of $4 million. A typical African diocesan budget ranges between $50,000 and $100,000.

Nevertheless, Kenyan Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi said in an interview he was willing "to do without the money" if it's necessary to remind the Episcopal Church of its mission. "It was to preach the Great Commission," he added, "but what kind of Gospel are they preaching now, saying there should be union of people of the same sex?"

Last November, his province refused the remaining $100,000 of a $288,980 grant for theological education, given in 2002 by Trinity Episcopal. Kenyan Bishop William Wago said the province laid off five workers and canceled plans for communications equipment and a medical clinic.

"We are not to mortgage our faith," he said. "We do not regret the money lost, but we rejoice on our stand for the Gospel and the truth."

Conservative churches are trying to match lost funding through the Anglican Relief & Development Fund (ARDF), founded by the Pittsburgh-based Anglican Communion Network, a group of 800 Episcopal parishes. The ARDF has doled out $823,812 in grants since its founding last summer.

However, that amount pales when compared with a $10 million U.S. Agency for International Development grant for AIDS prevention given last fall to the Anglican Province of South Africa. The Episcopal Diocese of Washington, which has many parishes and schools that give liberally to Africa, brokered that deal.

"We've not seen anyone turning down money from a parish," Washington diocesan spokesman Jim Naughton said. "Those contributions seem to fly under the radar."

Moreover, the Anglican Diocese of Renk in Sudan has accepted more than $200,000 from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. Both the Washington and Virginia dioceses supported the Robinson consecration.

Still, the Anglican Province of Uganda is refusing grants from any pro-Robinson diocese and the New York-based ERD. Although it accepted $30,000 from Trinity Episcopal in February for a women's credit union, it turned down assistance from the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan for school fees for 60 girls.

In March, Bishop Jackson Nzerebende of Uganda's South Rwenzori Diocese cut ties with the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania, which had donated more than $65,000 for school fees, transportation, college tuition and an AIDS program. Then, last month, the Ugandan province rejected a $27,000 donation from the New Hampshire Diocese to improve local schools.

Central Pennsylvania Bishop Michael F. Creighton called Bishop Nzerebende's decision "a Good Friday nail in the compassion of Christ."

"Our consent to the election of a bishop in New Hampshire appears to be more important than the compassionate ministry we have shown with his own people," he said, "who are struggling with and dying of AIDS."