Protestant church leaders in Mumbai have likened homosexuals to people “not of sound mind” as the Anglican Church thundered towards a schism between liberals and conservatives.
Both the Church of North India (CNI) and the Church of South India (CSI) are supporting a conservative breakaway faction of the Anglican Church, called the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, on the battle over allowing gay clergies.
The Fellowship, which was at odds with the Anglican Church over the issue of ordaining homosexuals as clergy and blessing same sex unions, was set up at a conference held in Jerusalem last month. It effectively meant a split of the Anglican Church.
The Church faces another summit at the Lambeth Conference to be held in London on July 16, at which global representatives will decide the future of the faith of its eight crore followers.
Both CNI and CSI did not confirm if they would join the Fellowship, but said the issue would be on top of their Lambeth agenda.
“We are not comfortable with the idea of gay priests,” said Reverend Prakash Patole, Bishop of Mumbai, CNI.
“CNI and CSI have accepted women priests but we haven’t got to the stage of welcoming homosexuals,” said Reverend K.I. Dyvasirvadam of St Stephen’s Church, Bandra. “The Bible talks of eunuchs, lepers and people not of sound mind and homosexuality being accepted by Jesus… but there is a big difference between a gay man coming to church and having gay priests.”
Similar views were echoed by the CSI. “The Bible does not recognise gay marriages or gay priests,” said Reverend Benny Thomas of CSI, Mumbai.
Gay Christians in Mumbai have reacted strongly to the news that their church has lurched further to the right, and pointed out that King James of England, who introduced the modern Bible, was a homosexual.
“Indian Church leaders should place King James under the ‘not of sound mind’ list and stop using his Bible,” said George Thomas (26, name changed), a designer from Andheri and member of CSI. “I never divulged my sexuality fearing backlash. But church leaders should encourage more tolerance.”
Agrees gay activist Ashok Row Kavi. “The church should come in line with the Church of England and allow gay priests and marriages.”