Homosexuality: Dimensions of the Issue in Church and Society in Namibia
Isaak, Paul John, The Ecumenical Review
Just how prevalent is homosexuality in Namibia today? Is it a consciously learned behaviour, or is it related to inherited hormonal and genetic influences? Is homosexuality a condition that can be changed by appropriate pastoral counselling and psychological treatment? How is the traditional bias in African civilization towards heterosexuality related to African religion, Judaeo-Christian scriptures and Islamic religion? How should the Christian church and religious communities respond pastorally to homosexuals? Should Christians support the decriminalization of private acts between two consenting adult homosexuals? Should they call for ensuring the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms, as outlined in the Namibian constitution?
These are some of the crucial questions on the subject of homosexuality which call for careful reflection by Christians and religious communities in Namibia today. For example, the Namibian constitution affords both men and women equal rights to choose a partner in marriage and to found a family. Article 14 states that "marriage shall be entered into only with free and full consent of the intending spouses". One could argue that this statement, especially the term spouses, establishes a constitutional right for homosexual marriage.
In this discussion, I shall address the issue of homosexuality by first offering an overview of how the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia (Elcrn) is trying to deal with the issue, then outlining the African perspective that human relationships define human identity. In the third and fourth parts I shall bring these perspectives into dialogue with the use of scriptures and apply them to Christian morality.
The report of the theological committee of Elcrn
The Theological Committee of the Elcrn submitted a report to the meeting of the general synod of Elcrn in September 1993. Here are some extracts from that report:
On January 25, 1993 the Theological Committee submitted to the Elcrn
Church Council a letter that dealt with the issue of homosexuality and
Committee informed the Church Council about two resolutions taken by
the Committee, namely
- To write a letter of enquiry to the Lutheran World Federation (LWF,
in order to find out what the ecumenical family of Lutherans are
saying on this issue.
- The Committee reminds the Church Council that there might be cases of
homosexual/lesbian relationships in our own church and suggests that
the Church Council should take up this issue; otherwise the Church
Council might ordain homosexual/lesbian persons
without knowing it.
The first resolution is taken with a view to investigating the issue
from a theological/biblical point of view. We want to do such research
from an ecumenical point of view and have,
for this reason, contacted the LWF Department of Theological Studies.
The second resolution is taken with the expectation that the Church
Council should deal with the issue from a pastoral counselling
perspective. In other words, that the Church
Council should talk pastorally with those who might have such
relationships. Furthermore, the Church Council will know our
present and future co-workers much better, and they are
in a unique situation because they deal with the life-situations of our
present and future coworkers almost on a daily basis.
Against this background six recommendations were made to the Elcrn synod.
1. From a biblical perspective in Genesis 1 and 2 the community is
described under the four main aspects:
- the human being is created as woman and man:
- woman and man have the gift of fertility;
- the community of woman and man helps to overcome loneliness:
- woman and man are together called to live responsibly in the world. …