For Henry Luke Orombi, Anglican archbishop of Uganda, the topic for his chapel sermon on Friday, February 16, was an obvious choice. That is the day when Anglicans worldwide remember Janani Luwum, honored as a modern martyr.
But this time, the commemoration of the Ugandan archbishop who confronted Idi Amin became the prelude to a fateful turning point for global Anglicanism.
Once every three years, the top leaders of the world's 78 million Anglicans, called primates, gather for consultation and study. In mid-February, 35 of the 38 primates assembled for the first time on African soil amid threat of Anglican schism over homosexuality. In 2003, an openly gay priest, V. Gene Robinson, became the Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, throwing Anglicans into a historic struggle between left-leaning revisionists and conservatives.
In their Windsor report (issued October 2004), Anglican leaders demanded that the Episcopal Church (the American branch of Anglicanism) repent of the Robinson consecration, forbid any new gay bishops from taking office, and stop the blessing of same-sex unions. On the first of their five days of meetings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, primates received a report from a panel that said the Episcopal Church had met two of the three Windsor demands. Yet there was "more work to be done" to end same-sex blessings. To conservatives, it seemed that the Episcopal Church had once again outmaneuvered them.
The next day, Orombi, a tall, charismatic figure, preached at the noonday chapel service. He described the importance of martyrdom in Ugandadoing what it takes to stay true to the gospel. In February 1977, Janani Luwum, the Anglican archbishop of Uganda and Rwanda, was arrested along with leading Christians by Idi Amin, a dictator with the blood of thousands on his hands. The leaders were all accused of treason.
Days earlier, Luwum and the others had publicly called Amin to repent for the brutal slaughter of political opponents. Luwum had also demanded that co-opted church leaders separate themselves from political "powers of darkness."
The archbishop was executed almost immediately after a violent interrogation. Luwum's murder brought a stagnating church back to life as tens of thousands joined in revivals after his murder.
"His death changed the political climate of Uganda," concluded Orombi.
The example of Luwum speaking up despite the consequences was not lost on conservatives. Even as Orombi described Luwum's example, a statement was posted on the Anglican Church of Nigeria's website: Seven Anglican archbishops were refusing to join in Holy Communion with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, head of the Episcopal Church. This included Orombi and primates from Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Central Africa, Singapore, and South America.
The seven said, "We each take the celebration of the Holy Eucharist very seriously. This deliberate action is a poignant reminder of the brokenness of the Anglican Communion. It makes clear that the torn fabric of the church has been torn further. We have made repeated calls for repentance by the Episcopal Church and its leadership with no success. We continue to pray for a change of heart."
The seven then formed a working base of conservative strength laboring behind the scenes for the remaining three days of the meeting, stiffening the resolve of Anglican leaders to require the Episcopal Church and Jefferts Schori to conform church practices to Lambeth 1.10.
That 1998 resolution said homosexuality is "incompatible with Scripture." But Anglican revisionists in the U.S., Canada, and Britain have flouted Lambeth 1.10 by ordaining sexually active gays, blessing same-sex relationships, and affirming Robinson's election.