The erstwhile conservative Catholic Church here in Botswana appears to have taken the first step to move with the times to join the rest of the world over the vexing issue of homosexuality.
The newly crowned Bishop of the Gaborone Diocese, the Right Reverend, Frank Atese Nubuasah has said, in his first interview with the print media as the new Bishop of Gaborone, that the Church does not live in a vacuum and therefore cannot turn a blind eye on what is happening around the world.
Nubuasah now oversees his flock in Gaborone after serving two decades as Bishop at the country’s second city of Francistown. He has shared the notion that human beings should not judge one another.
In an interview with The Sunday Standard, he said that the Church has no intention to be at logger heads with the State for de-criminalizing homosexuality.
He was responding to a question seeking the position of the Church regarding decriminalization of same sex practices.
Following the land mark ruling by the High Court in Gaborone about three months ago that same sex practices should be decriminalized, there was an outcry from Christians – some of whom declared that the ruling was one of the signs that the world is coming to an end.
Some members of society had expressed displeasure that the ruling would expose Botswana to God’s wrath that was experienced by the Biblical Gomorrah and Sodoma.
In political circles, an opposition parliamentarian blamed President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi for influencing the High Court ruling. The legislator’s opinion was that it was an abomination to both Christianity and Setswana culture and tradition.
“First of all we preach that homosexuality is not natural. But the Church cannot fight the government over the issue. Secondly, we preach the Word of God but whatever two adults engage in their locked bed rooms is none of our concern. We cannot keep watch over people that way. Thirdly, like His Holiness Pope Francis has said, who am I to judge?” asked Bishop Nubuasah.
He further highlighted that even if same sex practice is legalized the government cannot force him or any other pastor as Marriage Officers to wed people of same sex. Neither can he do that of his own volition.
On what his installation meant to him he said it was the continuation of the journey the church has been in; which entails increased work load and commitment. For two years, since his predecessor left, he said there has been stagnancy now it was time to set up strategic plans to take the church forward. He has no intentions of coming up with immediate changes.
“The diocese should not expect major changes. The message will still be the same. The style won’t be the same because we differ in character. We are not here to compete with anybody. We should support each other; draw strategic plans together as the church. We have work to do together,” he said.
He highlighted that the Church has indeed been a government’s developmental partner for a long time. But, he reasoned, the church’s role is to preach the Word to the world; so where need arose the church helped by any means it could afford.
“Back in the 1920s the Church helped with education and health. We helped build schools and clinics. When the government managed to take over, we decided to withdraw so it takes over while we continue with our major mandate of spreading the gospel,” said Bishop Nubuasah.
He explained that his position of Bishop of Francistown would be replaced soon as there would be elections in a few weeks, for a Pastoral Administrator which would be followed by ordination next year. The Bishop elect would be able to execute some of tasks like confirmation of the faithful.