The Primate of the Anglican Church of Kenya has denounced moves by his country’s Parliament to legalize polygamy. In a statement released on 30 March 2014 following services at All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, the Most Rev. Eliud Wabukala warned the institution of marriage was under assault by gay marriage activists in the West and polygamy activists in Africa.
He reiterated the church’s teaching that marriage was the “lifelong union of one man with one woman for the raising of children, joyful companionship and the blessing of society and the nation.”
Polygamous marriages presently have no legal standing under Kenyan law. Muslim plural marriages are governed by the country’s Khadi courts while traditional tribal polygamous marriages are governed by local custom.
On 20 March 2014 MPs amended the marriage laws to permit men to marry as many women as they want – amending the language of the original bill that would have permitted wives to veto any new marriages contracted by their husbands. “When you marry an African woman, she must know the second one is on the way, and a third wife … this is Africa,” MP Junet Mohammed told the house, according to Nairobi’s Capital FM.
He said: “Under customary law, women or wives you have married do not need to be told when you’re coming home with a second or third wife. Any lady you bring home is your wife.” Samuel Chepkong’a, chairman of the justice and legal affairs committee, told the Daily Nation newspaper
The bill found cross party support, but led to a walk out by women MPs who denounced the bill. The bill now awaits the signature of President Uhuru Kenyatta to become law.
Church leaders in Kenya have urged the president to withhold his signature.
In his statement, the Archbishop wrote:
My dear brothers and sisters,
This morning I feel it is necessary to state very clearly where the Anglican Church of Kenya stands on marriage. Our position is very clear. As a Church we have no other position than the teaching of the Bible, that marriage is the lifelong union of one man with one woman for the raising of children, joyful companionship and the blessing of society and the nation.
In his teaching about marriage, Jesus reaffirms that marriage is the coming together of a man and a woman in accordance with the pattern of creation itself when he says ‘from the beginning of creation God made them male and female’ (Mark 10:6). For the health and well being of both church and society we must promote this great God given gift of marriage without compromise and ambiguity.
In Kenya today, this wonderful gift of marriage is under attack from outside the nation and within the nation.
From outside, we are being pressed by the West, and even parts of the Anglican Communion, into treating homosexuality as a human right, but this is to cheapen rights so that they become a demand that we tolerate individual preferences that are destructive of our moral fabric. The homosexual movement has become an ideology that attacks our human identity as male and female created in the image of God, and same sex marriage, which became legal yesterday in England, is therefore a profound rejection of the law of God.
To use the law of the land to legislate for an activity which is against the natural order, and consistently described as sinful in the Scriptures, is a very serious step which strikes at the heart of family life. It is a repudiation of God and his Word which should make us tremble and cry out for his mercy.
We must be vigilant for the future of our nation, so that our children my grow up in the fear of the Lord in loving, godly and caring families where they are protected from moral confusion and able to build their lives on the solid foundation of God’s Word.
However, marriage is also under attack from within Kenya. I have to say that the proposal agreed by a majority of MPs last week to recognise in law the right of men to have as many wives as they like was cowardly and will be a backward step for Kenya if it becomes law. It is true that this legislation would not apply to Christian marriages, but we cannot stay quiet when we see the place of women in our society being demeaned. God’s pattern is given for us in one man and one woman, Adam and Eve, before the fall and is reaffirmed in the New Testament where we see marriage used as a picture of the love of Christ for his bride, the Church.
My dear friends, we know we have many challenges in Kenya today, but let us make sure that our laws are godly, promoting justice and righteousness. Let us know God’s presence with us for blessing and not for judgement and live full of faith and hope as we continue to build this great nation.