BISHOPS in South Sudan have confirmed the Archbishop of
Canterbury's warning that Christians in their country face a
violent reaction if the Church of England permits same-sex marriage
Archbishop Welby gave his warning during a phone-in on LBC radio
last Friday. Asked why the Church of England could not permit
clergy to bless same-sex relationships, he said: "The impact of
that on Christians in countries far from here, like South Sudan,
like Nigeria, and other places, would be absolutely
He spoke of a visit to South Sudan in January: "The church
leaders there were saying, please don't change what you're doing
because then we couldn't accept your help, and we need your help
The LBC presenter, James O'Brien, suggested that gay Christians
might interpret the Archbishop's words as a ban on marrying
"because of the conniptions it would give to some, dare we say,
less enlightened people in Africa".
"I don't think we dare say 'less enlightened', actually,"
replied the Archbishop. "That's nothing to do with it. It's about
the fact that I've stood by a graveside in Africa of a group of
Christians who'd been attacked because of something that had
happened far, far away in America."
Returning to the subject later, he said: "What was said was that
'If we leave a Christian community in this area' - I am quoting
them - 'we will all be made to become homosexual; so we are going
to kill the Christians.' The mass grave had 369 bodies in it, and I
was standing with the relatives. That burns itself into your soul -
as does the suffering of gay people in this country."
On Tuesday, the Bishop of Maridi, the Rt Revd Justin Badi Arama,
verified this report. "Gay relationships in the Church of England
would mean the people of South Sudan going back to their
traditional religions which do not take them to same-sex practice,"
said. "Secondly, there would be continued violence against
Christians [in the fear] that they would bring bad and shameful
behaviour or homosexual practice, and spread it in the
Any change would lead to a rift, the Bishop of Wau, the Rt Revd
Moses Deng Bol, warned on Wednesday. "The Church of England
blessing gay marriages will be dangerous for the Church in South
Sudan, because people here, like many African countries, strongly
oppose gay marriages. And so they would want the Church here to
break relationship with the Church of England.
"As a Church, we need to remain united as a body of Christ. We
must be mindful of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the
world when taking decisions, because what affects one part of the
body affects the whole body as well."
Bishop Arama concurred: "As South Sudanese, we very much value
the partnership, and all the efforts of the Church of England to
support the Church in Sudan during all the difficult moments in our
history. Same-sex practice would distort this long history, because
light and darkness cannot stay together.
"It is our prayer that the Church of England should not follow
the world into darkness, but lead the world into light."
On Thursday, the Bishop of Cueibet, the Rt
Revd Elijah Matueny Awet, said that, if the Church of England
blessed gay relationships, Christians in South Sudan would
"go back and worship their traditional beliefs and Gods
[rather] than worshipping the true God. . . Islam will grow rapidly
in South Sudan because of the pagan believing on same-sex
He argued, however, that it would not lead to reprisals in South
Sudan, which would take a different path to that pursued in the
"We have been described by English people and American that we
are a rude community . . . The question now, is who is rude now? Is
it the one who is claiming his or her right? The one who is forcing
people to accept his behavior?"
Clergy elsewhere have been critical of Archbishop Welby's
comments. On the same day as the broadcast, the Bishop of
California, the Rt Revd Marc Andrus, described them as
"His proposed way forward - to continue to oppress LGBT people
in the UK - will fail to keep Africans safe for this reason: if
Africa is watching the UK as closely as the Archbishop would have
us all believe, then they will not miss that the spiritual head of
the Anglican Communion is on the side of continued second-class
citizenship for LGBT people."
In the UK, the Vicar of St Mary with All Souls', Kilburn, and St
James's, West Hampstead, the Revd Andrew Cain, said that the
Archbishop had "allowed himself to be subject to moral blackmail of
the worst sort". Mr Cain plans to marry his same-sex partner later
"The solution is perhaps not sacrificing the mission imperatives
of our country to the frankly bullying tactics of some African
prelates, but to recognise that it is perhaps time that the
position of primus inter pares of the Archbishop of
Canterbury in the Anglican Communion is no longer tenable, and to
give it up to a rotating leadership. That would . . . set the
Church here free to be the Church of England, and not caught in
some awkward mid-point between African and European cultural and
religious traditions and developments."
On Monday, Davis Mac-iyalla, a gay Nigerian Anglican who has
sought asylum in the UK after receiving death threats, said that
clashes in Nigeria had "no link with homosexuality at all. . . I
was very shocked when the Archbishop tried to make that statement
that rights given in the UK will affect Christians in Africa, and I
think he is wrong in that statement or mistaken."
He suggested that it was conservative Christians in Nigeria who
"try to portray the picture that it will have consequences, but it
During the phone-in, the Archbishop reiterated a traditional
position on same-sex relationships: "My position is the historic
position of the Church, which is in our canons, which says that
sexual relations should be within marriage, and marriage is between
a man and a woman."
Asked whether he could imagine a day when two people of the same
sex married in the Church of England, he said: "I look at the
scriptures, I look at the teaching of the Church, I listen to
Christians round the world, and I have real hestitations about
"I am incredibly uncomfortable about saying that. I really don't
want to say no to people who love each other, but you have to have
a sense of following what the teaching of the Church is. We can't
just make sudden changes."
On Wednesday, in an interview with the Anglican Journal
during his visit to Canada, the Archbishop said: "One of the
things that's most depressing about the response to that [LBC]
interview is that almost nobody listened to what I said. .
"What I was saying is that when we take actions in
one part of the Church, particularly actions that are
controversial, that they are heard and felt not only in that part
of the Church but around the world . . . And, this is not mere
consequentialism. I'm not saying that because there will be
consequences to taking action, that we shouldn't take action. What
I'm saying is that love for our neighbour, love for one another,
compels us to consider carefully how that love is expressed, both
in our own context and globally. We never speak the essential point
that, as a Church, we never speak only in our local situation. Our
voice carries around the world."
Question of the week: Should violence in Africa affect
church policy in the UK?