AFTER the passing of anti-gay laws in Nigeria described as
"draconian" by the UN, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have
written to all Primates of the Anglican Communion, and to the
Presidents of Nigeria and Uganda, recalling the Communion's
commitment to caring for everyone, regardless of sexual
The letter, due to be sent on Wednesday, recalls the Dromantine
communiqué issued in 2005 after a meeting of the Communion's
Primates (News, 4 March, 2005), which
stated that "The victimisation or diminishment of human beings
whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same
sex is anathema to us.
"We assure homosexual people that they are children of God,
loved and valued by Him and deserving the best we can give -
pastoral care and friendship."
This month, the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, signed
the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in Nigeria, which entails a
14-year prison sentence for anyone found guilty of engaging in
same-sex relationships, and states that anyone who "administers,
witnesses, screens, abets and aids" a same-sex union can be
imprisoned for ten years.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has said
that she has "rarely...seen a piece of legislation that in so few
paragraphs directly violates so many basic, universal human
This month, the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, refused to
sign the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which provides for life
imprisonment for homosexual acts.
On Monday, Davis Mac-iyalla, a gay Nigerian Anglican who has
taken refuge in the UK after receiving death threats, said: "People
are calling on Western religious leaders to please say something
and talk to the African bishops who are publicly supporting these
draconian laws." Life was "very frightening" for LGBT people.
On Wednesday, Amnesty International's Nigeria researcher, Makmid
Kamara, said: "The Church and other religious groups have been very
influential in supporting the passing of this Bill... If you can
get very reputable religious leaders in the UK to speak out and
reach out to the religious community, that would be a significant
boost to the current calls being made inside and outside
The chairman of GAFCON, the Archbishop of Kenya, the Most Revd
Eliud Wabukala, was highly critical of the Archbishops' letter. He
said on Friday that it had "served to encourage those who want to
normalise homosexual lifestyles in Africa and has fuelled prejudice
against African Anglicans."
He cited the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution against same-sex
relations, and indicated that pastoral care and a moral standpoint
had to be held in tension. "Christians should always show
particular care for those who are vulnerable, but this cannot be
separated from the whole fabric of biblical moral teaching in which
the nature of marriage and family occupy a central place."
The statement distinguished between sexual orientation and
sexual practice, which was declared by Lambeth '98 to be
inconsistent with scripture. "We are committed to biblical
sexual morality and to biblical pastoral care, so we wholeheartedly
stand by the assurance given in the 1998 Lambeth Conference
resolution that those who experience same-sex attraction are 'loved
by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons,
regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of
The day before, the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Stanley
Ntagali, had said that the Church of Uganda was "grateful" to the
Archbishops for the reminder of the Dromantine Communiqué by
Archbishop Welby and Dr Sentamu. It was committed to being "a safe
place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or
struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and
But he, too, reminded the Archbishops of the strictures of the
1998 Lambeth Conference. Referring to the discussions in the UK
about the Pilling report, he warned against "legitimising or
blessing of same-sex unions nor ordaining those involved in
Archbishop Ntagli highlighted amendments made to the
Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda "to remove the death penalty, to
reduce sentencing guidelines through a principle of
proportionality, and to remove the clause on reporting homosexual
behaviour, as we had recommended in our 2010 position statement on
This 2010 statement also states that the Church of Uganda
"appreciates" the Bill's objective "to prohibit and penalise
homosexual behaviour and related practices in Uganda as they
constitute a threat to the traditional family".
Letter, page 17
AS THE date of the first UK gay weddings comes closer,
the UK Government has launched a consultation on civil
The first same-sex couples who want to get married will
be able to do so on 29 March. The legislation will also allow those
currently in civil partnerships to convert them into marriages.
Civil partnerships will remain an option for gay couples, but not
The Government's consultation is asking individuals and
organisations what they think about the future of civil
partnerships, now that gay and lesbian couples can get
It notes that some are calling for civil partnerships to
be abolished entirely, whereas others believe that they shouldbe
opened up to straightcouples.
Meanwhile, a gay couple are threatening the Government
with legal action after discovering they will only be able to get
married from 29 March if they first dissolve their civil
The Government has not yet decided how civil partners
can convert their partnerships into marriages, and a spokesman for
the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said that the procedure
would be finalised only later this year.
But Michael and Paul Atwal-Brice, who entered a civil
partnership in 2008, are considering launching a judicial review,
because they argue it is unfair to force them to get the equivalent
of a divorce before they can marry. Mr Atwal-Brice
told The Guardian: "There are legal and practical
difficulties if we were forced to divorce."
With some clergy likely to enter same-sex marriages, the
House of Bishops will meet next month to discuss what approach to
take when gay marriage becomes legal in March.