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Give gay decriminalisation priority, Anglicans told

24 June 2016


Campaigners: protesters outside Canterbury Cathedral during the Primates Meeting in January

Campaigners: protesters outside Canterbury Cathedral during the Primates Meeting in January

AMID a rise in homophobic violence and prosecutions it is time for the Anglican Communion to use its extensive influence to help to end the criminalisation of gay people, the authors of a new report write.

Tracing the origins of criminalisation to British imperialism, and delineating the “significant influence” of Anglican Churches in more than half of the 77 countries in which “consensual same-sex intimacy” is a crime, they call on the Communion to build on a “growing movement” within it to end penal sanctions.

Published by the Institute of Public Affairs, the report, Anglicans and Sexuality: A way forward?, argues that “by its failure to condemn criminalisation and its consequences, some argue that the Anglican Communion is now complicit in these human rights violations.” It concludes with a recommendation that an independent commission be established to investigate criminalisation further, and how the Anglican Communion can help to end it.

While highlighting a rise in prosecutions in countries including Nigeria, the report argues that it would be inaccurate to speak of “a battle between North and South”, given the diversity of belief in both regions. It notes, for example, that the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, the Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has spoken of making others in the Church of Nigeria “very angry” by speaking out against criminalisation. One Jamaican activist told the researchers that the Anglican Church in his country had been “outstanding” in its response to HIV patients.

Among the 48 people interviewed by the authors was the Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam. The report quotes his suggestion that the public stance of some Primates in Africa may be “to do with funding and whether there’s conservative money that flows in behind, and I’ve got some evidence of that . . . There are certainly people working in each of those provinces who are either English or North American, who are the thought police and controllers. I think there’s been an extraordinary amount of interference in the fairly recent past.”

Noting that “the accusation of ‘cultural imperialism’ . . .seems to haunt the debate,” the report suggests that the independent commission should be located in both the global North and global South. It envisages that the commission could report within four years: in time for the 2020 Lambeth Conference.

The report was welcomed by the the Revd Dr Sean Doherty, a tutor and lecturer in ethics at St Mellitus college.

“I firmly and fully support the decriminalisation of same-sex activity and hope the Anglican Communion will prioritise it,” he said on Tuesday. “It is tragic that we still live in a world not only in which LGBT people are brutally and lethally attacked as they were in Orlando, but even in some countries are mistreated or punished by their own governments.”

He went on: “Jesus famously did not condemn a woman who faced death because of her sexual sin but saved her life. At the same time he encouraged her to sin no more. Christians should therefore repudiate criminalisation of same-sex activity and stand alongside those who have no voice. I hope that the church remains faithful to what I believe is the Bible’s teaching on sex and marriage, but on criminalisation I stand with those who hold a different view to me on sexual ethics.”

Both GAFCON and Anglican Mainstream were approached for comment but were unable to respond in time.

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