THE Archbishop of Canterbury has apologised for not speaking directly to the Ghanaian bishops before issuing his statement last month expressing “grave concern” about their reported support of a Bill that proposes to criminalise LGBTQ+ people.
Early last month, the House of Bishops of the Ghanaian province of the Church of the Province of West Africa was reported to have backed the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021, which imposes a maximum of five years in prison for someone identifying as LGBTQ+, and it makes advocating LGBTQ+ rights a crime punishable by up to ten years in prison (News, 15 October).
Under pressure to respond from UK Anglicans, Archbishop Welby issued a statement on 26 October expressing “grave concern” about the Bill and the response of the Anglican Church of Ghana (News, 29 October), reminding the bishops that, “In Resolution 1.10, the Anglican Communion also made a commitment ‘to assure [LGBTQ+ people] that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.’”
In a new statement, released on Friday, Archbishop Welby said that he had spoken online on 3 November with the Archbishop of Ghana, the Most Revd Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith, and several bishops and senior clergy from the Church to discuss the Bill.
“I welcomed this conversation, which should have happened before my previous statement,” he said. “That is not mere diplomacy: Christ commands us to speak directly and prayerfully with our brothers and sisters. I apologised for failing to do so.
“We affirmed that the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 represents the last and most widely accepted statement by the Anglican Communion on the question of human sexuality. We agreed that all human beings are made in God’s image and are worthy of love, respect and dignity, and that the Church of Jesus Christ is called to demonstrate the love of God by protecting all vulnerable people and communities.”
Archbishop Welby continued: “This was a conversation between equals: I have no authority over the Church of Ghana, nor would I want any. I say that partly because of Britain’s colonial history in Ghana, but also because of the very nature of the Anglican Communion. We are a global family of churches who are autonomous but interdependent: a holy, catholic, apostolic Church bound together by history, sacraments, liturgy, and the love of Jesus Christ for each and every person.”
He concluded: “One of the key conclusions of the meeting is that human dignity is always paramount, and that cultural, social and historical contexts must also be considered and understood. I encourage continued good conversation with the Anglican Church of Ghana, with the same courteous but clear and robust conversation as I experienced, ahead of any future public statements.”
Archbishop Welby’s statement leaves it unclear what position the Anglican leadership in Ghana will take as the Bill progresses through the legislature. His quotation from Resolution 1.10 omits the fact that it rejected “homosexual practice as incompatible with scripture”, and could thus be cited in support of aspects of the Bill.
Among the “cultural, social and historical contexts” to be considered by the Ghanaian church leadership is the popularity of anti-LGBTQ+ moves in sub-Saharan Africa, said to be supported by 90 per cent of the electorate.
The Church Times contacted the Archbishop of Ghana earlier in the week for clarification. No reply has yet been received.