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Archbishop Welby greeted by silent protest in Synod over Ghanaian Bill

16 November 2021

Geoff Crawford/Church Times

LGBT members of Synod stand in silent protest during the opening session on Tuesday afternoon

LGBT members of Synod stand in silent protest during the opening session on Tuesday afternoon

A SILENT protest was held by LGBT members of the new General Synod on Tuesday, moments after the Archbishop of Canterbury attempted to draw a line under the row sparked by his conversations with the Anglican Church in Ghana regarding the proposed criminalisation of the LGBTQ+ community there.

Speaking during the opening session of the new quinquennium on Tuesday afternoon, Archbishop Welby reiterated his strong opposition to the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021 (News, 29 October). The Bill, which has been backed by Ghanaian clergy, imposes a maximum of five years in prison for someone identifying as LGBTQ+ and makes advocating LGBTQ+ rights a crime punishable by up to ten years in prison (News, 15 October).

Last Friday, Archbishop Welby apologised for not having spoken directly to Ghanaian clergy before releasing his initial statement condemning the Bill (News, 19 November) — a move that was criticised in the UK.

He told the Synod: “As I said in my first statement, which still stands, homophobia, including the criminalisation of LGBTQ+ people, is always wrong in any context.” This was reinforced, he said, by the 1998 Lambeth Conference’s Resolution 1.10 and by the communiqués of numerous Primates’ Meetings since. He also said that the Anglican Church in Ghana did not, contrary to reports, endorse the proposed criminalisation of the LGBTQ+ community in the Ghanaian Bill, although it maintained its opposition to same-sex marriage.

Geoff Crawford/Church TimesLGBT members of Synod stand in silent protest during the opening session on Tuesday afternoon

Archbishop Welby said that he continued to pray both for people who suffered among the LGBTQ+ community and “all those who suffer also from the ongoing effects of colonialism and imbalances of global power”.

In an apparent rebuke of the people who had criticised his engagement with the Ghanaian bishops, however, Archbishop Welby insisted that these conversations and his subsequent statement of apology had been vital as an “instrument of communion” and focus for unity within the Anglican Communion.

His assurances, however, did not forestall a protest minutes later by dozens of LGBT members of the Synod.

Speaking immediately after the Archbishop, the Prolocutor for Canterbury, Canon Simon Butler, said that it was important for everyone to “think very carefully about the messages we deliver”. Gay Anglicans in England, like himself, suffered alongside their LGBT brothers and sisters in Ghana, and, as such, he said that they wished to make a quiet statement of witness.

At this, dozens of Synod members stood, holding rainbow flags and wearing signs that read: “Soon to be imprisonable in Ghana.”

Canon Butler said: “This is just a simple gesture to remind us this is about real lives. At least ten per cent of this Synod are LGBTQ+. These coming years will determine if we are equal members or merely tolerated.”

Several members of the Synod raised the issue again during Questions on Tuesday evening. Archbishop Welby refused to offer any further comment, however, except to repeat that the House of Bishops had no jurisdiction over the Church of Ghana, and that, when making statements of any kind, he considered carefully the impact on persecuted Christians around the world.

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