THE Archbishop of Canterbury is “gravely concerned” about the draft Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021, which imposes a maximum of five years in prison for identifying as LGBTQ (News, 15 October), he said on Tuesday. He confirmed that he would be speaking to the Archbishop of Ghana, Dr Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith, “in the coming days” to discuss the Ghanaian Anglican Church’s response to the Bill.
Archbishop Welby’s statement continued: “The majority of Anglicans within the global Anglican Communion are committed to upholding both the traditional teaching on marriage as laid out in the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution 1:10, and the rights of every person, regardless of sexual orientation, before the law.
“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.’ On numerous occasions, the Primates of the Anglican Communion have stated their opposition to the criminalisation of same-sex attracted people: most recently, and unanimously, in the communiqué of the 2016 Primates’ Meeting.
“I remind our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church of Ghana of these commitments.
“We are a global family of churches, but the mission of the church is the same in every culture and country: to demonstrate, through its actions and words, God’s offer of unconditional love to every human being through Jesus Christ.”
This month, News Ghana reported that a statement, signed by Dr Kobina Ben-Smith, said: “We see LGBTQI+ as unrighteousness in the sight of God and therefore will do anything within our powers and mandate to ensure that the Bill comes into fruition.”
It said that the Church “does not condemn persons of homosexuality tendencies but absolutely condemn the sinful acts and activities they perform”. It appealed to the public not to embark on any form of harassment of LGBTQ individuals or associated groups “but rather, see them as potential souls to be won for Christ”.
Archbishop Welby’s statement followed growing calls online for a response to the Bill. It was preceded by a statement from the diocese of Portsmouth, signed by the Bishop-designate, the Rt Revd Jonathan Frost, the commissary bishop, the Rt Revd Rob Wickham, and senior staff, including the Dean of Portsmouth and the diocese’s archdeacons. The diocese has had links with Ghana as part of its Inter-Diocesan West Africa Link for more than 40 years. Ghana is within the Church of the Province of West Africa.
The statement said: “We are dismayed to hear that the country’s Anglican bishops have thrown their weight behind the ‘Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values’ Bill.
“We are seeking urgent conversations with our colleagues in Ghana to ask why — not least in the light of the communiqué signed by all Anglican Primates in 2016, in which they pledged to reject criminal sanctions against members of the LGBT+ community, and to challenge homophobia.”
The Bill was “a fundamental violation of people’s human rights, which we believe will lead to state-sponsored violence that will threaten the lives of those in the LGBT+ community and their friends. . .
“We are committed to our relationship with our Anglican brothers and sisters in Ghana, and there is much mutual respect. Our close relationship prompts us to challenge each other as fellow disciples of Jesus Christ, sharpening each other’s thinking and speaking up against injustice in our respective countries.”
Once the statements from the Archbishop and Portsmouth diocese had been published, several bishops added their agreement online, including the Archbishop of York and the Bishops of Gloucester, Worcester, Durham, Newcastle, Sheffield, Southwark, Chelmsford, Truro, London, Oxford, Liverpool, and Bristol, and the Bishop in Europe.
The Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, wrote on Twitter: “Ghana’s proposed anti-LGBT legislation is unacceptable and must be resisted. It would promote fear and intolerance, putting the freedom of so many people under threat. We are all loved equally by God. My prayers are with the LGBT community in Ghana at this time.”
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, also posted on Twitter: “As someone who has lived in Ghana, and knowing the gentleness, graciousness and generosity of its people, this proposed legislation is shocking and concerning, and I fear will lead to violence and fear-filled lives.” He had written to the Archbishop of Ghana, “who I have known for 25 years, expressing grave concern about the Ghanaian bishops’ support of the Ghanaian parliament’s anti-LGBTI bill”.
This is not the first time that Archbishop Welby has reminded other Primates of the commitments of Resolution 1:10, and called on all to “minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex”.
In March, he condemned the “unacceptable” language used by the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Henry Ndukuba, to describe gay people (News, 5 March). In 2014, new anti-gay laws in Nigeria prompted the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to send a letter to all the Primates reminding them of their commitment to caring for everyone, regardless of their sexuality (News, 31 January 2014).
The 2016 Primates’ communiqué included condemnation of homophobia and a rejection of criminal sanctions for “same-sex-attracted” people (News, 22 January 2016).