THREE priests in the diocese of Southwark, including the next Archdeacon of Southwark, have resigned as honorary canons of a Ghanaian cathedral, in response to the Ghanaian Bishops’ apparent support for criminalisation of LGBTQ+ people.
In a parish email newsletter sent on 11 December, the Vicar of St John the Divine with St James the Apostle, Kennington, the Revd Mark Williams, wrote: “It is with great sadness that I inform you that I have resigned as a Canon of Asante Mampong Cathedral in Ghana. A draft bill has been presented in the parliament in Ghana criminalising LGBTQ+ people and those who support them . . .
“Unfortunately the churches have felt under pressure to support this Bill and they have done so. Following several weeks of discussion with the Archbishop of Ghana, the support of the church for the Bill has not changed in the public domain, and this left me and two other Ghanaian canons in the Diocese of Southwark with no other choice but to resign. This fills me with enormous sadness given my association with the Church in Ghana over some 17 years. Please pray for Ghana, and for all those affected by this proposed changed in the law.”
On Tuesday, he said that there had been “conversations over a number of weeks” before sending the email.
The Team Rector of North Lambeth, the Revd Angus Aagaard, who has also resigned as a Canon of Asante Mampong Cathedral, said that the Archbishop of Ghana, the Most Revd Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith, had been an assistant priest in the parish for two years, and that “we all hope to continue our strong relationship with him.”
The third priest to resign as an honorary canon of the cathedral is the Rector of St George the Martyr with St Alphege and St Jude, Southwark, the Revd Jonathan Sedgwick, who is due to be installed as Archdeacon of Southwark in May. On Wednesday, he said that the three had resigned “with very heavy hearts but because of the Anglican Church’s very public support for this legislation. We are very clear that we wish to continue in friendship and fellowship with our brother and sister Christians in the Anglican Church in Ghana.”
Bishops in the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury have expressed concern about the support for the Bill, which was indicated in a statement from the House of Bishops of the Ghanaian province of the Church of the Province of West Africa (News, 21 October 2021).
Archbishop Welby later apologised for having commented without first speaking to the Ghanaian Archbishop (News, 19 November 2021). He told the General Synod in November that the Anglican Church in Ghana did not, contrary to reports, endorse the proposed criminalisation of the LGBTQ+ community in the Bill (News, 19 November 2021): a statement not yet confirmed in the public domain by the Ghanaian Bishops.