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Not in our teaching, not in our gospel: Welby urges Anglicans in Uganda to reject anti-gay law

09 June 2023

Chris Dobson

Archbishop Welby pictured with Archbishop Kaziimba in 2020

Archbishop Welby pictured with Archbishop Kaziimba in 2020

THE Archbishop of Canterbury, writing to the Archbishop of Uganda, has urged him to withdraw his Church’s support for the Anti-Homosexual Act ratified by the country’s President at the end of last month.

The Archbishop of Uganda, Dr Stephen Kaziimba, announced in May that his Church was “grateful” for the passing of the Act, which criminalises the “promotion” of homosexuality and introduces long prison sentences for offences, as well as the death penalty for “aggravated” offences (News, 30 May).

On Friday morning, Lambeth Palace released a statement in which Archbishop Welby expresses his “grief and dismay” at the Church of Uganda’s stance, and outlines the arguments that he presented to Dr Kaziimba.

“I have reminded Archbishop Kaziimba that Anglicans around the world have long been united in our opposition to the criminalisation of homosexuality and LGBTQ people.

“Supporting such legislation is a fundamental departure from our commitment to uphold the freedom and dignity of all people. There is no justification for any province of the Anglican Communion to support such laws: not in our resolutions, not in our teachings, and not in the gospel we share.”

Dr Kaziimba’s statement in support of the Act expressed his view that homosexuality was being forced on the Ugandan people “by outside, foreign actors against our will, against our culture, and against our religious beliefs”.

Archbishop Welby rejects this in his statement: “I am deeply aware of the history of colonial rule in Uganda, so heroically resisted by its people. But this is not about imposing Western values on our Ugandan Anglican sisters and brothers. It is about reminding them of the commitments we have made as Anglicans to treat every person with the care and respect they deserve as children of God.”

Archbishop Welby refers to Resolution 1.10 passed by the 1998 Lambeth Conference. The resolution is often cited by conservative Provinces, since it rejects “homosexual practice as incompatible with scripture” and “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions”.

But the resolution also states that “all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ,” and “calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals”.

Archbishop Welby says that he wrote to Dr Kaziimba that he was “unable to see how the Church of Uganda’s support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act is consistent with its many statements in support of Resolution 1.10”.

He also referred to the 2016 Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury (before Dr Kaziimba was installed as Archbishop), at which the Primates “condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation”.

The Primates also reaffirmed their rejection of “criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people”.

Archbishop Welby then addresses Dr Kaziimba directly. “These statements and commitments are the common mind of the Anglican Communion on the essential dignity and value of every person. I therefore urge Archbishop Kaziimba and the Church of Uganda — a country and Church I love dearly, and to which I owe so much — to reconsider their support for this legislation and reject the criminalisation of LGBTQ people.”

And he challenges GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches, two conservative Anglican groups of which the Church of Uganda is a member, “to make explicitly and publicly clear that the criminalisation of LGBTQ people is something that no Anglican Province can support”.

The Archbishop of York said that he was “glad” that Archbishop Welby had taken action. In his own statement on Friday morning, he said: “There is still so much prejudice, violence, discrimination and oppression targeted at people who are perceived to be different. But the Gospel calls us to a different narrative — one that is rooted in the love Christ has for us, and we for him and our neighbour.

“The Anglican Communion, though divided on certain questions around human identity and sexuality has, nevertheless, always affirmed the God given dignity and value of every person, wonderfully made in the image of our creator God. When we treat people differently or worse criminalise them for merely being who they are, we mar that image.”

He concluded: “It is time for us to do better. And although none of us get this right, and I am only too conscious of the failings of the Church of England in this regard, I invite my fellow disciples in Uganda, around the Communion and in our own Church of England to join me in resolving to turn our backs on homophobia, racism and all other ‘othering’ of those who are our sisters and brothers in Christ.”

 

Archbishop Welby’s statement in full:

I HAVE recently written to my brother in Christ, the Primate of Uganda, Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba, to express my grief and dismay at the Church of Uganda’s support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act. I make this public statement with sorrow, and with continuing prayers for reconciliation between our Churches and across the Anglican Communion.

I am deeply aware of the history of colonial rule in Uganda, so heroically resisted by its people. But this is not about imposing Western values on our Ugandan Anglican sisters and brothers. It is about reminding them of the commitments we have made as Anglicans to treat every person with the care and respect they deserve as children of God.

Within the Anglican Communion we continue to disagree over matters of sexuality, but in our commitment to God-given human dignity we must be united. I have reminded Archbishop Kaziimba that Anglicans around the world have long been united in our opposition to the criminalisation of homosexuality and LGBTQ people.

Supporting such legislation is a fundamental departure from our commitment to uphold the freedom and dignity of all people. There is no justification for any province of the Anglican Communion to support such laws: not in our resolutions, not in our teachings, and not in the gospel we share.

The Church of Uganda, like many Anglican Provinces, holds to the traditional Christian teaching on sexuality and marriage set out in Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. That resolution also expressed a commitment to minister pastorally and sensitively to all — regardless of sexual orientation — and to condemn homophobia.

I have said to Archbishop Kaziimba that I am unable to see how the Church of Uganda’s support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act is consistent with its many statements in support of Resolution 1.10.

More recently, at the 2016 Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Communion “condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation”. We affirmed that this conviction arises out of our discipleship of Jesus Christ.

We also “reaffirmed our rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people” — and stated that “God’s love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the Church should never by its actions give any other impression.”

These statements and commitments are the common mind of the Anglican Communion on the essential dignity and value of every person. I therefore urge Archbishop Kaziimba and the Church of Uganda — a country and Church I love dearly, and to which I owe so much — to reconsider their support for this legislation and reject the criminalisation of LGBTQ people.

I also call on my brothers in Christ, the leadership of GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), to make explicitly and publicly clear that the criminalisation of LGBTQ people is something that no Anglican Province can support: that must be stated unequivocally.

As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to honour the image of God in every person, and I pray for Anglicans to be uncompromising and united in this calling.

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