Archbishop of Kenya warns Justin Welby against supporting civil partnerships

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The Archbishop of Kenya, Dr Eliud Wabukala, has criticised the Archbishops of Canterbury and York because he feels they are softening their position on same-sex civil partnerships.

The Tablet reports in a message to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, Dr Wabukala, the Primate of Kenya, noted that in recent debates in the UK House of Lords regarding the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, Archbishop Welby and Dr Sentamu “appeared at the same time to approve same-sex civil partnerships … in contradiction to the historic biblical teaching on human sexuality reaffirmed by the 1998 Lambeth Conference”.

Whilst stating his opposition to equal marriage on 3 June, Archbishop Welby said: “It is clearly essential that stable, and faithful, same-sex relationships should, where those involved want it, be recognised and supported with as much dignity, and the same legal effect as marriage.”

Archbishop Wabukala claimed that the Church of England “seems to be advancing along the same path” as the US Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada which he accused of promoting “a false gospel”.

In January, Archbishop Wabukala condemned the Church of England for dropping its prohibition on gay clergy becoming bishops, providing they are celibate or in a celibate civil partnership.

“It is a great sadness that before the New Year has hardly begun, the life of the Anglican Communion has yet again been clouded by compromise with the secular preoccupations of the West,” he said.

The Church of England still officially bans civil partnership ceremonies, as well as preventing priests from performing formal blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples, despite fierce criticism from within its own ranks.

In June, the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said unions between same-sex couples was a matter “which will need to be discussed” by the Church. 

Earlier this month Church of England officials quietly shelved a debate on the issue ahead of a five-day meeting of the Synod in York.

Equality campaigners said the postponement reflected an “appalling” reluctance by some in the Church hierarchy to openly debate the issue of same-sex relationships.

But others suggested it could reflect a behind the scenes shift at the top of the Church of England which they are convinced could open the way for an historic change in its approach to same-sex relationships by the end of 2013.

A report by the Church’s Faith and Order Commission in March urged priests not to treat the issue of recognising civil partnerships as “simply closed”.

Liberal priests, who already conduct unofficial dedication and thanksgiving for same-sex couples, said the report amounted to the first official endorsement for what they do.