Archbishop of Canterbury among church leaders ‘gravely concerned’ by Ghana’s anti-LGBT+ bill

Justin Welby arrives for his enthronement

Church of England leaders including the archbishop of Canterbury have spoken out against an anti-LGBT+ bill in Ghana.

Justin Welby delivered a striking rebuttal of the Anglican Church in Ghana, which has thrown its weight behind a bill that will further criminalise being queer in the west African nation.

The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021 would make it a crime to simply advocate for LGBT+ rights, punishable by up to a decade in jail.

“I am gravely concerned by the draft anti-LGBT+ bill due to be debated by the Ghanian parliament,” Welby, the most senior bishop in the Church of England and spiritual leader of the global Anglican Communion, tweeted Tuesday (26 October).

“We are a global family of churches,” he added in a statement, “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.”

British bishops unite to slam Ghana’s ‘shocking’ anti-LGBT+ bill

Archbishop of York Stephen Cottrell said the proposed legislation was “shocking and unacceptable”.

“My prayers are with the LGBT+ community in Ghana and across the world.”

Sarah Mullally, bishop of London, said the bill “must be resisted“, joining the chorus of concern voiced by the bishops of SouthwarkLiverpool, Norwich and Worcester.

The messaging was backed by Portsmouth bishop Jonathan Frost, as well as the other senior staff of the Diocese of Portsmouth.

In a news release, the diocese signalled its hopes to have “urgent conversations” with the Anglican Church in Ghana.

“We believe this [bill] to be 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,” it reads.

Religious leaders in Ghana, meanwhile, have come out swinging for the anti-LGBT+ bill, exposing the fault lines within the global Anglican church.

In a statement, Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith, an Anglican bishop in Ghana, wrote earlier this month: “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.”

Ben-Smith said the church “does not condemn persons of homosexuality tendencies but absolutely condemn the sinful acts and activities they perform”, nothing that the church views homosexuality as condemned by scriptures both in the Old and New Testaments.

“This is about morality today and that of the future generation yet unborn. We as leaders must leave a legacy everyone will be proud of, a Christ-like legacy of hope.”

If passed, the so-called “family values bill” would criminalise everything from sex toys and anal intercourse to trans healthcare and LGBT+ allyship.

Top human rights experts at the United Nations have warned that the proposals are a “recipe for violence” that will encourage “torturous” conversion therapy.

In Ghana, same-sex sexual acts are already illegal. Just seven per cent of Ghanaians say they are “tolerant” of same-sex relationships, according to a 2019 survey by pan-African pollsters Afrobarometer.