Archbishop of Canterbury urges Ugandan church to reject deadly anti-gay law

Archbishop of Canterbury wearing robes during the King's coronation.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed his “grief and dismay” at a Ugandan law banning homosexuality in a letter urging Church officials in the country to reject it.

Lead bishop Justin Welby wrote to Ugandan Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba on Friday (9 June) publicly condemning Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

“I make this public statement with sorrow, and with continuing prayers for reconciliation between our churches and across the Anglican Communion,” Welby wrote.

“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.”

A group of LGBTQ+ Ugandans protest with red signs reading slogans of equality.
The bill has left the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda living in fear of their lives. (Getty)

The bill, signed for a second time on 29 May, introduces laws prohibiting Ugandan citizens from advocating or promoting LGBTQ+ rights on top of already stringent laws against consensual same-sex intimacy.

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It also introduces a clause on “aggravated homosexuality”, defined as having sex with a minor or while HIV positive, which carries the death sentence.

Lawmakers initially passed the legislation in April, but it was sent back after Uganda president Yoweri Museveni said it required amendments to “facilitate the reinforcement and the strengthening of some provisions in line with our best practices”.

In his letter, Welby also called on the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) and the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) to make “explicitly” clear that the law was against its core values.

“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,” he wrote. “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.”

He pointed to a resolution agreed upon during the 1998 Lambeth Conference, a decennial assembly of bishops to express resolutions on Anglican beliefs, which states a “commitment to minister pastorally and sensitivity to all – regardless of sexual orientation.”

“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 i.10.”

Archbishop of Canterbury has faced controversy for his views on LGBTQ+ people in the past

While the Archbishop of Canterbury’s letter condemning the bill will, no doubt, come as a relief to LGBTQ+ Anglicans, Welby’s past approach to inclusion has left many in the Church on shaky ground.

The Church of England was forced to apologise for its treatment of LGBTQ+ people following months of controversy after bishops refused to allow the ordainment of same-sex marriages by members of the clergy.

“The occasions on which you have received a hostile and homophobic response in our churches are shameful and for this, we repent,” an open letter in January read.

“As we have listened, we have been told time and time again how we have failed LGBTQ+ people,” it continued. “We have not loved you as God loves you, and that is profoundly wrong.”

On the same day, Welby said same-sex couples who are already married are permitted to be blessed by clergy but that he wouldn’t do it himself due to his “pastoral responsibility for the whole communion”.

In response, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said that the recommendations were “even worse than what has been trailed”.

Similarly, former LGBTQ+ government advisor and gay Christian activist, Jayne Ozanne, said: “Apology not accepted, archbishop!”

“I do wonder whether the archbishops have actually forgotten they’ve apologised to us before, many times, or whether they think that this will cut it for us given that discrimination continues?”

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