Welby says sexuality decisions can mean African Christians suffer

By ACNS staff
Posted Apr 4, 2014

[Anglican Communion News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said that Christians in parts of Africa face abuse, violence and even death because of decisions on sexual equality made by Anglican Churches in the West.

Welby, the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, made the comments in an hour-long phone-in program on LBC radio today.

In particular he was was responding to a question from Kes, a Church of England priest who had called in to ask why English clergy were not allowed to decide for themselves whether to marry gay couples.

“Why we can’t do it now is because the impact of that on Christians in countries far from here like South Sudan, like Pakistan, like Nigeria, would be absolutely catastrophic and we have to love them as much as the people who are here,” he said.

“At the same time we have to listen incredibly carefully to the LGBT communities here and listen to what they’re saying and we have to look at the tradition of the Church, the teaching of the Church, and of Scripture which is definitive in the end, before we come to a conclusion [on the issue of same sex marriage].”

When challenged by the LBC presenter James O’Brien about the Church of England’s decision not to perform same sex weddings, Archbishop Welby stressed that it had nothing to do with avoiding upset to African Anglicans. Rather it was about not putting them in danger.

“It [the issue of same sex marriage] is something I wrestle with every day, and often in the middle of the night. I’m incredibly conscious of the position of gay people in this country, how badly they’ve been treated over the years, how badly the church has behaved. And, at the same time I’m incredibly conscious of what I saw in January in  South Sudan, in the DRC, and other places. You know, it’s not a simple issue,” he continued.

“Personally…I look at the Scriptures, I look at the teachings of the Church, I listen to Christians around the world and I have real hesitations about [same sex marriage]. I’m incredibly uncomfortable saying that because I really don’t want to say no to people who love each other. But you have to have a sense of following what the teaching of the Church is. We can’t just make sudden changes.”

One reason why not, explained the Archbishop, was because doing so could put Christians in danger elsewhere. He explained that he had seen first hand, at a mass grave in South Sudan, the lethal fallout from a decision on sexual equality taken by Christians in another country.

He said he had been told that the excuse given for the murder of hundreds of South Sudanese Christians had been: “If we leave a Christian community in this area, we will all be made to become homosexual, and so we’re going to kill the Christians.”

Welby concluded, “The mass grave had 369 bodies in it and I was standing with the relatives. That burns itself into your soul, as does the suffering of gay people in this country.”


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Comments (13)

  1. John Stefanyszyn says:

    The Church of England does not support gay marriage but it does support the freedom and right of the homosexual lifestyle.
    …but gay marriage is an expression of a homosexual’s freedom & way of life.

    The Church of England is contradicting itself…or perhaps not.
    …Within their “religious” belief they do not support gay marriage.
    …But within their way of life they do support the “right” to gay marriage .
    For they also live by the same belief, the belief in freedom of self rights….since they also turn to this belief for their freedom of religion…which dictates that it is RIGHT (a right) to be free to worship ANY god.

    It is clear what is the first love of the “Church of England” and its leaders.
    It is the belief in FREEDOM….this is the god of fortresses that man and the religious worship.
    …for man to know / establish / justify “good and evil” in his own eyes
    …for man to say what is right, for man to do his will
    …for man to serve and magnify oneself (XES)

    But the Lord Jesus Christ said to worship Only the One Creator God and Him Alone, His Will Alone to serve in obedience.
    …and Christ said to repent, to follow Him, to live by the Will of the One and Only God.

    Soon, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to rule the earth in power according to and in obedience to the Will of Jehowah Elohim and NOT according to man’s first love for “his freedom”.

  2. Bob Van Keuren says:

    Haven’t most of the Christian churches in Africa, with a very few exceptions, made abundantly clear their venomous hatred for LGBT persons, married or not? How can they, with their “Kill the gays” bills, possibly be blamed for what we do or what the UK does? People inclined towards mass murder, regardless of the victims, cannot be pandered to in the vain hope they will change their minds.

    1. Leon Spencer says:

      I would qualify what Bib Van Keuren writes by saying that there are numerous fine “exceptions.”

  3. Leon Spencer says:

    I am disappointed in the Archbishop’s statement. 1) I would like to know the evidence for his assertion re the South Sudan. I do not deny that it may have happened, nor do I question that this is what he was told. But I would like to know if what he asserts is in fact the cause of the tragedy. I suspect there would be all sorts of dynamics across faith and culture that might more accurately be identified as the cause or causes. A place to start would be to know to what specific event, its location and date, among other things, he refers. 2) I am disturbed by the implication that an action a faith community in one part of the world takes, one that is applied to their own situation and one that they believe is in accord with a valid interpretation of Scripture and represents a faithful understanding of justice in our world, ought not be taken because someone somewhere else in the world may react irrationally and violently. While care needs to be taken, that proposition seems a curious application of ethical thought. I want to give this more thought, but on the surface at least it is disturbing. 3) I am dubious about some claims that actions taken by churches in the West re human sexuality are destructive of the ministry of churches elsewhere. One might also argue that the richness of the Christian religious experience and the diversity of belief is testimony to our oneness in Christ, and that might be proclaimed in healthy ways worldwide.

  4. Don Caron says:

    I too have been pondering the connection between practices in Western provinces of churches and their ramifications for those in the East and in Africa. Scapegoating and sensationalizing on the dangers of specific groups of people is a long-established method for shaky governments to gain power (witness the holocaust), and distract the population from internal problems, Clearly that is what is happening in places such as Nigeria and Uganda, as well as in the Middle East. The Western propensity for individualism is not found in those cultures, and their memory of the inflicting of Western values and practices can easily create suspicion that feeds into the needs of those governments to differentiate from “White” culture. So the caution that the AB notes is based on real cultural dynamics. Anglicans already tread a troubled path in those regions. The question is whether injustice toward those in our midst is justified by the almost certain ramifications against brothers and sisters in a remote land.

  5. Some stats on gay suicide, rejection by family and churches, and indeed physical and mental violence re: gays may balance the argument (if that is what it is..). The cry goes up, how long?…

  6. Jerry P. Schaertel says:

    The Archbishop saying that he is concerned about the dangerous ramifications of same sex marriage to the Christians of Africa is using a pathetic excuse to justify his actions just as those who carried out the slaughter of Christians are using that excuse. Certain Muslim governments and Muslim radicals have been actively seeking to slaughter anybody that isn’t Muslim, be they Christian, Jewish, Animists or whatever. People who want to kill people, for whatever reason, will use any excuse they can to justify their actions to circumvent unwanted repercussions. Genocide is genocide – no justifiable reasons can be entertained.

  7. I see this as a division of two aspects of life that we all face everyday:
    uniformity – the quality of lacking diversity or variation (even to the point of boredom) and
    unity – the quality of being united into one
    Isn’t it true that the world, even as it gets smaller through travel and communications, will always have to face the condision of uniformity. I do not see the “world” as ever losing diversity and variation. God, I believe, has not called us to uniformity but to unity that may be imaged in the Trinity – one in three. God does not lose the unity expressed in the Trinity because of the diversity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
    Can we not hope to live into the spirit of that unity and continue to except the diversity that will always be among us?

  8. Chris Epting says:

    As tragic as it is that ignorant people commit horrendous crimes, truth cannot be held hostage to such misguided notions.

  9. The board of Integrity read this statement with dismay. Our President, the Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, who is a British native, responded on our blog:

    http://walkingwithintegrity.blogspot.com/2014/04/archbishop-of-canterbury-links-attacks.html

  10. Michele Kerby says:

    Any connection between Anglican Church policies and murders in Africa is certainly unproven. But even if it were true, many more people across the world have died simply for being Christian than have been murdered in Africa. So if we follow the Archbishop’s logic perhaps we should just give up Christianity altogether!

  11. Rosser Bobbitt says:

    The Episcopal Church conducts same sex marriages. That cannot be (and should not be) taken back. Therefore, the massacre of Christians supported by the Episcopal Church is justified in perpetuity. That is, if I interpret the Most Rev. Welby’s rationale correctly.
    The massacre reported by Welby is a real tragedy but it is reported elsewhere that the perpetrators are causing starvation in South Sudan that will lead to the deaths of 100s of thousands.

  12. (The Rev) Carlton Kelley says:

    While it is true that we are called to “share one another’s burdens,” which is an often forgotten truth, there can be no excuse for the not so subtle blame that the Archbishop puts on members of the GLBT community for the murder of others. Has he forgotten that members of our GLBT community are murdered and exposed to violence of every kind on a daily basis? It may be that as a very privileged member of the church establishment he has forgotten that many people suffer. I doubt that he has ever been afraid to simply exist.

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