Conservative Anglican leaders back Uganda anti-gay law

By Cathy Lynn Grossman
Posted Apr 29, 2014

[Religion News Service] Leaders of the conservative wing of the worldwide Anglican Communion equate the experiences of Ugandans who support a new anti-gay law with those of victims of an earthquake or a terror attack.

The Global Anglican Future Conference — made up chiefly of Anglican archbishops in Africa, Asia and Latin America — concluded a two-day meeting in London on Saturday (April 26) with a statement that expressed concern for violence in South Sudan and Northern Nigeria. It then said:

“We are equally concerned for the affected communities in Chile from the recent earthquake, terrorist attacks in Kenya, and the backlash from the international community in Uganda from their new legislation.”

That legislation, signed in February by Ugandan president President Yoweri Museveni, specifies life in prison for some homosexual acts. It also outlaws the promotion of homosexuality and requires citizens to report to the police anyone suspected of being gay.

President Obama has called the bill “odious,” and the U.S. Embassy staff has avoided meetings and events with any Ugandan government agencies since the signing.

But despite the GAFCON statement’s equation with catastrophes, the archbishops’ response seems more concerned with finances than outright support for the Ugandan law. The “backlash” line could be a reference to the loss of $140 million in financial aid and project support from the World Bank, the U.S. and other countries. According to IRIN, which covers humanitarian issues, this included $6.4 million intended for the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, which backed the legislation.

Yet in 2004, conservative Anglicans in Africa willingly cut aid and development assistance from the Episcopal Church after the election of an openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson, in 2003. ”We will not, on the altar of money, mortgage our conscience, mortgage our faith, mortgage our salvation,” then-Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria said.

Pittsburgh-based Archbishop Robert Duncan, the founding leader of the breakaway Anglican Church In North America, signed the GAFCON statement. Duncan and the ACNA are not on the public record supporting the Uganda legislation, and both Duncan and an ANCA spokesman declined to speak on the record about it.

When the ACNA formally launched in 2009 as a shelter for Episcopalians who objected to the Episcopal Church’s pro-gay policies, its strongest ties in the worldwide Anglican Communion were with churches in the Global South, particularly in Nigeria and Uganda.

On Monday, the Rev. Lowell Grisham, an Episcopal parish priest in Fayetteville Ark., called the GAFCON statement “almost bizarre and disproportional.”

Supporters of the law, he said, are not the ones suffering in the backlash, said Grisham, who was one of the organizers of the Chicago Consultation — a group within the Episcopal Church urging equal rights for all to the rites of the church.

“The people who are being hurt and killed and jailed are LGBT people in Africa. And they are not the only victims. Anyone who knows and loves someone who is gay is under threat. The whole nation has been turned into snitches,” said Grisham.

Already, people who work with Africans with HIV are afraid, said a South African professor with friends in Uganda.

“You just don’t physically threaten and punish people with whom you have theological differences,” said Gerald West, a professor in the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. South Africa has laws that protect people regardless of sexual orientation, and also allows same-sex marriages.

“What this Uganda law does is make it extremely difficult for the church to work with any integrity in any area,” said West. “I speak as an African and a South African when I say as a church, we have to fight such laws.”

The GAFCON release also decries the new recognition of same-sex marriage in England. But, the leadership said, while they look to the Church of England for “clear leadership as moral confusion … deepens,” they don’t trust that they will get it.

The statement said that guidance from Church of England bishops that “those in same sex marriages should be admitted to the full sacramental life of the church is an abandonment of pastoral discipline.” It was unclear if the statement was referring to the ordination of gay priests or access for gay and lesbian Anglicans to receive the sacrament of Communion.

Indeed, they alleged that British clergy are openly disregarding a ban on same-sex marriage for priests in the Church of England. Earlier this month, a Church of England chaplain defied the ban and wed his partner in a civil ceremony.

However, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has “suggested that Christians in Africa could be killed if the church accepted gay marriage,” according to The Guardian.


Comments (10)

  1. Briony James says:

    These folks are simply put, evil. They have placed their personal prejudice on a pedestal and made of it a golden idol, holding themselves above the supreme commandment to love one another. Canterbury is shamefully enabling murder but these are stormtroopers on the front lines of genocide, willing and aching to create another Holocaust.

    1. Rich Basta says:

      The Bishops represented at the GAFCON meeting in London represent provinces that make up 75% of the Anglican Communion, so it’s a sizable majority of the Anglican Communion that supports traditional marrriage as the ideal. That said, It’s very sad and disheartening that they were not forceful in rejecting the most odius parts of the law. It would have been better for them to not support the criminalization of homsexuality, but instead affirm and act upon what they also said in the statement released earlier this week, which I can support. It is not based on personal prejudice but an unambiguous reading of Holy Scripture, taken as a whole.

      “We commit ourselves to teach about God’s good purposes in marriage and in singleness. Marriage is a life-long exclusive union between a man and a woman. We exhort all people to work and pray for the building and strengthening of healthy marriages and families. For this reason, we oppose the secular tide running in favor of cohabitation and same-sex marriage.”

      1. Chip Mills says:

        “This is my commandment, that you love one another!” What is ambiguous about that?

        1. Rich Basta says:

          There is nothing ambiguous about loving one another. Loving someone includes wanting God’s will for them to be fulfilled- that is for them to experience the joy that comes from accepting God’s laws and turning away from sin and temptation. It’s not a one-way street, though. I expect people to love me in the same way – that is to want me to turn away from sin in my own life.


      2. William Russiello says:

        to Richard Basta I say “Basta!”

  2. Rev. Canon Stephen N. Brannon says:

    This is such a travesty and embarrassment that it makes me wonder if it’s time to dissolve the Anglican Communion as we know it.

    1. Patrick McQuarter says:

      Canon Brannon,

      It seems that the Anglican Communion has been dissolving itself. Out of fear, different segments of the Communion are using power to claim more power for legitimizing their position about whatever. Each segment, regardless of its position, resembles more and more how the Roman Catholic Church functions as a global Church with centralized authority.

      Best regards to you,


  3. William Russiello says:

    What can we do when ignorant prejudice runs amok as it is in the Ugandan Church these days, along with the approval of many African, Asian and Latin American bishops to these savage, oppressive and unfair laws, and with the silent compliance of minority breakaway conservatives in the Episcopal Church? Continue to engage with our fellow deluded Christians as much as possible, pray, and provide refuge and assistance to the oppressed.

    1. Rich Basta says:

      I agree we need to pray for all our Christian brithers and sisters as much as possible. That’s very right and good, William.

      There needs to be an important distinction made here. One can be a faithful Christian , support laws upholding (and not expanding ) the definition of marriage ,based on Holy Scripture reason, and tradition, and at the same time oppose the criminalization of homosexuality and violence towards them. The breakaway and/or conservative Episcopalians are not deluded for having this position. The deluded ones are those that condone violence and criminalization.

  4. Julian Malakar says:

    All these fuss comes out of politicization of religion with state politics. Uganda is a sovereign country its criminal justice system is also sovereign. Blasphemy law is worse than criminalization of same sex activities. But Obama do not penalize the country which introduced blasphemy law by cutting foreign aid. All these are hypocrisy in the name of humanity and justice.

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