[Episcopal News Service] The Anglican Communion’s “significant influence” in more than half of the countries that criminalize same-sex behavior ought to be put to use to repeal those laws, a new report says.
Anglicans and Sexuality: A Way Forward?, research done in conjunction with the Institute of Public Affairs based at the London School of Economics and Political Science in London between January and May of this year, studied “the narrative arc of Christianity and Anglicanism’s troubled history around human sexuality.” Researchers also considered both the historic and current role of the Anglican Communion and its individual provinces and churches in decriminalization efforts.
In January, as the study was beginning, a majority of the leaders of the communion’s 38 provinces – known as primates – said after a gathering in Canterbury, England, that they recognized that “the Christian church and within it the Anglican Communion have often acted in a way towards people on the basis of their sexual orientation that has caused deep hurt.” A majority of the primates at that same meeting also called for three years of “consequences” for the Episcopal Church in response to its 2015 decision to authorize marriages between same-sex couples.
Bishop Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said after the primates gathering that as much as Episcopalians are scandalized by the criminalization of homosexuality in some parts of the world, other Anglicans are scandalized by the Episcopal Church’s decision to allow same-sex couples to be married in the church. He said that decision “puts many of us at risk” in parts of the world “where the cultural sensibilities about human sexuality are so very different.”
The researchers said that “the retention of penal sanctions against same-sex intimacy across the globe in the 21st century is the result of a toxic mix of political expediency, religious fervor and notions of nationalist purity masquerading as popular opinion.”
The report cites research showing that such laws make somewhere between 94 to 145 million men and 13 to 40 million women “un-apprehended felons.” HIV/AIDS infection rates among men who have sex with men are significantly higher in jurisdictions which criminalize that activity than in those which don’t, according to research the report cites. Studies cited show that adverse mental health, family breakdown and poverty can also be attributed in part to criminalization.
The researchers concluded that an independent commission of 11-15 people ought to be set up to look at all aspects of criminalization and seek ways for Anglicans to understand better the issues and how they can engage with governments and the public in countries which criminalize same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults.
Such a commission ought to investigate all aspects of criminalization from theological, legal, medical, historical, psychological and sociological perspectives, the report said. And it ought to make “clear and concise recommendations” on how the Anglican Communion can influence the repeal of laws that are intended to discriminate against or persecute LGBT people.
The researchers suggest that the planned Lambeth Conference in 2020 would be an ideal opportunity for the commission’s findings to be discussed. To accomplish that, they said, the commission would have to be in place by next summer.
The only Episcopalian listed in the report as a respondent and contributor is the Rev. Charles Robertson, canon to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church. Robertson is also among those suggested as possible commission members.