[Episcopal News Service] Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby condemned Uganda’s new anti-LGBTQ+ law on June 9, saying in a written statement that he had contacted Uganda Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba to object to his Anglican province’s support for the country’s criminalization of homosexuality.
Welby acknowledged that the Anglican Church of Uganda is not alone in the global Anglican Communion in adhering to conservative teachings on marriage and sexuality, but even conservative Anglican leaders have strongly and consistently opposed measures like the one enacted by Uganda, which includes sentences of life in prison and execution for certain violations of the law.
“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,” Welby said. He said he had written to Kaziimba to express his “grief and dismay” at the archbishop’s recent statement welcoming the law’s adoption.
On May 29, Kaziimba said he and the Anglican Church of Uganda were “grateful” for the new law. The Anglican province opposes the law’s inclusion of the death penalty, Kaziimba said, though the church would “recommend life imprisonment instead” for those crimes.
“Homosexuality is currently a challenge in Uganda because it is being forced on us by outside, foreign actors against our will, against our culture, and against our religious beliefs,” Kaziimba said.
Welby, in response, rejected attempts to portray the worldwide condemnation of Uganda’s law by religious leaders and government officials as neo-colonialism.
“This is not about imposing Western values on our Ugandan Anglican sisters and brothers,” Welby said. “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. 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.”
Uganda’s law has been called one of the harshest anti-gay measures in the world. It adds the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which could include transmitting HIV/AIDS or engaging in sex with someone with a disability. Other convictions for same-sex intercourse could be punished by life in prison, while “promotion of homosexuality” carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
The law was enacted the same week as the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops released the final version of its Lambeth Calls document, which specifically upholds the dignity of all people, regardless of their sexuality. “Prejudice on the basis of gender or sexuality threatens human dignity,” the document reads.
Kaziimba’s province is a member of the conservative Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches, which announced this year it would no longer accept the leadership of the archbishop of Canterbury because the Church of England’s Synod had agreed in February to allow clergy to bless same-sex couples. The Anglican Communion’s 42 provinces are autonomous but interdependent, with the archbishop of Canterbury given the status of first among equals and seen as a “focus of unity.”
Many of the same Anglican conservatives gathered in April in Rwanda for what is known as the Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON. Kaziimba, a member of GAFCON’s Primates Council, attended and spoke at the gathering. The conference concluded by adopting a statement outlining its objections to existing Anglican Communion structures while warning against the promotion of “sexual and gender confusion.”
Welby, in his June 9, called on GAFCON, the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches and their leaders “to make explicitly and publicly clear that the criminalization of LGBTQ people is something that no Anglican province can support: that must be stated unequivocally.”
“As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to honor the image of God in every person, and I pray for Anglicans to be uncompromising and united in this calling.”
Welby’s full statement can be read here.
– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.