Top Episcopal leader in Haiti calls for new bishop election as gun trafficking scandal grips diocese

by dpaulsen |

[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of Haiti was marked by internal divisions when Bishop Jean Zaché Duracin retired in 2019, and those divisions have only worsened in the ensuing four years.

With the standing committee serving as the interim ecclesiastical authority, the diocese, The Episcopal Church’s largest by membership, reportedly has devolved into chaos and infighting, and in July 2022, an arms trafficking scandal ensnared at least a half dozen current and former diocesan officials, including the current standing committee president. The case remains under investigation.

The Rev. Jean Madoché Vil, the standing committee president, said last month that electing a new bishop remains a priority, crucial to the survival of the diocese. Vil, however, gave no timeline or plan for holding an election.

The Rev. Jean Madoché Vil

The Rev. Jean Madoché Vil, standing committee president of the Diocese of Haiti, speaks May 9 via zoom during a diocesan synod.

“Beloved brothers and sisters, the diocese is going through a dark phase in its history, a difficult ordeal,” Vil said via Zoom in his May 9 speech to the diocesan synod. Episcopal News Service commissioned a French-to-English translation of his remarks from a video of the synod. “We believe that our church will emerge stronger and with its head held high. For the moment, the investigation of the case continues, and the standing committee is awaiting the judge’s order.”

A day later, on May 10, Haitian police announced they had taken the Rev. Fritz Désiré, a former standing committee president, into custody on charges that included arms and ammunition smuggling, according to local news reports.  That arrest followed the August 2022 arrest of the Rev. Franz Cole, the diocesan executive secretary, on similar charges.

The allegations stem from the July 2022 seizure of weapons and ammunition found in containers that had been shipped to the country under the cover of the Diocese of Haiti’s religious customs exemption status. The diocese has denied involvement in the scheme, though a local human rights organization’s investigative report says several of the arrested suspects are connected to the diocese, including Jean Mary Jean Gilles, a diocesan accountant, and Manion Saint-Germain, a diocesan messenger.

Police also have issued a warrant for the arrest of Vundla Sikhumbuzo, a Zimbabwean who was appointed in 2011 as the Diocese of Haiti’s chief of operations to manage relief and recovery efforts after the country’s devastating 2010 earthquake. Sikhumbuzo reportedly was fired in 2018 after allegedly disfiguring his wife in an acid attack. He now is accused of helping to facilitate the shipment of arms under the Diocese of Haiti’s customs exemption.

Vil, the current standing committee president, is said to be wanted for questioning, though it is unclear what crimes, if any, he is accused of committing. In his May 9 remarks at the diocesan synod, Vil didn’t address his own potential legal jeopardy but openly referred to the investigation.

“Now, more than ever, is the time to work for the truth to emerge, for light to be shed and for the guilty to be punished,” Vil said. “This dirty scandal, an embarrassing situation that we are facing today, comes at a crucial moment when the diocese is still struggling in its attempt to reconnect with the episcopate. … The standing committee intends to resume the electoral process for the election of a bishop for the good of the whole diocese.”

In a June 2018 election, the diocese chose the Very Rev. Joseph Kerwin Delicat, dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral in Port-au-Prince, as bishop coadjutor. That election, however, was later negated over churchwide concerns that the electoral process had been tainted by favoritism. Duracin retired on March 1, 2019, and without a bishop-elect, the standing committee assumed authority over the diocese, which counts nearly 100,000 members.

The Episcopal Diocese of Haiti’s Holy Trinity Cathedral in downtown Port-au-Prince as it stood in October 2006, a little more than three years before it was destroyed by a magnitude-7 earthquake in 2010. Photo: Dave Drachlis/Diocese of Alabama

Since then, Haiti, already the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, has been further destabilized by the COVID-19 pandemic, another major earthquake in 2021 and civil unrest. An investigation by Haiti’s National Human Rights Defense Network notes that “the security situation in the country has worsened” since the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, and this may be contributing to the rise of “the lucrative trade in arms and ammunition.”

An analysis by InSight Crime, an investigative think tank-media organization that reports on crime in Latin America, suggests the Diocese of Haiti might have been an easy, if unwitting, target for arms traffickers.

“The church’s international infrastructure and customs status make it an attractive option for traffickers looking to take increasingly powerful weapons into a country already neck-deep in gang-fueled violence,” InSight Crime wrote last October. “Whether the Episcopal Church of Haiti is responsible for the arms trafficking attempted under its name remains unclear. But the church’s name, prestige, and the shielding it enjoys from strict oversight are enticing to criminal actors.”

The diocese defended itself shortly after the July 2022 seizure in a press release quoted by local news site Haiti Libre. “The Episcopal Church of Haiti denounces the unfounded rumors associating it with the importation of illegal weapons into the country,” the diocese said. It also pledged “its full cooperation to the authorities constituted for this purpose.”

Some reports indicate that Vil has personally cooperated with the investigation. The National Human Rights Defense Network says Vil voluntarily appeared before the Central Directorate of Judicial Police in August 2022 for a daylong hearing and was released, only to learn later that a prosecutor’s office had issued a warrant against him. The Haitian human rights network’s report does not specify any charges against Vil.

Some Episcopalians have urged The Episcopal Church to play a greater role in resolving the turmoil in the Diocese of Haiti, though churchwide officials’ ability to intervene may be limited by the church’s Constitution and Canons. On May 7, Bishop Todd Ousley, who heads the church’s Office for Pastoral Development, sent a letter addressed to Vil saying he was “pleased to learn” that the standing committee was convening a diocesan synod. The contents of the letter were first reported by The Living Church.

Ousley’s letter notes that the diocese had been unable to hold a synod for several years, because of “a variety of difficult circumstances,” including the pandemic.

“Now that the Diocese of Haiti will convene a synod for the transaction of canonical business, I pray that you will make a priority of electing a Standing Committee with appropriate and full participation by the clergy and laity of the Diocese,” said Ousley, whose office assists dioceses with bishop transitions. His May 7 letter does not discuss a potential bishop election in Haiti.

Many Haitians have settled in the United States as part of a decades-long migration, and some Haitians and Haitian-Americans have interpreted the letter as legitimizing Vil at a time when the standing committee president is under the cloud of a criminal investigation.

“If [Vil] knew that he was innocent, why did he spend almost four months in hiding?” the Rev. Nathanael Saint-Pierre said in an interview with ENS, referencing rumors that Vil had been dodging prosecutors’ arrest warrant. Saint-Pierre is a native of Haiti who now serves as rector of St. Augustine of Hippo Episcopal Church in New York City.

There is no indication that the standing committee has or plans to elect anyone other than Vil as president. Last month’s synod elected three new standing committee members, but “the same corrupt people are trying to maintain their control over the diocese,” Saint-Pierre said.

The Ven. Fritz Bazin, another priest originally from Haiti, told ENS he sees the turmoil in his home diocese as a battle between two factions made up of Episcopalians who either were aligned with or opposed to the former bishop, Duracin.

“Both camps have to realize that there is no way things are going to work unless they prepare to compromise,” said Bazin, who now serves in the Diocese of Southeast Florida as archdeacon for immigration and social justice.

Bazin argued that any criminal allegations against Vil have yet to be proven. That said, Bazin has learned from Episcopalians he knows in Haiti that some are trying to persuade Vil to step aside and allow the two factions to compromise on a plan for the fair election of a new bishop.

“Every participant, lay and ordained, is thirsty for that,” Bazin said, calling Vil a “stumbling block” to those efforts.

Saint-Pierre, however, doesn’t think it would be possible under current conditions for the Diocese of Haiti to hold a bishop election that would resolve the diocese’s ongoing problems. Instead, he thinks the Haiti Standing Committee needs to seek a provisional bishop, with assistance from the church’s Office of Pastoral Development, to guide the diocese through this transitional phase.

“The path Haiti is on cannot be resolved only by Haitians,” Saint-Pierre said. “Unfortunately, what is happening right now is beyond our ability to resolve issues. There should be some kind of intervention.”

In a written statement originally released to The Living Church, Ousley defended his May 7 letter to Vil.

“To the best of our knowledge, Père Jean Mardoché Vil is the duly elected standing committee president for the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, and the validity of his service in that office is a matter to be determined by the diocese through its synod,” Ousley said. “As always, the clergy and people of the Diocese of Haiti are being held in prayer as they face various challenges within the church and Haitian society.”

Ousley, through a church spokeswoman, declined to comment further for this story.

Vil referenced Ousley’s letter in his May 9 remarks to the diocesan synod. “The standing committee takes this opportunity to extend special greetings from the Office of Pastoral Development Office,” Vil said. The office “has renewed its prayers, its support for the diocese within the limits of canonical prescriptions.”

Vil concluded his speech with an appeal for cooperation over division. “Let us convert, make peace with ourselves,” he said. “Let us be reconciled sincerely and return to the truth of the Gospel. May God bless us and keep us, may he guide us in all things and preserve his church from the forces of evil.”

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at

Diocese of Arkansas releases bishop slate

by lwilson |

[Diocese of Arkansas] The standing committee and bishop search committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas on June 2 announced the slate of candidates for the 14th bishop of Arkansas.

They are as follows:

  • The Rev. John T. W. Harmon, rector, Trinity Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C.
  • The Rev. Mary Vano, rector, St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Information on the candidates can be found here.

The candidates will be present for four public meet-and-greets to be held Aug. 3–6 throughout the diocese. The electing convention will be held Aug. 19, 2023, at Trinity Cathedral in Little Rock, with the bishop-elect pending canonical consent to be ordained Jan. 6, 2024. The person elected will succeed Bishop Larry R. Benfield, who was consecrated bishop in 2007 and announced his retirement in June 2022.

The release of the slate also marks the beginning of the petition process. That process will close on June 12, 2023.

More information about the bishop search process can be found here.

New members of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples are elected in the Anglican Church of Canada

by mwoerman |

[Anglican Church of Canada] New members of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples have been elected at the 2023 meeting of Sacred Circle. Normally, one member is elected each Sacred Circle for a 6-year term, but due to COVID, some provinces elected two members.

Each Ecclesiastical Province elects two members, and the National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop appoints three positions (a youth, a member-at-large and an Elder).

Read the entire article here.

Anglican Communion Secretary General pays tribute to late Kenyan ecumenist and peacemaker

by dpaulsen |

[Anglican Communion Office] Agnes Abuom, a lay woman from the Anglican Church of Kenya who became the first African and first woman to be elected moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, has died after a short illness. She was 73.

Abuom was a passionate ecumenist and peacemaker, and her ministry took her all over the world. Bishop Anthony Poggo, the secretary general of the Anglican Communion, was among many church leaders paying tribute.

“Anglicans mourn the death of Dr. Agnes Abuom and give thanks to God for her outstanding and exemplary leadership within the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Anglican Communion and in the ecumenical movement and the World Council of Churches,” Poggo said.

“I first met Dr. Abuom in the late 1990s when she attended St. Luke’s Parish in Kenyatta, Nairobi, where I was an attached clergy from 1996 to 2007. I next met her when she was moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches and played a significant role in nurturing the peace process and reconciliation in South Sudan.

“Dr. Abuom’s contribution to ecumenism and peace-building were recognized globally and also within the Anglican Communion. In 2017, she was awarded the Lambeth Cross for Ecumenism by the archbishop of Canterbury.

“She had a passion for faith, for social justice and for Christian unity, and brought this, with her many gifts, to her long service on the committees and meetings of the WCC. I thank God for her life and witness. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Episcopal churches celebrate Pride Month with special worship services, parade participation, fundraising events

by skorkzan |

A Pride flag is shown on May 28 during halftime of a major league soccer game in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo: Steve Roberts/Cal Sport Media via AP Images

[Episcopal News Service] Episcopal churches across the United States will be celebrating the 52nd annual Pride Month in June with events ranging from special worship services and festivals to hosting LGBTQ+ proms and advocacy discussions.

This June’s Pride Month events will take place as anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment continues to rise in the United States. Currently, bills targeting LGBTQ+ rights introduced by state legislatures have more than doubled since 2022.

Additionally, hate crimes targeting marginalized groups, including LGBTQ+ people, are predicted to rise in 2024 consistent with an ongoing trend in reported hate crimes during U.S. election seasons, according to a report by The Leadership Conference Education Fund. The current political climate is “rife with opportunities for the trend of increased hate to continue,” the report says. The Leadership Conference Education Fund is the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the oldest and largest civil and human rights coalition in the United States.

The following is a list of some Episcopal churches hosting Pride Month events. Check online for additional events hosted by local dioceses and parishes.

Calvary Episcopal ChurchCalvary Episcopal Church in Memphis, Tennessee, will sponsor a booth at the Memphis Pride Fest, taking place June 1-4 in the historic Beale Street Entertainment District. Parishioners will also march in the Memphis Pride Parade on June 3.

St. Mary’s Episcopal Church — On June 2, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church, both located in St. Paul, Minnesota, will sponsor a family-friendly LGBTQ+ affirmation service and karaoke night. St. Mary’s will host the event. The event is a collaboration between clergy and staff at St. Mary’s and St. John the Evangelist, as well as United Methodist Church-affiliated New City Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

All Saints ChurchAll Saints Church in Pasadena, California, will be hosting multiple Pride Month events throughout June, starting with a “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” Queer Prom event on June 2 and ending with an LGBTQ+ interfaith worship service on June 25. All Saints will also host various forums throughout the month, drag queen bingo on June 4 and a screening of “The Wizard of Oz” on June 16. 

Judy Garland, the actress who stars as Dorothy Gale in the classic 1939 film, is largely recognized as a gay icon. She was known as an outspoken human rights advocate while she was alive.

Grace Cathedral — On June 4 at 6 p.m. Pacific, Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, California, will kick off Pride Month with a special Pride Mass to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community with partner organizations from across the San Francisco Bay Area. Marvin White, minister of celebration at nondenominational Glide Memorial Church, will serve as a special guest preacher with the Rev. Mary Carter Greene, canon pastor of Grace Cathedral, presiding.

Trinity Church Wall Street — On June 8 in Lower Manhattan, NYC, Trinity Church Wall Street will host a youth queer prom for high school teenagers who identify as LGBTQ+. The prom will include dancing, snacks, party favors and more. The party’s theme is Enchanted Forest, and the dress code is “fabulous.”

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church — Parishioners at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, Missouri, will gather June 10 at 10 a.m. Central for a Pride Mass before the Kansas City PrideFest parade commences in the historic Westport neighborhood. Marching in the parade is optional, and anyone interested in joining St. Paul’s planning team for the liturgy may contact the church at (816) 931-2850.

Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis — Episcopalians from central Indiana will be volunteering at the Indy Pride Parade and Festival all day June 10 in downtown Indianapolis on behalf of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, home to 46 parishes in central and southern Indiana. Volunteers will meet at a designated parade rally point for a prayer service before festivities begin. Some volunteers will march in the Indy Pride Parade while others will help run the diocese’s booth at the festival. Participants are encouraged to wear IndyDio Pride T-shirts to help increase the diocese’s visibility at the festival.

St. Andrew’s Episcopal ChurchSt. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Denver, Colorado, will participate in several events during Pride Month, starting with The Trevor Project’s 52 Mile Pride Ride challenge. Participants will ride, walk or swim 52 miles total beginning June 10 until the end of the month while fundraising through Facebook for the nonprofit organization, which provides counseling and suicide prevention services for LGBTQ+ youth. St. Andrew’s goal is to raise $1,000 for the organization. Participants will gather at 8 a.m. Mountain at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge to kickstart the fundraising challenge.

Later in the month, St. Andrew’s parishioners will gather June 24 starting at 10 a.m. to make signs for the 2023 Coors Light Denver Pride Parade the following day, June 25. They will march in the parade alongside Colorado Bishop Kym Lucas and members of other Denver-area Episcopal churches, as well as faith leaders and parishioners from local Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and United Methodist churches. Marchers will convene at St. John’s Cathedral at 8 a.m. Mountain.

While making signs on June 24, participants will discuss how the St. Andrew’s community can continue advocacy and activism work for LGBTQ+ people after Pride Month concludes.

Christ Church Cathedral — In Cincinnati, Ohio, Christ Church Cathedral will host SingOUT Cincy, a “queer-centric, multi-generational festival chorus,” to showcase LGBTQ+ singers and composers in the Tri-State area. LGBTQ+-identifying singers and allies in ninth grade and up are welcome to participate; there is no upper age limit. Participation is free for high school students and $10 for adults to cover the music cost. The concerts, which take place June 10-13, are free, but a $10 donation is recommended to cover music, facilities and operating costs.

Trinity Episcopal Cathedral — On June 28, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska, will host a meeting for adults to learn about and discuss how to support the LGBTQ+ community. The adult formation will start with evening prayer at 5:45 p.m. Central.

-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at

Can money-making microgrids empower Black churches to close the clean energy gap?

by lwilson |

Editor’s note: This story, originally published by the National Catholic Reporter, is part of “Growing a Green Church,” an ongoing series focused on churches’ efforts to steward their buildings and land effectively in the context of a changing climate. The project is produced in collaboration with The Christian Century, Episcopal News Service, Faithfully Magazine, National Catholic Reporter, and Sojourners, with support from the Solutions Journalism Network and funding from the Fetzer Institute. Find more stories in the series here.

Gemini Energy Solutions and Green The Church want African American churches to become clean energy hubs. Photo: seagul/pixaby

[Faithfully Magazine] A Black church in California has set out to develop a microgrid that could generate up to $1 million annually. The project, spearheaded by Gemini Energy Solutions and Green The Church, is part of a larger effort to empower Black churches — and their communities — to join the clean energy movement.

Although the transition to green energy has become more common, Black and Hispanic Americans, disproportionately impacted by environmental hazards, are still missing out on its benefits. A 2019 study published in Nature Sustainability found that Black communities are significantly absent from the rush to solar, even when factors like homeownership and income are accounted for. The racial disparity could be due to higher costs and a lack of access to financing.

According to Dr. Anthony Kinslow II, one way to help accelerate the transition and level the playing field is to empower Black churches, often the nucleus of their communities. Kinslow is CEO of Gemini Energy Solutions, which provides energy audits.

“I think the greatest chance we have of that happening, addressing our climate goals, is the Black church leading,” Kinslow, a lifelong churchgoer, told Faithfully Magazine.

Those belonging to historically Black churches believe, more than other Christians, that climate change is an “extremely or very” serious problem, that the Bible addresses environmental issues, and that “God gave humans a duty to protect and care for the Earth,” according to the Pew Research Center.

Gemini Energy Solutions and Green The Church, a nonprofit that promotes green theology, have joined forces to help 100 Black churches transition to clean energy hubs this summer. Gemini is currently in the early stage of assisting five churches with feasibility studies that could secure funding for their microgrids.

But Gemini’s growing partnerships likely would not have happened without Glad Tidings International Church and its pastor, Bishop Jerry W. Macklin.

“At the point where we are, there are shortages of water, shortages of energy, the heat… It affects everybody that’s here. And I think now people are beginning to understand that this is everybody’s problem, and everybody has to be a part of the solution,” Macklin said in a video highlighting his church’s intention to transition to clean energy.

Known for spearheading transformation in its Harder-Tennyson community, once beset by drugs and violence, Glad Tidings International Church may be the ideal prototype for Gemini Energy Solutions’ clean energy hub movement.

About a 25-minute drive from Oakland, the Hayward church is a member of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), the nation’s largest Pentecostal and predominantly Black Christian denomination. Macklin is also the First Assistant Presiding Bishop of COGIC, one of seven historically Black Christian denominations in the U.S.

Glad Tidings International Church, April 2023. Photo: Glad Tidings via Facebook

Through its Northern California Community Development Corporation (NCCD), Glad Tidings has created more than 120 affordable housing units. The church, which owns five buildings spread across four blocks, also offers various services to the public, including employment and mental health resources.

In another push at transformation, Glad Tidings has linked arms with Gemini Energy Solutions to retrofit their worship, administrative, and community outreach facilities. The plan is to make the campus carbon-free by replacing its HVAC systems and gas stoves and installing 500 LED lights, among other renovations.

But the centerpiece of its transition is a money-making microgrid.

This June, Glad Tidings is expected to break ground on a solar-powered microgrid estimated to generate millions in the years to come. The revenue will support the development a new community center, which will host classes about energy efficiency. The church sees this venture as a way to extend services to the community and do its part to fight climate change.

Glad Tidings will become a clean energy hub by installing solar panels on its buildings and solar carports at its parking structures. The solar array will generate 1 gigawatt of energy annually, enough to power nearly 100 homes. The church will also maintain 12 bidirectional electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and two EVs. In addition to stationary batteries, the EVs will serve as backup power during emergencies, making the church a resiliency center for the community.

It is common for churches to transition to solar and store that energy locally for freedom from the grid, as seen with Florida Avenue Baptist Church, the first African American church in Washington, D.C., to transition to solar power. In addition to reducing its carbon footprint and energy bill, the church receives a monthly payment for selling surplus energy to utilities.

But what makes his clean energy hub scheme unique, said Kinslow, “is the revenue-generating allocation” and focus on church ownership.

Most churches lease their solar panels and EV charging stations. Instead, Gemini Energy Solutions advises churches to own the hardware. It also advises churches to create a Limited Liability Company to serve as co-developers in the project.

In Glad Tidings’ case, Gemini projects that its microgrid could generate $400,000 to $1 million annually, based on EV charging rates. In addition, the amount the church usually pays for energy, about $30,000 yearly, will be redirected to its LLC.

“I thought [the revenue model] was a fascinating idea,” said the Rev. Dr. Ambrose Carroll Sr., founder of Green The Church, whose reach extends to about 5,000 churches.

“It hit[s] some of the points that my colleagues always ask about,” Carroll said. “‘Who’s going to own it?’ ‘What do they want from us again?’ And it’s like, no, this is empowerment.”

Glad Tidings received grants from nonprofits and a loan from Inclusive Prosperity Capital, Inc. for the $1.4 million project. Kinslow admits that the microgrid could only move forward because of $300,000 in grants from California.

Yet, he believes his revenue-generating microgrids can be set up in any state, regardless of available incentives.

The main hitch in Glad Tidings’ microgrid project, Kinslow said, was related to supply chain issues delaying delivery of the switchgear needed for the fast-charging EV stations. The switchgear is used to control the flow of electricity to and from the stations.

The microgrid could be completed by September if one of Gemini’s solar developers acquires the switchgear in time. Otherwise, “final inspection for this project wouldn’t be till mid-February,” he said.

Carroll, of Green The Church, said now was the time for Black churches “to use not what somebody gives us, not to beg, but to use what we have” — land and buildings — to “capitalize in a way that we begin to build and move into industry.”

“We want to wake up the sleeping giant that is the Black church on this issue because there has not been a successful social issue without the Black church at the table,” Carroll insisted.

Though his model has yet to be fully tested, Kinslow believes empowering thousands of Black churches to become clean energy hubs is more than possible.

If every COGIC church, which numbers about 12,000 in the U.S., transitioned to clean energy, “that would be $4 billion in annual revenue generated for the Black community,” he claimed, using calculations reflecting one-fifth of Glad Tidings’ energy consumption and its minimum projected revenue.

Such a mass transition could create thousands of jobs, he added.

“Those numbers are not anything to sneeze at,” Kinslow said. “Those are numbers they’re probably not accustomed to seeing. A billion — not million — dollars.”

Anglican archbishop thanks Uganda’s leaders for nation’s harsh new anti-LGBTQ+ law

by dpaulsen |
Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba

Uganda Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba has led the East African province since March 2020. Photo: Church of Uganda

[Episcopal News Service] Anglican Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba of Uganda praised the country’s newly ratified anti-LGBTQ+ law, which has been condemned worldwide by religious leaders and government officials for further criminalizing homosexuality in the East African country and toughening punishments to include the death penalty in some cases.

Kaziimba issued his statement on behalf of the Anglican province he leads, saying the church is “grateful” for the new law and welcomed its passage by the Ugandan Parliament and approval on May 29 by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni. The Anglican Church of Uganda opposes the death penalty, Kaziimba said, though it 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.

The 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.

U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement May 29 calling the law “shameful” and “a tragic violation of universal human rights – one that is not worthy of the Ugandan people.”

“No one should have to live in constant fear for their life or being subjected to violence and discrimination,” Biden said.   “The dangers posed by this democratic backsliding are a threat to everyone residing in Uganda.”

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.

The Ugandan archbishop, however, was among the African bishops who refused to participate last summer in the Lambeth Conference, which is convened about once a decade by the archbishop of Canterbury. Kaziimba and the archbishops of Nigeria and Rwanda have espoused hardline anti-LGBTQ+ views in justifying their provinces’ ongoing boycott of the Lambeth Conference and other Anglican Instruments of Communion. Their objections have focused on the more progressive stances on LGBTQ+ inclusion adopted by The Episcopal Church and some other Anglican provinces, including Brazil and Canada.

This year, a larger group of conservative Anglican bishops representing the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches announced they 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.”

Episcopal News Service emailed GAFCON seeking comment on Kaziimba’s support for Uganda’s new anti-LGBTQ+ law. GAFCON leaders have yet to respond.

In 2014, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby co-signed a letter to other Anglican primates that argued against criminalizing homosexuality and emphasized the Anglican Communion’s opposition to “the victimization or diminishment” of LGBTQ+ people. Kaziimba’s predecessor, Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, responded by endorsing and defending Uganda’s laws.

GAFCON has tacitly endorsed those laws as well. It issued a statement in 2014 that equated the global condemnation of Uganda’s anti-gay measures to natural disasters and terrorist violence. “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,” the statement said.

Consensual same-sex relations are illegal in 64 countries, about half of them in Africa, according to a database maintained by the LGBTQ+ rights group ILGA World. Like Uganda, Nigeria’s laws include the death penalty for certain offenses.

At the Primates’ Meeting in 2016, Welby lamented what he said was “the extreme suffering” of LGBTQ+ people in countries where their relationships are illegal. Participating Anglican leaders also adopted a statement in which they “reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.”

Ntagali of Uganda didn’t attend that Primates’ Meeting, saying the Anglican Communion lacked “discipline and godly order.”

In 2021, Nigeria Archbishop Henry Ndukuba sparked outrage for describing homosexuality as “a deadly virus” and “a yeast that should be urgently and radically expunged and excised lest it affects the whole dough.”

Welby called Ndukuba’s language “unacceptable” for dehumanizing LGBTQ+ people. “I have written privately to his grace, the archbishop, to make clear that this language is incompatible with the agreed teaching of the Anglican Communion,” Welby said.

Welby also spoke out in October 2021 against an anti-LGBTQ+ bill introduced in Ghana’s parliament that had drawn the support of Anglican bishops in the country. ” I am gravely concerned” by the bill and “will be speaking with the archbishop of Ghana in the coming days to discuss the Anglican Church of Ghana’s response,” Welby said. “On numerous occasions the primates of the Anglican Communion have stated their opposition to the criminalization of same-sex attracted people.”

Regarding both Nigeria and Ghana, Welby cited a resolution approved in 1998 by Anglican bishops at that year’s Lambeth Conference. Conservative bishops have said one of their top priorities is reaffirming resolution, known as Resolution I.10, because it asserts the church teaches marriage is intended only for a man and a woman. The resolution also states: “All baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.”

More recently, Welby joined Pope Francis and a top Presbyterian leader in denouncing the criminalization of homosexuality, while speaking to reporters at the end of an ecumenical pilgrimage to South Sudan last February.

Francis called such criminalization “an injustice.” Welby said he agreed, though calls to repeal anti-LGBTQ+ laws have “not really changed many people’s minds.”

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at

Anglican Communion secretary general to visit the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean

by mwoerman |

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Anthony Poggo, will make an official visit to the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean this week. Bishop Anthony will attend the consecration of the Rev. Canon Joamandiny Jean Baptiste as Bishop of Antsiranana in Madagascar, and also attend the Provincial Synod.

The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean is one of 42 autonomous and independent-yet-interdependent member churches (provinces) in the global Anglican Communion. In addition to six dioceses on Madagascar, the Church also two other dioceses serving Mauritius and Seychelles.

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Anglican Church of Canada installs national Indigenous archbishop

by dpaulsen |

[Anglican Church of Canada] Archbishop Christopher A. Harper was installed May 29 as Canada’s national Indigenous Anglican archbishop and presiding elder of Sacred Circle, with pastoral oversight over all Indigenous Anglicans. The installation took place at a meeting of Sacred Circle 11, the national gathering and decision-making body for Indigenous Anglicans in Canada.

The archbishop previously served as the diocesan bishop of Saskatoon.

“The gathering marks a culmination of steps towards self-determination going back to the 1994 Covenant, the establishment of the office of national Indigenous Anglican bishop in 2007, and multiple drafts and rewrites of the Covenant and Our Way of Life,” Harper said.

Born in Saskatchewan and a member of the Onion Lake Cree Nation, the archbishop is a graduate of Wycliffe College, Toronto School of Theology. His parish ministries have included on and off reserve, and shared ministry with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. He has also been involved in numerous committees within the Anglican Church of Canada including the Anglian Council of Indigenous Peoples, Council of General Synod, Provincial Synod and the Diocesan Executives for Saskatchewan and Algoma.

Lambeth Conference of bishops opens Phase 3 to all Anglicans, with initial focus on discipleship

by dpaulsen |

Anglican bishops from 165 countries attending the Lambeth Conference gathered for a group photograph on July 29 during the 15th Lambeth Conference held July 26- Aug. 8 at the University of Kent in Canterbury. Photo: Neil Turner/For the Lambeth Conference

[Episcopal News Service] Anglicans around the world are invited to engage with some of the same issues that more than 650 Anglican bishops contemplated and discussed with each other at last year’s Lambeth Conference, starting with the theme of discipleship, as Phase 3 materials are released this week in the Lambeth Calls process.

The Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops typically is convened once a decade by the archbishop of Canterbury. The 15th Lambeth Conference was delayed partly due to the pandemic and took place in phases: The first was a listening phase, in which bishops met online in the year leading up to the in-person conference. During the second phase, bishops gathered in July and August 2022 in Canterbury, England, for fellowship, Bible studies and to discuss the draft Lambeth Calls on 10 topics like “safe church” practices, ecumenical and interfaith relations, the environment and sustainable development.

Phase 3 will span three years through 2025, with a new theme introduced about every three months. With each new release, all Anglicans are encouraged “to add their voice to the call.”

“Meeting with our sisters and brothers around the world for the Lambeth Conference in Canterbury last year was a wonderful celebration of our global Anglican family,” Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said in written statement for the May 30 release of the completed Lambeth Calls document. “Phase 3 is all about building on our relationships and conversations, sharing the Lambeth Calls and inviting broad participation from Anglicans all around the world.”

The public portion of Phase 3 began last week with two webinars led by Central America Archbishop Julio Murray of Panama, who chaired the Lambeth Conference Phase 3 Steering Group.

“We have some important work to carry forward into the life of the Anglican Communion,” Murray said in the Phase 3 news release. “The Lambeth Calls are not intended as resolutions or ‘orders’ to be imposed. They are being offered as calls or invitations that can be explored together in a way that strengthens our life as an Anglican Communion.”

Lambeth Calls webinar

Webinars are planned for each of the 10 Lambeth Calls. The first, on the Lambeth Call on Discipleship, were held last week.

The Episcopal Church was represented on the steering group by Caroline Bauerschmidt, wife of Tennessee Bishop John Bauerschmidt. She and an estimated 480 other spouses attended the conference in England, though Welby chose not to invite several spouses of gay and lesbian bishops. (The Rev. Justin Holcomb, bishop-elect in the Diocese of Central Florida, also served the Phase 3 Steering Group as one of three resource consultants.)

The Anglican Communion spans 165 countries and is made up of 42 autonomous yet interdependent churches that all have historic roots in the Church of England. The Lambeth Conference is one of four Instruments of Communion. The others are the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates’ Meeting and the archbishop of Canterbury, known as a “focus of unity.”

The Anglican Consultative Council, the only Anglican Communion structure that includes laity, met in February 2023 in Accra, Ghana. The next Primates’ Meeting is set for spring 2024 in Rome, Italy.

Last summer, bishops from 39 of the Anglican Communion’s 42 provinces came together at the Lambeth Conference to examine some of the most pressing issues in the world, including climate change, interfaith relations, care for refugees and the threat of anti-democratic movements.

Leaders of the provinces of Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda chose not to send their bishops to the conference, reflecting their ongoing withdrawal from Anglican Communion structures in protest of other provinces’ progressive stances on LGBTQ+ inclusion, including The Episcopal Church.

Other conservative bishops from what is known as the Global South, where a majority of the world’s 85 million Anglicans live, particularly in Africa and Asia, said one of their top priorities in attending the Lambeth Conference was to demonstrate official majority support for anti-LGBTQ+ stances on marriage and sexuality.

The final Lambeth Calls document reflects those stances but does not meet the Global South bishops’ demand for a clear statement of opposition to same-sex unions – the most divisive issue among the bishops last year in Canterbury.

The Lambeth Conference addressed issues of gender and sexuality in the Lambeth Call on Human Dignity. The document, in addition to confronting injustices tied to racism, colonialism and poverty, emphasizes a resolution from the 1998 Lambeth Conference that said, “All baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.”

“Prejudice on the basis of gender or sexuality threatens human dignity,” the Lambeth Call on Human Dignity says. “There is disagreement and a plurality of views on the relationship between human dignity and human sexuality. Yet, we experience the safeguarding of dignity in deepening dialogue.”

Episcopal bishops said at last year’s conference they were encouraged by the acknowledgement of a plurality of views. The Lambeth Call on  Human Dignity, while noting that many Anglican provinces oppose same-sex marriage, also says “other provinces have blessed and welcomed same sex union/marriage after careful theological reflection and a process of discernment.”

A wider Phase 3 discussion of the Lambeth Call on Human Dignity, however, isn’t scheduled until fall 2024.

The current focus is on the Lambeth Call on Discipleship. It says, in part: “We the bishops assembled at the Lambeth Conference, in this Season of Intentional Discipleship, commit ourselves to learn and learn again the loving, liberating and life-giving way of Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives, through prayer, Word and sacrament, with the strength that God supplies, so that our following of him may be renewed by the Holy Spirit and that the people of our dioceses may be encouraged to do the same.”

Several bishops and other clergy and lay leaders from across the Anglican Communion participated in the May 24 and 25 webinars to introduce Phase 3 and to highlight the Lambeth Call on Discipleship. The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, The Episcopal Church’s canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and creation care, was a guest in the May 24 webinar.

“Discipleship in the life of Christ is an ongoing, learning journey,” Spellers said. “It’s not that we suddenly master Christianity and can check a box and keep on moving. Our tradition says that we are constantly in formation, we are constantly sanctifying, we are constantly growing into the full stature of Christ.”

To participate in Lambeth Calls, all Anglicans are invited to read the document on discipleship, deepen their understanding of the call, such as by organizing Bible studies around that theme, and then share what the theme looks like in the their local contexts, through a form on the Lambeth Conference website.

Bishop Anthony Poggo, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said during the webinars that discipleship was a great place to start the discussion of the Lambeth Calls.

“Phase 3 of the Lambeth Conference is for everyone, and it will be an exciting journey, which provides opportunities to learn from one another,” he said.

The next webinars are scheduled for Sept. 20 and 21 to focus on the Lambeth Call on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at