Conservative Anglican leaders back Uganda anti-gay law

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Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church of North America prepares to be installed as archbishop in a June 24, 2009 ceremony at Christ Church in Plano, Texas.  Religion News Service photo courtesy Suzanne Gill/ACNA

Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church of North America prepares to be installed as archbishop in a June 24, 2009 ceremony at Christ Church in Plano, Texas. Religion News Service photo courtesy Suzanne Gill/ACNA

WASHINGTON (RNS) 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.”

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.

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.

Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church of North America prepares to be installed as archbishop in a June 24, 2009 ceremony at Christ Church in Plano, Texas.  Religion News Service photo courtesy Suzanne Gill/ACNA.

Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church of North America prepares to be installed as archbishop in a June 24, 2009 ceremony at Christ Church in Plano, Texas. Religion News Service photo courtesy Suzanne Gill/ACNA

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. 


  • CarrotCakeMan

    Gasp! Anti-gays in the US are constantly WHINING that their intended LGBT victims are “the real bullies.” This “Global Anglican Future Conference” has now taken that routine anti-gay lie to a new low.

  • larry

    Watch how quickly they will deny this sort of thing is happening or how much their efforts have supported such laws.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Correct, anti-gays are the Queens Of Denial.

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  • SeekTruthFromFacts

    This is a very North American interpretation of the statement. The item which you consider most important is a subclause in the fifth of seven paragraphs. The financial element is mentioned nowhere in the original document. Nowhere do the primates state their opinion on the Uganda law. When a group of leaders release a statement on an issue that avoids the key question, that usually indicates a split. Where is the reporting to discover whether that they are split on the issue?

  • Duku Wolikare

    I Think this an attempt to drug the Gafcon primates into unnecessary politics other than taking their statement towards spiritual and humanitarian concerns. The author has a very high skill of skewing things!!

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Okay, that was two deflections, but neither of them was really very good. But thanks for telling readers how embarrassing you think this is. Gotcha.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Oh, and attacking the journalist is just soooo classy, babe.

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  • The Great God Pan

    “Nowhere do the primates state their opinion on the Uganda law.”

    There are ways of making an opinion known without stating it outright.

  • I remember Episcopalians uttering the phrase “local context” a lot in 2003. So why can’t Ugandans say the same thing now?

  • Larry

    Because they are getting a lot of encouragement from American Evangelical backers to push this sort of thing.

  • Kurt Hill

    Oh please STFF, over the past year or so as this law has unfolded leaders of these con evo groups have indicated support for repressing lesbians/gays in nigeria and elsewhere. Check out the website Thinking Anglicans, based in the UK for more details. It’s all there.

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

  • Kurt Hill

    Well, Christopher, regarding African poligamy, American Episcopalians are willing to allow for “local context.” After all, while we disagree with it, it does not entail the murder or imprisonment of fellow Christians. The African anti-gay laws are completely different, and the con evo Gafcon crowd are total hypocrits.

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

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  • Padre Kinsey

    It is curious to me that no one has mentioned the fact that the Ugandan Archbishop has made significant strides in moderating this law, recommendating the removal of the death penalty, to reduce sentencing guidelines through a principle of proportionality, and to remove the clause on reporting homosexual behaviour.

  • Penny Duff

    I’ve known (now) Bishop John Guernsey for over 20 years. He was always a man filled with profound love and leadership. I am completely mystified at his profound about-face, his move to a hate-filled, exegetically unsound position. To support the Ugandan law and vicious persecution of LGBT people is the opposite of the man I knew. For balance, I do know Bishop Gene Robinson (ret.) as well. He definitely reflects the sort of person John Guernsey used to be. It is, in part, people like those in this Anglican communion that are a part of my decision to walk away from Christianity and the hate that it represents in this country and abroad.

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