Anglican African clerics in uproar over Welby comments

By Jaysim Hanspal

Posted on Thursday, 2 March 2023 17:03
File photo Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (C) in 2017, posing with Raila Odinga (R.) and Kenya's then-President Uhuru Kenyatta. REUTERS/Baz Ratner

Tensions towards the LGBTQ community in Africa have risen after a statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby angered the Anglican community on the continent.

Welby has spoken out against criminalising homosexuality and has welcomed the prospect of the Church of England blessing couples in same-sex marriages – although he will not be offering blessings himself.

The archbishop said: “We are all children of God, and God loves us as we are and for the strength that each of us fights for our dignity” while reminding the global Anglican church to “distinguish between a sin and a crime”.

More than ten Anglican clerics from the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), which claim to represent 75% of Anglicans worldwide, including South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Congo and Egypt, have officially stated that they no longer recognise Welby as leader.

In an official statement, the group said: “The Church of England is the ‘historic first’ province, but now that it has departed from the historic faith the responsibility falls to the remaining orthodox primates.”

“We will not walk away from the communion that has so richly blessed us and for whose faithfulness to God and His word our forebears have paid a costly price.”

In response to the group, the Archbishop’s team said, “The deep disagreements that exist across the Anglican Communion on sexuality and marriage are not new.”

“In a world of conflict, suffering and uncertainty, we must remember that more unites us than divides us. Despite our differences, we must find ways to continue walking and working together as followers of Jesus Christ to serve those in need. It was clear at this week’s global Anglican gathering in Accra that many Anglicans share this view.”

“Pilgrimage of peace”

The statement comes on the heels of a recent “pilgrimage of peace” by Welby, Pope Francis, and the Church of Scotland Moderator, Iain Greenshields to South Sudan.

Francis responded to the current security issues in the region saying: “This country, so immense and full of life, this diaphragm of Africa, struck by violence like a blow to the stomach, has seemed for some time to be gasping for breath.”

Many members of the Anglican church expressed their trepidation at the consequences of this potential separation. Rev Dr Lee Gatiss, director of Church Society, a fellowship dedicated to reforming the Church of England, said: “Today’s statement by leaders representing most of the Anglicans in the world is devastating for Welby’s global leadership.”

The changes come in the form of a compromise as the treatment of the LGBT community on the continent worsens.

Last week, a recent victory for gay rights in Kenya as the Supreme Court ruled LGBT rights groups were permitted to register in the country was batted back by opposition leader Raila Odinga who said: “It’s not their responsibility to create any law.”

… our culture, values, Christianity and Islam cannot allow women to marry each other, or men to marry fellow men

President William Ruto also spoke out about the ruling, saying although he respects the court, “our culture, values, Christianity and Islam cannot allow women to marry each other, or men to marry fellow men”.

Homosexuality is illegal in Kenya and those persecuted can serve up to fourteen years in prison.

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