The Archbishop of Canterbury, as one of the four Instruments of the Anglican Communion, has written to the Primate of the Church of Uganda, Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba, urging him to think again about his support for Uganda’s new Anti Homosexuality Act. Archbishop Justin Welby said that the Church of Uganda’s support for the Act is “a fundamental departure from our commitment to uphold the freedom and dignity of all people.”
The Church of Uganda, like the other 41 regional, national and pan-national churches that make up the Anglican Communion, is autonomous and independent-yet-interdependent. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the other Instruments of the Anglican Communion – the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council – has no power to tell provinces or primates what to do.
In a statement issued this morning (Friday), Archbishop Justin Welby revealed that he has written to Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba, saying that there is “no justification” for any Anglican province to support such legislation.
Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda. The new Anti Homosexuality Law, which received the assent of President Yoweri Museveni on 29 May, introduces new sentences of life imprisonment for engaging in homosexual relationships or even identifying as a gay or lesbian person; and the death penalty for “aggravated” offences. It also provides for a prison sentence of 20 years for “promoting” homosexuality, which includes advocating for rights for LGBT people.
After the Act received presidential assent, Archbishop Stephen issued a statement saying: “the Church of Uganda welcomes the diligent work of Parliament and His Excellency, the President, in crafting the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023.”
He continued: “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. They disguise themselves as ‘human rights activists,’ but are corrupting real human rights by adding LGBTQ to their agenda.
“There have always been a few people in our communities who were known as homosexuals and the communities knew how to relate with them. The fact that very few of our local languages even have a word for homosexuality shows how it is not a part of our cultures and our communities. This is one of the areas where our culture is aligned with the Bible, which never speaks positively about homosexual relationships.”
Archbishop Stephen said that the Church of Uganda is “pro-life” and does not support the death penalty, adding: “As grievous as aggravated defilement and aggravated homosexuality are, we do not support the death penalty for those crimes, and continue to recommend life imprisonment instead.”
In today’s statement, the Archbishop of Canterbury said that the Anglican Communion has long been united in its opposition to the criminalisation of LGBTQ people and its condemnation of homophobia.
“This is not about imposing Western values on our Ugandan Anglican sisters and brothers. 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.”
Speaking of his “grief and dismay” at the Church of Uganda’s support for the new laws, the Archbishop says: “There is no justification for any province of the Anglican Communion to support such laws: not in our resolutions, not in our teachings, and not in the Gospel we share.
“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.”
Read the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement in full:
“I have recently written to my brother in Christ, the Primate of Uganda, Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba, to express my grief and dismay at the Church of Uganda’s support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act. I make this public statement with sorrow, and with continuing prayers for reconciliation between our churches and across the Anglican Communion. I am deeply aware of the history of colonial rule in Uganda, so heroically resisted by its people. But this is not about imposing Western values on our Ugandan Anglican sisters and brothers. 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. I have reminded Archbishop Kaziimba that Anglicans around the world have long been united in our opposition to the criminalisation of homosexuality and LGBTQ people. 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: not in our resolutions, not in our teachings, and not in the Gospel we share.
“The Church of Uganda, like many Anglican provinces, holds to the traditional Christian teaching on sexuality and marriage set out in Resolution i.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. That resolution also expressed a commitment to minister pastorally and sensitively to all – regardless of sexual orientation – and to condemn homophobia. I have said to Archbishop Kaziimba that I am unable to see how the Church of Uganda’s support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act is consistent with its many statements in support of Resolution i.10.
“More recently, at the 2016 Primates Meeting in Canterbury, the Primates of the Anglican Communion "condemned homophobic prejudice and violence and resolved to work together to offer pastoral care and loving service irrespective of sexual orientation." We affirmed that this conviction arises out of our discipleship of Jesus Christ. We also “reaffirmed our rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people” – and stated that “God's love for every human being is the same, regardless of their sexuality, and that the church should never by its actions give any other impression.”
“These statements and commitments are the common mind of the Anglican Communion on the essential dignity and value of every person. I therefore urge Archbishop Kaziimba and the Church of Uganda – a country and church I love dearly, and to which I owe so much – to reconsider their support for this legislation and reject the criminalisation of LGBTQ people.
“I also call on my brothers in Christ, the leadership of GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA), to make explicitly and publicly clear that the criminalisation 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 honour the image of God in every person, and I pray for Anglicans to be uncompromising and united in this calling.”