African churches could face 'consequences' for supporting criminalisation of homosexuality

Harry Farley

Churches in countries such as Uganda and Nigeria who support the criminalisation of homosexuality could face "consequences" of their own, the Archbishop of Canterbury warned today.

Justin Welby, speaking at the General Synod of the Church of England meeting in Westminster, acknowledged the 38 Anglican world leaders who form the Primates body, could put pressure on churches in provinces who support their country's view on homosexuality as illegal.

Following the meeting of Anglican Primates in January, The Episcopal Church (TEC) faced "consequences" for its "fundamental departure" from Church teaching on sexuality.

"The traditional doctrine of the church in view of the teaching of scripture, upholds marriage as between a man and a woman in faithful, lifelong union" a statement from the Primates' gathering affirmed. "The majority of those gathered reaffirm this teaching."

However the statement also "reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people".

Uganda, Burundi, Nigeria and Rwanda all punish homosexual practice and leaders from those countries were all represented at the meeting.

However Anglican leaders in Uganda and Nigeria have openly expressed support for their country's legislation against homosexuality, in contradiction to the Primates' statement.

"The prevailing ideology of gay activists not only undermines the Bible's message, which is deliberate on their part, but it is also an attack on the foundations of our society," the Church of Uganda said when it announced its support for the country's Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The "consequences" faced by the liberal wing of the Anglican communion were a two-way street, Welby told General Synod.

Although opposed to the criminalisation of homosexuality, Welby said he represented just one vote and a move to force provinces to face "consequences" would require support from other areas.

Welby insisted that "sanctions" or "punishment" were not applied to the Episcopal Church but they faced "consequences" for their actions. However to bring the same consequences to the African churches who are part of the influential conservative Anglican group, Gafcon, risks splintering the Anglican Communion which Welby described earlier today as "fragile".

Gafcon emerged in opposition to a perceived "false gospel" that had emerged within the Anglican Communion. They held a rival meeting to the last Lambeth Conference in 2008 and claimed the Anglican Church "promotes a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right".