Archbishops urge pastoral care regardless of sexual orientation


"Pastoral care and friendship to all, regardless of sexual orientation" was called for today in a letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and delivered to all Primates of the Anglican Communion, as well as the Presidents of Nigeria and Uganda.

The letter is a response to questions raised about the Church of England's attitude to new legislation in several countries that penalises people with same-sex attraction, Nigeria being one such country.

In response, the letter recalls the words of the communiqué issued in 2005 after a meeting of Primates from across the worldwide Anglican Communion that was held at Dromantine in Northern Ireland.

The communiqué is quoted in the letter: "We wish to make it quite clear that in our discussion and assessment of moral appropriateness of specific human behaviours, we continue unreservedly to be committed to the pastoral support and care of homosexual people.

"The victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us. We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by Him and deserving the best we can give - pastoral care and friendship."

Earlier this week, the Primate of All Nigeria, the Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, commended Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for signing a new anti-gay bill into law.

Speaking at the Cathedral of St Peter in the city of Abeokuta, Reverend Okoh was quoted in the Nigerian Tribune as condemning those who supported gay marriage as being committed to "dethroning God" and that they shall face "nothing but disaster".

The new Nigerian law carries a penalty of up to 14 years in prison and outlaws gay marriage, same-sex "amorous relationships", as well as membership of gay rights groups.

That law follows a bill in Uganda - the Archbishop of York's native country - that passed through the Ugandan legislature in December, which would make Uganda's existing anti-gay laws even stricter.

The bill decrees that homosexual "touching" could be punished by between seven years and life imprisonment, and promoting homosexuality, or aiding and abetting others to commit same-sex acts, could be punishable by between five and seven years in jail.

But the bill has not been signed into law because Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, said: "Unless I have got confirmation from scientists that [homosexuality] is not genetic, but a behaviour that is acquired, I will not sign the bill."

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, has begun a five day tour in Africa, visiting South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Archbishops' letter concludes by saying: "We call upon the leaders of churches in such places to demonstrate the love of Christ and the affirmation of which the Dromantine communiqué speaks."