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Church of England’s blessings of same-sex couples sparks anger among Anglican churches in Uganda, Kenya

Denominations consider breaking with mother church

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Westminster Abbey, Church of England (Photo by jiawangkun/Bigstock)

The Church of England’s decision to allow clergy to bless same-sex marriages has angered the Anglican churches of Uganda and Kenya to the point that they are considering a total disassociation with it.

The Kenya and Uganda churches are now looking upon a conservative Anglican breakaway group — the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) — to which they also belong to give them direction on their association with their mother Church of England in April. Anglican Church of Uganda Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba revealed this while condemning the General Synod of the Church of England, its top governing body, for, in his words, embracing sin by recognizing homosexuality against God’s word.

Gafcon’s 4th conference will begin in Kigali, Rwanda, on April 17. More than 1,000 people, who include “Bible-believing” archbishops, bishops and Anglicans from across the world are expected to attend. 

The General Synod, which comprises hundreds of elected members who meet at least two times a year, on Feb. 9 supported the proposal for priests to bless gay couples. Two hundred and fifty bishops, clearly and lay people voted for it, while 181 opposed it and 10 abstained.

The meeting took place in London. 

“The Church of Uganda has more than 200 members traveling to Kigali in April,” Kaziimba said. “We shall pray, sit together and discern the mind of Christ for the way forward. We need the wisdom of Solomon to know how to faithfully respond to the crisis at hand.” 

Kaziimba through his press statement in response to the Church of England’s decision demands it to abandon the Anglican Communion and form a Canterbury Communion with other liberal Anglican churches that include the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and others in Brazil, Scotland and Canada.

All country Anglican churches have the freedom of conducting their affairs independently.

The Anglican Church of Uganda started to distance itself from the fellowship of the Church of England when the Episcopal Church in 2003 consecrated now retired New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson, who is openly gay. The Archbishop of Canterbury refused to take any disciplinary action against the Episcopal Church, which led to Gafcon’s emergence in 2008. 

Kaziimba accuses the Church of England of departing from the Anglican faith and turning into “false teachers” by condoning same-sex marriages, while noting the Bible only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman. 

Archbishop Foley Beach, who chairs Gafcon, in a statement also criticized the Church of England and called for Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s resignation for breaking his vows to forbid “all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s word” in the church. 

“This decision by the Church of England raises questions regarding the relationship of Anglican Provinces around the world with the Church of England and the continued role of the Archbishop of Canterbury,” Beach stated. 

He noted that “we shall have more to say and do about these matters” in the Kigali conference. 

The Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit also criticized the Church of England’s decision of blessing gay couples as “devious.”

He noted the liberal Anglican churches have lost all theological and doctrinal legitimacy and have resorted to using their political dominance to secularize the church by normalizing all manner of sin. 

“It is ridiculous that the Church of England affirms to remain faithful to the traditional teachings of marriage yet it has sanctioned the so-called prayers of love to be used in its churches to bless unions between persons of the same sex,” Sapit said. 

He warned what he described as political and secular correctness that exists in liberal Anglican churches only seeks to undermine the true Gospel, thereby rendering them irrelevant after losing their church identity.  

Sapit maintained the Anglican Church of Kenya recognizes marriage as the union between a “man and a woman, monogamous and heterosexual.” He added that any deviation from this Godly union is sinful and unacceptable. 

“If there are people who are not called to marriage and are faithful followers of Christ, let them embrace celibacy, and live a life obedient to the teachings of the bible as they so profess to believe in,” Sapit said.

Kenya and Uganda criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations. The churches have been at the forefront of supporting these laws.

For instance, Kaziimba on Feb. 13 challenged Ugandan lawmakers not to relent in the fight against homosexuality in order to protect the country’s morality. 

His comments come against the backdrop of plans to introduce a new bill in the Ugandan Parliament that seeks to further curtail homosexuality by criminalizing LGBTQ and intersex organizations and activities in the country. Uganda’s NGO Bureau, which monitors NGOs that operate in the country, last month recommended a new law that “prohibits the promotion of LGBTQ activities in the country.”

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Africa

Prominent South African activist elected to country’s parliament

Steve Letsike founded Access Chapter 2

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Steve Letsike (Photo courtesy of Steve Letsike)

A prominent South African LGBTQ activist has won a seat in the country’s parliament.

Steve Letsike, a lesbian woman who founded Access Chapter 2, a South African advocacy group, is a member of the African National Congress. She is also part of the ANC’s National Executive Committee that determines the party’s direction.

Letsike won a seat in the South African National Assembly in national and provincial elections that took place on May 29.

The ANC lost its parliamentary majority that it had had since Nelson Mandela in 1994 won the South African presidency in the country’s first post-apartheid elections. MPs earlier this month re-elected President Cyril Ramaphosa after the ANC invited the Democratic Alliance and other parties to form a Government of National Unity.

Letsike in a statement to the Washington Blade described her election as “a milestone for the people of South Africa, and also affirmative of our party’s posture that is inclusive and intention to transformation agenda.”

“I am not in parliament for myself but the people that trusted the ANC to send individuals that will put people first,” said Letsike. “In that cohort that includes the LGBTI people like myself. Rooted in the teaching of a just society, that seeks equality and believes in the rule of law. That demand on developmental agenda from a queer lens and clear priorities of the people is important.” 

“I am delighted by this task, trust and hope for our people,” she added.

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Africa

Namibian High Court strikes down Apartheid-era sodomy laws

Gay activist challenged statutes in 2020

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(Bigstock photo)

The Namibian High Court on Friday ruled laws that criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country are unconstitutional.

Friedel Dausab, a gay activist, in 2020 challenged the Apartheid-era statute.

The Washington Blade previously reported Dausab said the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977, which listed “sodomy” as a Schedule 1 offense, and a second law that criminalized “unnatural” sexual acts, promote stigma and exclusion of LGBTQ Namibians. Equal Namibia, a Namibian LGBTQ advocacy group, on its X account praised the ruling.

“Welcome to a new Namibia. A born-free Namibia,” it said.

Dausab, who challenged the laws with the assistance of Human Dignity Trust, a British NGO, told Reuters he is “just happy.”

“It’s a great day for Namibia,” he said. “It won’t be a crime to love anymore.”

Namibia is the latest country in which consensual same-sex sexual relations have been decriminalized in recent years.

The Namibian Supreme Court in May 2023 ruled the country must recognize same-sex marriages legally performed elsewhere. The landmark decision sparked criticism among leading politicians and religious officials.

Activists say their rhetoric has contributed to increased harassment of LGBTQ Namibians and hate speech against them.

Amnesty International in a press release notes MPs last June passed two bills that “seek to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminate against trans people and criminalize any support, celebration or promotion of same-sex unions with up to six years in jail and hefty fines.” Khanyo Farise, the group’s deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa, said the organization in recent weeks has “observed alarming rhetoric threatening LGBTI persons in Namibia.”

“Whatever the outcome of the High Court decision on June 21, violence and discrimination against LGBTI people has no place in Namibian society,” said Farise. “Authorities should take decisive action to prevent human rights violations against LGBTI persons and hold perpetrators accountable.”

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Protesters vandalize Zimbabwean LGBTQ rights group’s offices

GALZ has reported the incident to the police

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Protesters vandalized GALZ's offices in Harare, Zimbabwe, with homophobic graffiti. (Photos courtesy of GALZ)

A handful of protesters over this past weekend vandalized the offices of Zimbabwe’s largest LGBTQ rights organization.

Although they did not enter GALZ (an Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe)’s building in Harare, the country’s capital, they did gather at the gate and sang homophobic songs. The protesters also left anti-gay graffiti on the gate and walls.

Several people after the incident started to question the authenticity of the protesters, arguing GALZ itself organized the protest in order to get funding. They said some of the protesters “looked gay” and even argued the organization had yet to approach the police.

GALZ has sought to discredit some of the reports, while calling the protest disrespectful and uncalled for.

“We categorically condemn the acts of vandalism and intimidation that occurred on Sunday afternoon,” said GALZ in a statement. “A group of individuals claiming to represent various Christian churches descended at our offices. They proceeded to vandalize the property, painting hateful graffiti on the walls. While we respect differences in values, it is utterly unacceptable to deploy acts of vandalism and intimidation against communities who hold different values.”

GALZ said it has filed an official police report, and is “cooperating fully with the ongoing investigations.” 

“We call on the authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable for these criminal actions,” said the organization. 

GALZ also said it remains steadfast in its commitment to LGBTQ rights, and urged religious and political leaders to be at the forefront of fostering unity in Zimbabwe.

“This act of violence has not been committed in isolation, it is a stark reminder of the ongoing discrimination and hostility that our community faces,” said GALZ.

“We urge religious and political leaders to condemn such acts of hate and to uphold the  constitutional rights and freedoms for all citizens to be protected by law regardless of their diverse backgrounds including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. We encourage Zimbabweans to resort to open and respectful dialogue to address indifferences,” added the organization.

Several United Methodist Church parishioners last month held a protest in Harare during which they protested the church’s recent decision to allow LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriages. James Kawadza, one of the protest organizers, said it was un-African to engage in same-sex relations.

“Homosexuality is unlawful in Zimbabwe and marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “The church has aligned with the rainbow movement, and this is also a threat to our African traditions and human existence at large. Homosexuality is not contextual, it is an abomination where Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire.”

Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on sexual crimes and crimes against morality says any “male person who, with the consent of another male person, knowingly performs with that other person anal sexual intercourse, or any act involving physical contact other than anal sexual intercourse that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act, shall be guilty of sodomy and liable to” a fine, up to a year in prison or both.

Cases of people being arrested under this provision are rare.

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