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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

Kenyan MPs approve resolution to ban public discussions of LGBTQ issues

Some lawmakers argue motion threatens freedom of expression

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Kenyan flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Kenya’s parliament has overwhelmingly passed a motion for the government to enforce an immediate ban on “public discussion, reporting and distribution” of LGBTQ content in the country. 

It passed on Wednesday, despite some legislators raising concerns that it is a threat to the freedom of expression, information and the media protected under the Kenyan Constitution. 

Owen Baya, an MP from the ruling United Democratic Alliance party who also serves as National Assembly’s deputy majority leader, termed the motion “controversial” and questioned why it was allowed for debate in the House, even though it violates the law.  

“The republic of Kenya is governed by the Constitution. How can we prohibit freedom of speech? Freedom of speech, reporting and distribution of information are constitutional rights even if same-sex relations are illegal in Kenya,” Baya said. 

The Article 33 of the Constitution under the freedom of expression requires every person to respect the rights and reputation of others. 

Section 2 of the same Article 33, however, curtails freedom of speech when it amounts to war propaganda, incitement to violence, hate speech and advocacy to hatred such as ethnic incitement, vilification of others or incitement to cause harm.  

Article 32, which Baya also cited, provides the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion in addition to Article 34 which guarantees the freedom and independence of electronic, print, and all other types of media. 

The sponsor of the anti-gay motion, Mohamed Ali, an MP from the ruling party and a celebrated investigative journalist, in response argued that publicizing homosexuality, which is outlawed in the country, violates the constitution that only recognizes marriage between a man and a woman. 

“The constitution gives us the freedom of expression, but not about gay and lesbianism which are unlawful practices in Kenya,” Ali said. 

The legislator stated that his motion banning LGBTQ publicity is motivated by an increase in homosexuality in the country because of LGBTQ-specific content in books and in print and broadcast media.

The government is already cracking down on foreign teenage books with LGBTQ content. 

The Education Ministry and the church have also formed a Chaplains Committee chaired by Kenya’s Anglican Bishop Jackson Ole Sapit to counter what he describes as the infiltration of homosexuality in schools. The committee’s mandate include counseling students who identify as LGBTQ. 

“We recognize that publishing and distributing homosexual content through the press has serious consequences to the family values and opposite-sex relations that should be protected since the increase in same-sex relations threatens the extinction of human beings in the country,” the motion reads.  

The move to curtail homosexuality is also in response to last month’s Supreme Court ruling that granted the LGBTQ community the right to register as non-governmental organization. 

The judges’ decision sparked anger and criticism from religious leaders and politicians, including President William Ruto, who has instructed the attorney general to have it overturned through an appeal.  

The motion that lawmakers approved on Wednesday calls for the police and judiciary to enforce it through the Section 162 of the Penal Code that criminalizes consensual same-sex relations with a 14-year jail term and sets the pace for the introduction of an anticipated anti-homosexuality bill that is being drafted.

Opposition MP Peter Kaluma, who sponsored the bill that seeks to further criminalize and punish homosexuality and the promotion of LGBTQ activities in Kenya, last month notified the National Assembly Speaker about its introduction in the House.    

U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman came under fire during the debate on the motion because of her recent remarks in defense of the LGBTQ and intersex community that she made after she met with a group of activists.

“She should respect our religious beliefs, African and Kenyan culture, and our constitution the way we respect the U.S. Constitution. We won’t allow the American culture of gay and lesbianism to rule in Kenya and I ask Whitman to practice the American in the U.S. and the Kenyan culture be left to Kenyans,” Ali said. 

The lawmakers also criticized the West, particularly the U.S., for championing LGBTQ and intersex rights in what they termed as engaging in serious reengineering of the world order to destroy other people’s cultures and humanity. 

The parliament’s move to curtail consensual same-sex rights in Kenya comes at a time when Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni is being pressured by the U.N., the U.S. and other Western nations not to sign into law a bill that bans people from identifying as LGBTQ or intersex. Kenyan lawmakers have applauded their Ugandan counterparts for passing the measure, while urging Museveni to assent to it without bowing to any pressure from the Western nations since his firm opposition to homosexuality has made him East Africa’s role model.

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Ugandan lawmakers approve new anti-homosexuality bill

Measure would ‘criminalize’ LGBTQ, intersex people

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Ugandan flag (Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

Ugandan lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill that would further criminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations and LGBTQ and intersex people in the country.

The Associated Press reported nearly all Ugandan MPs voted for the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would punish the “promotion, recruitment and funding” of LGBTQ-specific activities in the country with up to 10 years in prison. 

Human Rights Watch notes “any person who ‘holds out as a lesbian, gay, transgender, a queer, or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female'” would face up to 10 years in prison.

President Yoweri Museveni has said he supports the bill.

“We shall continue to fight this injustice,” tweeted Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara, a Ugandan LGBTQ and intersex activist, after the bill’s passage. “This lesbian woman is Ugandan, even (though) this piece of paper will stop me from enjoying my country. (The) struggle (has) just begun.”

Uganda is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

Museveni in 2014 signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual acts. The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it previously contained a death penalty provision.

The U.S. subsequently cut aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials who carried out human rights abuses. Uganda’s Constitutional Court later struck down the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.

“One of the most extreme features of this new bill is that it criminalizes people simply for being who they are as well as further infringing on the rights to privacy, and freedoms of expression and association that are already compromised in Uganda,” said Oryem Nyeko of Human Rights Watch in a press release that condemned the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act. “Ugandan politicians should focus on passing laws that protect vulnerable minorities and affirm fundamental rights and stop targeting LGBT people for political capital.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel on Wednesday both criticized the bill.

“The Anti-Homosexuality Act passed by the Ugandan Parliament yesterday would undermine fundamental human rights of all Ugandans and could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” tweeted Blinken. “We urge the Ugandan government to strongly reconsider the implementation of this legislation.”

“We note with deep concern the Anti-Homosexuality Act passed by the Ugandan Parliament,” echoed Patel. “This bill could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS, discourage foreign investment, threaten tourism, and decrease visits of technical experts helping to advance Ugandan prosperity.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk in a statement described the bill’s passage as “devastating and deeply disturbing.”

“The passing of this discriminatory bill — probably among the worst of its kind in the world — is a deeply troubling development,” said Türk. “If signed into law by the president, it will render lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Uganda criminals simply for existing, for being who they are. It could provide carte blanche for the systematic violation of nearly all of their human rights and serve to incite people against each other.”

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LGBTQ, intersex Ghanaians in limbo as lawmakers consider harsh ‘family values’ bill

Soldiers earlier this month raided gay party in Accra

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Ghanaian flag (Public domain photo by Jorono from Pixabay)

Ghana’s LGBTQ and intersex community is currently in limbo over whether the government will impose more harsh penalties upon those who identify as LGBTQ or intersex.

Parliamentarians in 2021 introduced the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill that would fully criminalize LGBTQ and intersex people, along with advocacy groups and anyone who comes out in support of them.

The measure would criminalize cross-dressing, public affection between two people of the same sex, marriage among same-sex couples or the intent to marry someone who is the same sex. The bill would also prohibit corrective therapy or surgery for intersex people.

Any person or group seen as promoting identities or prohibited acts in the bill or campaigning in support of LGBTQ and intersex people would face up to 10 years in prison. Any person who does not report consensual same-sex sexual acts could also face charges.

A parliamentary committee is currently reviewing the measure, but LGBTQ and intersex Ghanaians continue to be victimized and assaulted under existing law that criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations.

Ghanaian soldiers earlier this month stormed a gay party in Accra, the Ghanaian capital, and assaulted two people who were attending it.

“Military men stormed and disrupted a birthday party of alleged gay men in James Town, Accra. According to reports, some of the partygoers were injured and bled, following the military attack on the alleged LGBTQ+ persons at the party,” said Rightify Ghana, an LGBTQ and intersex rights group, in a statement. “We urge the authorities to investigate these incidents and hold those responsible accountable for their actions. The use of excessive force against civilians is never justifiable and only serves to create further division and mistrust.

“We stand in solidarity with the victims of these attacks and call on all Ghanaians to come together in support of peace and tolerance,” added Rightify Ghana. “Discrimination and violence have no place in our society, and we must all work together to create a safe and inclusive environment for all.” 

Kwame Afrifa, CEO of Reflex Ghana, another LGBTQ and intersex rights group, said the Accra raid was not the first time such an event has happened. Afrifa said making the country’s armed forces more sensitive to LGBTQ and intersex rights would help curtal such incidents. 

“There have been a few cases I have heard of this year and in previous years such as the closing of the LGBT+ Rights Ghana safe space, the destroying of billboards belonging to LGBT+ Rights Ghana, the arrest of human rights activists which also happened somewhere last year amongst others I haven’t come across,” said Afrifa. “Nevertheless, sensitizing LGBT+ issues would help in abating the victimization as most people are ignorant of the laws of the land and try to abuse the rights of queer persons.”

Rightify Ghana said categorizing the existence of LGBTQ and intersex people and labeling consensual intimacy between people of the same sex as deviant is a legacy of colonialism.

“The Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill, 2021 will continue to be a pattern of dehumanizing and silencing LGBTQ+ people, isolating them from support networks. It will also minimize, and even cover up, human rights violations,” said Rightify Ghana. “We therefore, recommend that the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs recommend that the Parliament of Ghana reject the Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill in its entirety.”  

Ghana is among the dozens of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

The country is one of the 10 non-permanent U.N. Security Council members. A representative from Ghana on Monday during a meeting that U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield hosted said the Security Council is not an appropriate venue to discuss LGBTQ and intersex rights.

Daniel Itai is the Washington Blade’s Africa Correspondent.

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