African Archbishops Challenge Church of England’s New LGBTQ Stance

By Fredrick Nzwili
african archbishops uganda
Archbishop Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu of Uganda in 2020. (Photo courtesy of the Church of Uganda)

Conservative Anglican archbishops in Africa are challenging a decision by the Church of England to allow clergy to bless same sex couples’ marriages, warning that the move puts the worldwide Anglican Communion in further jeopardy.

The leaders are reacting to the Feb. 9 vote at the Church of England’s General Synod to permit the offering of prayers and liturgies at civil marriages. The compromise measure included the church’s desire to “lament and repent” its failure “to welcome LGBTQI+ people and for the harm that LGBTQI+ people have experienced — and continue to experience — in churches.”

The church has not changed its doctrine that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, but the archbishops of Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria are rejecting the decision to bless the unions as contrary to the teaching of the Bible.

The Church of England joined the Episcopal Church of America, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church of Brazil and a few other member churches in recognizing all civil marriages.

The archbishops, who together represent more than 35 million Anglicans, posted their responses to the Church of England’s decision on their diocesan websites. 

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same sex marriage
Archbishop of Kenya Eliud Wabukala, center left, and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, center right, during Welby’s 2013 visit to Nairobi, Kenya. (RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili)

“The Church of England is very good at making contradictory statements and expecting everyone to believe both can be true at the same time. That’s what they have done with this decision,” said Archbishop Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu of Uganda in his statement.

Kaziimba said that despite the English church’s insistence that it was not changing its doctrine on marriage, it is doing exactly that, the only significant difference being the terminology of wedding versus a service of blessing.

“The Church of England … has now departed from the Bible and their message is the opposite,” said Kaziimba. “They are even offering to bless that sin. That is wrong. As the Church of Uganda, we cannot accept that. God cannot bless what he calls sin.”

After the Episcopal Church in America supported the installation of Bishop Gene Robinson, a gay man, as a bishop of New Hampshire, Kaziimba said, the Uganda province broke fellowship with the American church and has since maintained it was the latter that left the Anglican Communion.

“We are not leaving the Anglican Communion; we are the Anglican Communion,” the Ugandan primate said, referring to the Global Anglican Future Conference, known as GAFCON, and the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans, coalitions of socially conservative Anglican dioceses that formed in response to LGBTQ acceptance elsewhere in the church.

“There is no way we are walking together,” said Kaziimba. “These are the provinces that have walked away, but we pray for them to repent.”

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Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit speaks in Nairobi, Kenya, on May 19, 2016. (RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili)

In his statement, Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, the primate of the Church of Kenya, attributed the move to “the unfortunate rise of devious liberal churchmanship within Anglican Communion.”

Said Ole Sapit: “We make a humble request to these churches: Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead.”

The Rt. Rev. Christopher Senyonjo, a former bishop in the Anglican Church of Uganda and a founder of Integrity Uganda, an advocacy group for LGBTQ people, said the Church of England had allowed the blessing of partnerships, not marriages. Senyonjo urged others not to condemn the Church of England’s actions without “careful consideration of what a love relationship is.”

Fredrick Nzwili is a journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya and contributor to Religion News Service.



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5 thoughts on “African Archbishops Challenge Church of England’s New LGBTQ Stance”

  1. A speaker once admonished us men, Are you going to serve God or man? Sadly, which side do you think the Church of England is on?

  2. For centuries, white Westerners evangelized black Africans. Now the reverse occurs as African believers exhort those living in post-Christian societies to remain faithful and obey God’s Word. I’m inspired by the no-nonsense, call-a-spade-a-spade attitude of these archbishops. Their unapologetic leadership stands in sharp contrast to the politically correct press releases issued by too many Protestant denominations.

    Thanks for this encouraging article.

  3. Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1st Corinthians 6: 9-10

  4. I wonder if this article gives a distorted view of the dialogue going on in that a significant proportion of the signatory Archbishops to this letter were not from Africa. The Archbishops of Myanmar, Bangladesh, Chile, Brazil, Micronesia, among others, were all part of this action (which I personally regret)

    Might this mean that the article should be rewritten to focus on the whole story – it is clearly important but it is not about a disconnect between the Church of England and African churches – it is a broader question than that

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