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Why is the West best, Welby?

Executive Summary:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has taken it upon himself to chastise publicly the Most Reverend Dr Stephen Kaziimbe, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Uganda for welcoming his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023.

In that statement he called on Archbishop Kaziimbe and the Church of Uganda, “…to reconsider their support for this legislation and reject the criminalisation of LGBTQ people,” and an unequivocal statement from both Gafcon and the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) making it, “…explicitly and publicly clear that the criminalisation of LGBTQ people is something that no Anglican province can support.”

This blog raises six overlapping areas of concern that separately, and together, bring into question the wisdom of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s intervention.

1) Justin Welby misrepresents the ‘common mind’ of the Anglican Communion

  • Begins with an unspecific claim

  • Misquotes and misapplies Lambeth I.10

  • Ignores ‘Addendum A’ the most authoritative statement from the Gathering of Primates in 2016

  • Misapplies the Communique from the Primates Meeting in 2016

2) Justin Welby misrepresents the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023

  • Ignores the effect of the Colonial Penal Code (1950)

  • Falsely suggests the Act criminalises ‘LGBTQ People’

  • Confuses sexual attraction with sexual activity

  • Ignores the need for legislation to deal with the rape of children, grooming and other abusive activity

  • Underestimates the importance of ‘message legislation’

3) Justin Welby acts inconsistently

  • Selectively reads Lambeth I.10 and its Appendix

  • Condemns African Provinces for implicit breach of Lambeth I.10

  • Remains silent when Western Provinces bless same-sex relationships

4) Justin Welby fails to engage with the Scriptures

  • Specifically ignores Romans 13, 1 Peter 2

5) Justin Welby has foregone any moral authority

  • Welcomed the Prayers of Love and Faith

  • Accepted that “People will die”

  • Ignored the warning given by Archbishop Samy Shehata

6) Justin Welby has made a political rather than pastoral statement

  • Dismisses the views of the majority of the Anglican Communion

  • Threatens Church of Uganda

  • Expects Gafcon/GSFA in effect to discipline the Church of Uganda - something he himself is unwilling to do.

The Archbishop of Uganda and Gafcon have responded, questioning both the understanding and legitimacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury's intervention.

Read on for all the detail:

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has taken it upon himself to chastise publicly the Most Reverend Dr Stephen Kaziimbe, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Uganda for welcoming his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023.

The Act was signed into law last month by the Ugandan President after more than fifteen years of debate on the issue.

There is no doubt that it makes for extremely uncomfortable reading to Western ears but there is equally no doubt that it is vastly popular in Uganda. As the Parliamentary Speaker, said, when the legislators voted 348 in favour and 1 against the Bill, they had “answered the cries of the people.”

Having failed to persuade Archbishop Kaziimbe to retract his support by way of a private letter, Justin Welby chose to issue a public statement last Friday. In that statement he called on Archbishop Kaziimbe and the Church of Uganda, “…to reconsider their support for this legislation and reject the criminalisation of LGBTQ people.” He then went further still and called for an unequivocal statement from both Gafcon and the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches (GSFA) making it, “…explicitly and publicly clear that the criminalisation of LGBTQ people is something that no Anglican province can support.”

Of course, in the western world of 2023 any attempt to analyse issues of what Justin Welby calls 'LGBTQ people' at more than a superficial level will be met with the auto-response of accusations of 'homophobia', being an 'apologist for bigotry' and other such sloganizing. But truth and understanding matter; they are the foundation of good dialogue and relationships. And so, at the danger of trespassing where angels fear to tread, and in consultation with some 'on the ground' in the Church of Uganda, this post will try to shed some light on a debate that too often just generates heat. Taking its life in its hands this blog raises six overlapping areas of concern that separately, and together, bring into question the wisdom of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s intervention.

It is not necessary to be a supporter of the Act to do that.

1) Justin Welby misrepresents the ‘common mind’ of the Anglican Communion.

The first set of issues about Justin Welby's intervention arises from his general and specific lack of credibility. Generally, he is simply not a man whose words carry much weight with many. His habit of speaking out of both sides of his mouth - saying one thing to one audience and another thing to another audience has led to what he says not being widely trusted.

More specifically are the grounds that he deploys in his missive to supposedly justify his position. He cites three “… statements and commitments” as “…the common mind of the Anglican Communion on the essential dignity and value of every person” being:

  • a claim that “Supporting such [an Act] is a fundamental departure from [the Anglican Communion’s] commitment to uphold the freedom and dignity of all people”;

  • a reference to part of Resolution I.10 agreed at the 1998 Lambeth Conference expressing, “…a commitment to minister pastorally and sensitively to all- regardless of sexual orientation- and to condemn homophobia,” and;

  • the communique issued after the Primates met in Canterbury in 2016 purporting that there, “…the Primates of the Anglican Communion… reaffirmed our rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people."

The first 'claim' above is properly so described because it is simply that - it is unspecific and unsourced. At most it is simply a rather casually worded repetition of the other two reasons.

Lambeth Resolution I.10 does not, in fact condemn 'homophobia,' in the sense that the word is deployed by Archbishop Welby, but condemns, quite deliberately in the idiom of the day, “…the irrational fear of homosexuals”. More importantly, despite the Resolution and the connected Appendix running to 1,170 words, it says nothing about the criminalisation of homosexual practice or orientation.

The gathering of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in Canterbury in 2016 was more complicated than the Archbishop of Canterbury would like to suggest. 'The Primates' Meeting' properly understood, is one of the four 'Instruments of Communion,' but precisely because orthodox Primates would not have attended a 'Primates’ Meeting', due to differences over issues of sexuality, it was initially described as a 'gathering.'

The origin and status of the Communique and who did or did not support its content, or even knew about it, are unknown, as they are not in the public domain.

Four relevant facts, however, are known about the background to a Communique that is, in truth, very limited in what it says on matters relating to sexuality.

  • Several orthodox Primates who did attend had left the Gathering by Thursday evening, before the content of the Communique was discussed. The Communique was published the next day.

  • The Primate who left first was the then Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Reverend Stanley Ntagali. He could not attend a 'Primates’ Meeting' because his Synod had prohibited him from doing so.

  • One active participant at Canterbury was Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church of North America. He could not attend a 'Primates Meeting' either because he is not a Primate of a church recognised by Canterbury as being in the Communion at all.

  • The statement, known as Addendum A, that was agreed by the 'gathered' Primates, before Thursday evening, is clearly the more authoritative document and it is silent on the matters referred to in the Communique.

What is also clear is that the all the Communique says about 'criminalisation' is that, “The Primates reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.” This is significant because, like other statements of the Anglican Communion, on its face it is limited to the criminalisation of attraction. It has also been impossible to track down any earlier statement made by the Primates about this subject that this communique 'reaffirmed.'

As Justin Welby announced he was inviting the Primates to gather together, he said:

“We have no Anglican Pope. Our authority as a church is dispersed, and is ultimately found in Scripture, properly interpreted.”

In the light of that, if Justin Welby now wishes to act in a way that looks awfully like being an 'Anglican Pope', by arrogating to himself the right and authority to make demands of a fellow Primate, go over his head to his congregations, make further demands of Gafcon and the GSFA, and to do so regarding the criminalisation of homosexual acts, it might be thought he would need a rather less flimsy bases for doing so than those he cites.

This is all the more the case when he claims such authority despite Gafcon and the GSFA telling him in the Kigali Commitment that not only is he indeed not an 'Anglican Pope,' but that they don’t even regard him as primus inter pares any more.

In summary, the whole course of action might appear supremely arrogant both with regard to Uganda and with regard to the vast majority of the global communion.

But that is only the first area of problems with Justin Welby’s intervention. Next comes his approach to what the Act actually says and its actual effect in practice.

2. Justin Welby misrepresents Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023

It is not this Act that criminalises homosexual sex in Uganda. As the Archbishop of Canterbury surely knows, homosexual acts have been illegal there under the colonial Penal Code for more than 70 years. If Uganda had suddenly acted to criminalise something that was previously legal, Justin Welby’s intervention might be more understandable, but, despite the impression he gives, that is not the case.

It is extremely important that the Act manifestly does not do what Justin Welby says it does. He condemns the Ugandans for something they deliberately chose not to do, namely, “the criminalisation of LGBTQ people”. It is true that there was a draft clause that attempted to do that, but it was specifically rejected by the government of Uganda.

The Act passed continues to criminalise homosexual acts but does not criminalise same-sex attraction or identifying as 'LGBTQ'. This is significant given that the latter is all that the Anglican Communion's Instruments of Communion have ever opined upon, which makes Justin Welby’s basis for what he said even weaker.

It is right to say the Act also provides for harsh measures to potentially follow a criminalised act, but that arises from the 'offence' not from 'being' or 'identifying as' 'LGBTQ'.

Of course, the other possibility is that Justin Welby draws no distinction between orientation and sexual practice because, unlike the Ugandans, he does not believe that such is a possibility. Perhaps he thinks that all 'LGBTQ' people will and should, inevitably and without exception, engage in same-sex sexual activity. If that is his position, he then has some problems domestically - thus far the Archbishop has 'cared' for his civil partnered clergy by requiring them to be celibate, which, if he believes there can be no distinction between attraction and activity is requiring them to do the impossible.

Likewise, the impending 'Prayers of Love and Faith', which will, “…enable same-sex couples to come to church after a civil marriage or civil partnership to give thanks, dedicate their relationship to God and receive God’s blessing”, are apparently deliberately silent on whether any relationship is sexual or not. In the Archbishop's logic this means that either all 'LGBTQ' relationships are and have to be sexual despite that assertion, because they cannot be otherwise, or there will be no blessings of celibate same-sex relationships because it is not possible to be 'LGBTQ' without having sex.

Whether or not Justin Welby agrees, the Church of Uganda, very much recognises a distinction between attraction and activity, as does their government. It is hard to see how, with a little diligence, the Archbishop of Canterbury could not know that to be the case. Every reference in the Act to 'homosexuality' is to a sexual act. Again, with a little diligence, Welby would also know that the purpose of the Act was to address situations not dealt with by the 1950 Penal Code, many of which relate to abusive relationships, including homosexual sex with minors, 'promoting' the same by filming it for distribution, grooming, or sex that transmits disease.

To the extent that the Act might be seen to apply to consensual same-sex relationships its wording is more indicative of the strength of the rejection of western sexual values than it is of any intent to start imprisoning people in such relationships.

As the sponsor of the Ugandan Bill, the Hon Asuman Basalirwa, told the BBC, "It does not bother anybody if two adults are engaged in gay sex in private. And even then, the law does not look for those who are doing their things in private.

So-called 'Message Legislation' is hardly a phenomenon unknown in the west, but it does not seem to have been part of Justin Welby’s analysis that perhaps Africans do it too.

The reality is that, while there is doubtless scope for abuse of the legislation and harassment, or much worse, of those experiencing same-sex attraction, it is virtually impossible to find any meaningful record of the prosecution of people engaging in consensual sexual acts with people of the same sex. That is the case notwithstanding attitudes to sexuality held by some in Uganda that could be regarded as much more regressive than most views on these shores.

Moreover, although Justin Welby refers to the impact of the Act on 'LGBTQ people' and references the "common mind of the Communion" on such matters, again, this is not an accurate reading. The Act does not deal with 'LGBTQ issues'. It says nothing about being trans and the Communion has not said anything either.

Here, it might be sensible to pause and reflect on events at the Lambeth Conference of 2022. There is a mention of the "oppression of LGBTQ people" but nothing about ‘criminalisation’ in the draft “Call on Human Dignity” but, of course even those who did attend the conference didn’t vote on anything 'LGBTQ' related, and the final version of 'the Call' hasn’t yet seen the light of day. Justin Welby had his chance to make the Communion actually state its 'common mind', despite being offered a prime opportunity to do so, but he funked it, because he couldn’t get enough of the Communion to attend and couldn’t get those who did attend to agree.

The repeated use of 'LGBTQ people' would therefore seem to be something for western ears, using Ugandans to do what Archbishop Stephen Kaziimbe understandably describes as performative “virtue signalling”.

If the Archbishop of Canterbury was going to pursue the course that he has, on the basis that he states, and if his concern was really for the “dignity of all people”, he might at least have done the Church of Uganda the courtesy of reading the Act, or if he did read it, not misrepresenting what it says. Equally, if he was going to get involved, he owed it to the people of Uganda not to use lazy phrases like, “the criminalisation of LGBTQ people”, but to show some understanding of what the actual effect of the Act will be on actual Ugandans, not foremost on the minds of western liberal progressives. Instead, he shows no cultural insight whatsoever into the country of the Ugandan Martyrs.

3. Justin Welby acts inconsistently

The third cluster of issues relate to the Archbishop's many inconsistencies of approach even within his one-page statement.

The statement cites Lambeth Resolution I.10 as a basis for its authority but also refers to 'LGBTQ people'. But the appendix to the Resolution makes clear that, “There can be no description of human reality, in general or in particular, outside the reality of Christ… We must be on guard, therefore, against constructing any other ground for our identities than the redeemed humanity given to use in him. At the deepest ontological level, therefore, there is no such thing as "a" homosexual or "a" heterosexual; therefore there are human beings…”.

It might be considered a little rich for Archbishop Justin to call out the Church of Uganda for violating the Resolution by allegedly doing something to a category of people which the Resolution's Appendix says cannot be so defined.

What is common between the 1998 Resolution, 2016 Primates’ Statement and the Communique is the rejection of the blessing of same-sex unions and the need to discipline those who depart from Biblical orthodoxy on such matters. While Justin Welby has found the time and inclination to give the Ugandans a public scolding for supposedly acting inconsistently with Lambeth I.10 he hasn’t, of course, done the same in respect of the Anglican churches in New Zealand, Scotland and Wales, for their breaches of the Resolution. The real inconsistency is in the approach of the Archbishop of Canterbury which only adds to the impression he gave at Lambeth that black and brown people are to be treated as children but progressive westerners as 'all grown-up'.

It is hardly surprising that Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba has responded by asking why Justin Welby only treats Africans in the way that he does, when 70 of the 193 countries in the world, criminalise homosexual sex. Indeed, the Archbishop could question why the Primate of all England does not criticise American Christians for their support of the criminalisation of heterosexual adultery in some states. At best, Archbishop Justin has opened wide the door for himself and the Church of England to be regarded as racist neo-colonialists. While supposedly condemning imperialism in his statement he gives every appearance of continuing to practice it.

4. Justin Welby fails to engage with the Scriptures

The fourth substantial difficulty with what Justin Welby has said is its total lack of engagement with what the Scriptures say about anything. That is despite that 2016 claim that, “Our authority as a church is dispersed, and is ultimately found in Scripture, properly interpreted.” In particular, there is no acknowledgement of what the Bible says about the responsibilities of the people of the Church of Uganda as citizens of Uganda.

Given that he is a member of the legislature and English, it is one thing for the Archbishop to meddle in the politics of the UK, but it is quite another to meddle in the politics of another country to which he does not belong.

Of course, Ugandan Christians have God-given responsibilities to those identifying as 'LGBTQ', but they also have such responsibilities to protect the most vulnerable, to “be subject to the governing authorities” and not to “resist” “the authorities” that “God has appointed” (Romans 13:1-2).

This is a complex subject, but it is generally thought that while a government is functioning as such - which is to say promoting virtue and restraining vice, rather than ceasing to function as a government by inverting that by restraining virtue and promoting vice, Christians should, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution… For this is the will of God” (1 Peter 2:13).

The Ugandans have every right to oppose their government’s and President’s actions if they wish, but biblically they have to do so respectful of democratic decision-making. A careful reading of Archbishop Kaziimba’s original statement shows that the 'welcome' he gives comes in the context of both explicit and implicit criticism of both elements of the Act and the Ugandan culture.

As Ugandans are rather keen on making their own decisions, before inserting himself into the domestic affairs of another country and calling on its citizens to repudiate the actions of their own government, a powerful foreigner from the former colonial power, such as Justin Welby, needs to be on very solid ground indeed. Dietrich Bonhoeffer taking on his government in his circumstances and situation is beyond criticism; Justin Welby opposing a sovereign government in these circumstances and in his position is not.

If Justin Welby wished to engage in the politics of this subject, then Ugandans would be well served by him lobbying publicly his own and other governments not to respond to the Act by withdrawing International Aid. Instead his intervention offers the Ugandans nothing but more criticism to be used in support of further impoverishing the country and more ammunition for those who would like to make 'LGBTQ' Ugandans the scapegoat for the imperialist attitudes of the West.

5. Justin Welby has foregone any moral authority

Before coming to the sixth and last area of concerns, it is right to question just what Justin Welby thought he could achieve for the people of Uganda by what he has done. It is a strange thing indeed for him to get on his high horse when he has forfeited the legitimate platform from which he could have been able to speak.

Whatever, Justin Welby says, there is no doubt that the Church of England's House of Bishops are in fundamental breach of Resolution I.10 because they, by their voting they have commended same-sex blessings, whereas 1.10 expects the exact opposite, “This conference… cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions…”. Even the 'faithful four' bishops who did not vote in favour, by 'walking together' (so far) with the others, appear to accept this departure from orthodoxy as if it were a 'matter indifferent'.

But the person most culpable is the leader of the House - Justin Welby. By his obfuscation he further undermined his credibility; in supporting revisionism and leading his own Church into sin on matters of sexuality he has lost his ability to speak with any authority as Archbishop of Canterbury on such issue to provinces who wish to remain orthodox. It is not so much that they won’t listen but how could they when the man addressing them has fallen into such grave error?

Either Justin Welby does not realise the impact on the Anglican Communion of what he has done in his leadership of the CofE or he does realise it and when he speaks something else is going on.

The latter seems surpassingly the more likely. That is because the Archbishop has said as much. In the Synod debate in February he spoke of what would happen if Synod supported the “Prayers of Love and Faith”. It is scarcely possible to credit it, but Justin Welby said,

“I am genuinely torn. It is not just about listening to the rest of the world, it is caring. Let’s just be clear on that. It’s about people who will die, women who will be raped, children who will be tortured.”

“When we vote”, he said, “we need to think about that – It is not just about what people will say – it is about what they will suffer.”

Having said that, tragically, he voted for the path that would mean people would die, women would be raped, and children tortured, all so that a fairly small number of people in England could have their unions blessed and the progressive lobby could be appeased.

Given the office that he holds, it is hard to conceive of a more horrendous dereliction of Biblical leadership and pastoral care, than what the Archbishop of Canterbury admits he did in February.

Someone who has done that, and specifically in relation to same-sex blessings, is never going to receive any sort of hearing from the orthodox believers of the Global Majority World, who will be the very victims the Archbishop of Canterbury described.

Again, it may be wondered how Ugandan Anglicans could do anything other than ignore a man who, while supposedly speaking out of care for oppressed minorities, has decide to vote for the murder, rape and torture of their brothers and sisters across the continent for reasons of domestic ecclesiastical politics.

And, having listened to the passionate speech from Archbishop Samy Shehata, on behalf of the GSFA, confirming his own words Justin Welby knew how his statement would be received.

It was therefore obvious that no one in Uganda would listen to him and that nothing would be achieved for the people of the country by Justin Welby’s intervention, so something else is going on. Something which sadly, looks too much like more politics being played.

6. Justin Welby has made a political rather than pastoral statement

The final concerns arise from Justin Welby’s calls on Gafcon and the GSFA. Justin Welby has shown himself to be a man who dismisses the views of the majority of the Communion with high handed contempt when he wishes to ignore what they say. Such was his response to the Kigali Commitment, although that was an improvement on 2018 when having already derided Gafcon as a “ginger group”, he simply ignored that year’s five-yearly conference and statement entirely.

Similarly, he ignored the GSFA's ignored their clear statement that they were not 'walking together' with those who were living in direct contradiction of Lambeth I.10

All of a sudden, however Gafcon is apparently a 'ginger group' no more and with the GSFA they are now responsible for policing the Communion to ensure that, “…Anglicans… treat every person with the care and respect they deserve as children of God”. From previously being ignored, Justin Welby says that it is now required for, “… the leadership of GAFCON and the Global South Fellowship of Anglicans (GSFA), to make explicitly and publicly clear that the criminalisation of LGBTQ people is something that no Anglican province can support: that must be stated unequivocally”.

That would seem to say that unless Gafcon and GSFA get the Church of Uganda to reverse its stance and agree with him, then they can no longer be regarded as an Anglican province. In other words, Justin Welby wishes Gafcon/GSFA to exercise just the sort of discipline he has refused to exercise in relation to revisionists because he says that it is something he can’t and won't do. That is quite breath-taking hypocrisy, and worse it looks like naked politicking.

Fairly, or not, what he has done gives the impression that the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks he has found a clever battlefield on which to fight the leadership of the GSFA/Gafcon. Of course, if that is right, what he is in fact doing is using 'LGBTQ' Ugandans as a stick with which to beat the leaders of the vast majority of the world’s Anglicans for daring to reject him.

The irony is that Gafcon/GSFA are quite probably willing and able to police the Communion, but only when Justin Welby does what they have asked, and gives the Communion over to their leadership. Justin Welby knows that he is the one preventing Gafcon/GSFA from being in a position to do as he says they should and will then berate them when they can’t.


However clever the Archbishop of Canterbury and his advisors think they are being, as has already been proved in Archbishop Kaziimba’s response, it won’t work. Rather, as it will only make the Gafcon/GSFA leadership all the more convinced that they had no choice but to do what they did in Kigali and more resolute, it only adds to the terrible 'optics'.

In his statement Justin Welby speaks of Anglicans being “united”, but he full well knows, or ought to know, that what he has said will be anything but uniting.

The Archbishop of Canterbury claims to be upholding the, “….freedom and dignity of all people”. Given all that this post has set out, if that is what he is trying to do he is going about it in a very strange way. The impression that Justin Welby has created is that Ugandan Anglicans do not have the 'freedom' to operate their own democracy without rebuke or sanctions, and that their bishops are not entitled to the 'dignity' of being treated as the equals of the occupant of the chair of St Augustine.

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Jun 17, 2023

The archbishop continues to express his support of LBGTQ people so let me ask him a question. If God made them male and female, presumably a person made male by God claims to know better than God when he seeks to become a 'trans woman'? Isn't this the height of arrogance to claim to be wiser than God?

On the day that a so-called 'trans woman' has been appointed as an Archdeacon in the Church of England, is it not time to call out this theological nonsense once and for all?

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