Uganda archbishop responds to Welby on anti-gay laws

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks to the local congregation outside a church in Juba, South Sudan Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby started his Africa visit in South Sudan

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The head of the Anglican Church in Uganda has given a critical response to a letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York warning that gays and lesbians should not be victimised.

Their letter was sent to all presiding archbishops of the Anglican Communion.

It was also sent to the presidents of Uganda and Nigeria, which have recently introduced anti-gay legislation.

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali responded that "homosexual practice is incompatible with Scripture".

He said he hoped the Church of England would "step back from the path" it had set itself on "so the Church of Uganda will be able to maintain communion with our own Mother Church".

Archbishop Ntagali said the Church of Uganda had been encouraged that the country's parliament had amended the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to remove the death penalty, and make other provisions of the bill less severe - all amendments which he said the Church had recommended..

Analysis

The Anglican Communion is the same Church, with the same beliefs about God, and the same rituals. But in their approach to the issue of sexuality, it sometimes seems like the Communion's individual Churches are on different planets.

Many African Anglicans are puzzled about the development of the gay rights agenda in the West. They view it as sinful, and are adamant they won't tolerate such developments in their countries. For some Christians in the West though - such as the leaders of the Episcopalian Church in the US - affirming gay relationships is a matter of social justice.

In the middle of this, the Archbishop of Canterbury has to tread a fine line. Somehow Justin Welby has to find a way of keeping both sides within the Communion - even if they're not speaking to each other.

That's becoming a harder task. As secular ideas gain a stronger foothold in developed countries, the focus of Christianity is very much shifting towards the Global South. African clerics know this - and are becoming more confident in challenging the Communion's spiritual leader.

"The Church is a safe place for individuals, who are confused about their sexuality or struggling with sexual brokenness, to seek help and healing," said Archbishop Ntagali.

In their letter, Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu said they were responding to questions asked about the Church of England's attitude to laws penalising "people with same-sex attraction".

Homosexuals were loved and valued by God and deserved the "best pastoral care and friendship", they said.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has recently signed a law banning same-sex marriages and shows of same-sex public affection.

The Ugandan Church, along with others in Africa, has broken its ties with Anglicans in North America over the issue of gay ordinations and same-sex blessings.

Archbishop Ntagali makes it clear that he thinks Anglican leaders from the US and Canada should not be invited to the 2018 Lambeth Conference.

The Church of England does ordain gay clergy as long as they are celibate.

Archbishop Welby has said some gay couples have loving, stable and monogamous relationships of "stunning" quality.

But he says he still supports the Church of England's opposition to active homosexuality.

Archbishop Welby, who is head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, is currently on a five-day African visit.

Map showing gay rights in Africa

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