At the 2008 Lambeth Conference, I was honored to lead the sponsorship of a new film, Prophetic Voices of Witness, Africa, which highlighted LGBTQIA+ Anglicans in Uganda and other African Anglican provinces. Our purpose in creating this beautiful, powerful film was not only to give these courageous souls the chance to speak of their lives and Christian faith but also to give lie to the assertions that: There are no African LGBTQIA+ people; that there is no “being” LGBTQIA+, that homosexuality is a choice; and that LGBTQIA+ lives are the result of corrupt Western importations.
Powerful as the film was, I was under no illusions that the deeply entrenched evils visited on the LGBTQIA+ community, not only in Africa but all over the world, would be so easily undone. However, the news that the current Anglican Archbishop of Uganda, Stephen Kaziimba, has openly praised Uganda’s latest anti-LGBTQIA+ laws is appalling and an affront to Christian faith.
Only a year ago the Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion, made a historic statement that recognized the theological legitimacy of those within the Communion who affirm full inclusion and rights for the LGBTQIA+ community. And yet, now, the leader of the Anglican Church of Uganda is praising this dangerous new anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation.
It is a scandal that in most of the Commonwealth of Nations (formerly called the British Commonwealth), the core of the Anglican world, homosexual activity is criminalized. It is a further matter of shame that such criminalization is not condemned by the Anglican Communion and provinces of the Communion that contain such countries. It need not be argued that silence is complicity. Yet, for the Anglican Church of Uganda, through its Archbishop, to praise the nation’s new, draconian anti-LGBTQIA+ laws is beyond even this lamentable complicity. Moreover, it is unfortunate that Uganda’s new legislation aimed at LGBTQIA+ persons conflate numbers of abuses, such as sexual abuse of minors, with homosexuality. This area of Uganda’s legislation should not be linked to sexual orientation.
I wish to be clear: my position as Bishop of California in the Episcopal Church, and as a Christian, is one of affirmation of LGBTQIA+ persons. The Diocese of California and The Episcopal Church unequivocally support our LGBTQIA+ siblings (history). I join my voice with those admirable people in the film we showed at Lambeth 2008 to say that they are my kin in Christ. The LGBTQIA+ people of Africa should be respected and loved, not criminalized and persecuted