The Archbishop of Canterbury is on a collision course with Anglican leaders in Africa as he sets off on a five-day trip to the continent while denouncing new laws persecuting gay people.
The Most Rev Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, issued a joint letter to the heads of Anglican churches around the world urging them to “demonstrate the love of Christ” to same-sex couples.
It comes just days after the Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan—with the approval of many Christians—signed harsh new laws making homosexual acts offences punishable with 14 years in prison and with 10 years even for public displays of affection.
The Ugandan parliament also recently passed new laws increasing the punishment for gay sex and making speaking about homosexuality without condemning it an imprisonable offence.
President Yoweri Museveni has so far refused to sign the bill into law.
The Anglican Primate of Nigeria, the Most Rev Nicholas Okoh, is among the most vocal of African church leaders in condemning homosexuality, recently saying that it would incur God’s wrath.
African clerics have also publicly criticised the Church England for the publication of the Piling Report, which recommends special wedding-like services to honour gay couples.
But in their joint letter to all Anglican Primates, the Archbishops speak of people with same-sex attraction as “children of God”.
It comes as the Archbishop of Canterbury embarks on a five-day visit to Africa, meeting church leaders in South Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He used a BBC interview earlier this week to condemn homophobia, while reiterating his opposition to gay marriage.
In their letter, the two Archbishops quote a joint communiqué issued by Anglican leaders in 2005 which condemns the “victimisation or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex” as “anathema”.
“We hope that the pastoral care and friendship that the Communiqué described is accepted and acted upon in the name of the Lord Jesus,” the two archbishops wrote.
“We call upon the leaders of churches in such places to demonstrate the love of Christ and the affirmation of which the Dromantine communiqué speaks.”