John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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The Anglican Church and Homosexuality in Africa

by John Campbell
March 21, 2012

Britain's Archbishops of York and Canterbury, John Sentamu (L) and Rowan Williams (2nd L), march through central London, to commemorate the Bicentenery of the Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, March 24, 2007. (Toby Melville/Courtesy Reuters)


Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ departure at the end of the year as leader of the Church of England and Anglican churches around the world brings to mind the growing importance of Africans in the Anglican Communion and the other “mainstream” churches, particularly as African Anglicans are exploding in numbers.

Virtually all of the African Anglican churches see homosexuality as sinful, or, at best, profoundly irregular, and strongly oppose the ordination of gay priests and bishops. (South Africa is a notable exception.)

Reflecting the prevailing view in those countries that homosexuality is not a disorder or inherently sinful, Canadian and American Anglicans (Episcopalians) ordain and consecrate openly gay bishops and priests. While there is no consensus as yet, many of the members of both churches are sympathetic to gay marriage.

Opinion within the Church of England remains divided, and Archbishop Williams vetoed the consecration of an openly gay bishop, though his stance on sexuality has been considered liberal. Majority sentiment within the Church of England may be opposed to gay marriage. However, the current Conservative government says that it will legalize it.

Archbishop Williams has spent much of the last decade working against a possible schism between the African churches and particularly the Anglican churches in Canada and the U.S. over the core issue of homosexuality in the church. The issue remains for his successor.

The British press is already handicapping who the successor Archbishop Williams might be. At present, the favorite is the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, who is Ugandan born, and is second only to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Church of England. The Ugandan press is touting him as the “Ugandan head of the Anglican Communion.” Much of the British and African press are presuming that the Archbishop of York will be more sympathetic to the African perspective than his predecessor.

Selection of an Archbishop of Canterbury is a complex process that takes into account numerous factors, and the Archbishop of York has never had the automatic right to Canterbury. Despite the press handicapping, it is much too early to say who Archbishop Williams’ successor will be. But, if it is not the Archbishop of York, many Africans will be disappointed and may see it as yet another example of mainstream churches taking into account too little the explosive growth of Christianity in Africa.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Maduka

    As a Nigerian Anglican, I don’t see what impact the appointment / non-appointment of John Sentamu would have on anything.

    That bus has left the station, so to speak. The Nigeria / African Church is on a divergent path from the “mainstream” West. While we have challenges like poverty, Islamic fundamentalism, violence against Christians and political instability. They (in their infinite wisdom), have decided that the only thing worthy of consideration is homosexuality.

    Both churches are clearly not on the same wavelength.

    The next institution to go the way of the Anglican Communion is the Commonwealth. With Cameron’s insistence on gay rights and a general lack of focus, expect the Commonwealth to be dissolved in a few decades.

    This should also serve as a warning to Obama and other Westerners who attempt to impose their values on us like defoliant being applied to a forest – we will resist and we are ready to forgo your foreign aid to maintain our independence.

  • Posted by Alan Edwards

    The generalised drivel from “Maduka” emphasises the polarisation that is being forced on the Anglican church by the strident rantings of the African community. One can talk rationally about the state of traditional African sexuality in the pre-Colonial continent, but such rationale is always ignored, largely the hands of the politicians and traditional leaders who use “scare tactics” to impress the mass of populations. The reality of Christinanity is a reality of “Tolerance”; it is a reality that all men are created in the image of the Almighty. Logic therefore determines that a homosexual man or woman is indeed created as part of the Almighty’s great plan. To deny this is to deny the Almighty, and is this not the greatest of all heresies? So what should be done with these modern-day heretics? Should they be burnt at the stake as the Spanish Inquisition decreed? Or should men and women of all sexual persuasions join together to forgive these arrogant sinners? For that is the message of true Christianity!

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