Friday, April 4, 2014

Archbishop of Canterbury Links Attacks on African Christians to Pro-LGBT Churches

The Most Rev. Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury

PHOTO CREDIT:  Catholic Church
in England & Wales (
Used under Creative Commons License

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby,  today claimed on LBC radio in England that he had stood by the grave of more than three hundred Christians in Africa who had been killed as a result of "something that had happened in America." One is likely to conclude, as the interview continues, that "something" referred to the growing acceptance of LGBT people and our relationships by American churches, with the Episcopal Church the largest among them.

This is a very serious claim. Clearly Christians are being killed in religious and ethnic violence in many parts of the world, but this is for many complex reasons. To claim that these people died specifically because of same-gender marriage in America requires significant documentation. Who said that this was the motive? Was it the murderers? Or was this an interpretation offered by the relatives of those who died?

During the Middle Ages, half the population of Europe was wiped out by the Black Death. Jews were accused of poisoning the wells. A moral panic took hold amongst the remaining Christian population and Jews were massacred.

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall preaches at
Memorial Church of the Good Shepherd
in Philadelphia in 2013.

PHOTO CREDIT: Christian Paolino
Used with permission
Is it possible that the Archbishop is being caught up in a moral panic? Accusations that Muslim believers will kill Christians who are associated with a "gay church" have been with us for many years, but we have yet to see clear evidence that this is so. To blame deaths in South Sudan, or Nigeria or the Congo solely on our weddings is to ignore the many other reasons that hatred and civil war exists in those places.

By promulgating the view that it’s all "the gays" fault, the Archbishop is actually feeding the wave of homophobia that is sweeping other African nations which have strong Anglican presences – Uganda, Nigeria and Kenya.

Welby said that he was told when he was visiting South Sudan, "Please don’t change what you’re doing [not marrying gay or lesbian couples] because if you did, we couldn’t accept your help and we need your help desperately." Yet, the Church of South Sudan IS accepting help from the Episcopal Church, despite our very public progress on LGBT inclusion, including the blessing of same-gender relationships.

If the Archbishop is as keen on listening to the experience of gay and lesbian people in his own country and throughout the Anglican Communion as he says, then he needs to reconsider the effect of such remarks, both on those who leave the church and turn their backs on God because they are not fully welcome, and on those in Africa and other countries who have no doubt that their sexual orientation or gender identity is the reason they are meeting with violence and death, while the church looks on.

The Rev. Dr. Caroline Hall, President of Integrity, is a native of Great Britain. She serves as Rector of St. Benedict's: Los Osos in the Diocese of El Camino Real and is the author of A Thorn in the Flesh: How Gay Sexuality is Changing the Episcopal Church.

1 comment:

Muthah+ said...

Caro+, Thank you for this post. It is an important one for those of us in the south. All too often the fundagelicals will accuse us of all kinds of things. This kind of speech from the ABC really hurts us. Can we team up with churches of the Communion that can speak to the ABC regarding his rhetoric?