The Archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Church, Justin Welby
In a rare rebuke, the leader of the global Anglican Communion has condemned Nigeria’s Anglican Church for describing gay people as “evil” and a “deadly virus”.
On 26 February, the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, Henry C Ndukuba, published a statement reacting to a decision by the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) to be more tolerant towards gay people and to describe them as “Christians who experience same-sex attraction.”
Archbishop Ndukuba said this was “a subtle capitulation to recognize and promote same-sex relations among its members…” and accused the American church of “manipulating languages to cover up sin and sinners.”
Archbishop Ndukuba went on to state: “The deadly ‘virus’ of homosexuality has infiltrated ACNA. This is likened to a Yeast that should be urgently and radically expunged and excised lest it affects the whole dough (Luke 13:20-21; Gal. 5:9).”
Calling homosexuality an “evil”, Archbishop Ndukuba also accused “secular governments” of “adopting [an] aggressive campaign for global homosexual culture”; thereby perpetuating the false and dangerous narrative that homosexuality is a foreign concept being imposed on Africa by the West.
He continued: “The Church of Nigeria affirms its total rejection of homosexuality and will surely stand to defend the Truth of the Gospel based on the injunctions and ethical principles of the Holy Bible.”
“This language is incompatible with the agreed teaching of the Anglican Communion,” –Archbishop Justin Welby
The worldwide Anglican Communion has been wracked by internal division on the acceptance of same-sex relationships, unions and marriages. Conservative regional churches within the Communion – many from Africa – have repeatedly threatened to leave the global body over the issue.
In an unusual step, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury – who is the symbolic head of the Anglican Communion – issued a formal disapproving reaction to the Nigerian Church’s statement.
“I completely disagree with and condemn this language,” said Archbishop Welby, “It is unacceptable. It dehumanises those human beings of whom the statement speaks.”
He added that “I have written privately to His Grace The Archbishop to make clear that this language is incompatible with the agreed teaching of the Anglican Communion…”
Archbishop Welby said he pointed out to Archbishop Ndukuba that while the Anglican Communion has not approved of same-sex marriage it’s official stance is that homophobia is not acceptable and that “all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.”
He added: “The mission of the church is the same in every culture and country: to demonstrate, through its actions and words, that God’s offer of unconditional love to every human being through Jesus Christ calls us to holiness and hope.”
Nigeria has some of the most repressive anti-LGBTQ laws in the world. Under colonial-era legislation, anyone found guilty of engaging in homosexual acts can be jailed for 14 years. In some northern states, gay Muslims could also be put to death by stoning under Shari’a law.
A 2014 federal law further prohibits same-sex marriages and relationships with a penalty of up to 14 years in prison. It further stipulates 10 years in jail for public displays of same-sex affection and for membership or support of LGBTQ groups.