Archbishop of Canterbury in conflicts with Archbishop of Nigeria over anti-gay language
The archbishop of Canterbury has issued a rare public condemnation of a fellow Anglican primate who described homosexuality as a “deadly virus” which should be “radically expunged and excised”. Justin Welby, who is the leader of the global Anglican church, said the comments made by Henry Ndukuba, the archbishop of Nigeria, were unacceptable and dehumanising. His criticism was endorsed by senior Church of England colleagues, including Stephen Cottrell, the archbishop of York, and Sarah Mullally, the bishop of London. In response to a statement on the pastoral care of gay people issued by the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in January, Ndukuba said: “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.”
In a statement, Welby said: “I completely disagree with and condemn this language. It is unacceptable. It dehumanises those human beings of whom the statement speaks.” He said he had written to Ndukuba to make clear his language was incompatible with the agreed teaching of the Anglican Communion, which condemns homophobia while restating the traditional Christian view of marriage. Welby added: “The Anglican Communion continues to seek to walk together amidst much difference and through many struggles. I urge all Christians to join me in continuing prayer for the people and churches of Nigeria as they face economic hardship, terrorist attacks, religious-based violence and insecurity. “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.” Ndukuba’s comments were prompted by a pastoral message issued by the ACNA on sexuality and identity, which in turn gave rise to a letter by a group of lay and ordained Anglicans saying the church had held “same-sex attracted people to a higher standard than straight people”.
The archbishop of Nigeria described the letter – known as the “Dear Gay Anglicans” letter – as a “clarion call to recruit gays into ACNA member parishes”. The global Anglican church has been convulsed by deep divisions over the issue of sexuality for decades. Welby has sought to avoid a split, largely between conservative Anglican churches in sub-Saharan Africa and some in North America on the one hand, and more liberal churches in the UK, US, Canada and elsewhere on the other. Conservative churches set up a global alliance, known as Gafcon, to “guard and proclaim the unchanging truth in a changing world”. ACNA and the Nigerian church are both members of the group. The US Episcopal Church, which represents the majority of liberal Anglican churches in America, was sanctioned by the Anglican Communion five years ago over its acceptance of same-sex marriage. (Agency report)