It has been reported that leaders of the Anglican Church in Ghana are supporting a parliamentary bill that would strengthen harsh criminal sentences for same-sex sexual activity, criminalise people who advocate for LGBT rights, and even punish people just for identifying as LGBT. You can read a memorandum on the legislation here.
We are aware that there are complex issues involved in speaking from one culture to another; this law builds on legislation that was actually introduced under British colonial rule, and there is always a danger of imposing a new form of colonialism.
However, criminalisation of same-sex activity and therefore of LGBT people around the world is very real. According to the Human Dignity Trust, there are 71 jurisdictions around the world that treat consensual same-sex activity as crimes, including several in which the penalty for it is death. Dr Sean Doherty, Principal of Trinity College Bristol, explains why he believes that Christians should oppose the criminalisation of people on the basis of their sexuality here, making the following points:
- LGBT people, like all of us, should be treated with dignity and respect.
- Jesus saved someone who had committed sexual sin from brutal punishment.
- Criminalising same-sex activity but not other forms of sexual immorality is unjust.
- We are all sexual sinners, and are not entitled to condemn others.
We therefore invite everyone who is concerned with this situation, and who believe that all areas our thinking, doctrine and practice should be formed by God’s truth as expressed in Scripture, to add your name to the statement below.
1. As those who reject the criminalization and victimization of people who identify as LGBTQI+ and condemn all forms of violence directed against them, we welcome the recent statement from the Archbishop of Canterbury expressing grave concerns about the possible consequences of the draft Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill due to be debated by the Ghanaian parliament. In particular we welcome his emphasis that:
The majority of Anglicans within the global Anglican Communion are committed to upholding both the traditional teaching on marriage as laid out in the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution I:10, and the rights of every person, regardless of sexual orientation, before the law.
2. Believing that Scripture is our trustworthy authority in all matters of life and faith, we understand both these elements of Lambeth I.10 to be faithful expressions of the teaching of Scripture. Interpreted aright, Scripture teaches both that marriage is the lifelong union between one man and one woman and the proper place for sexual union, and that all people are made in the image of God, and so should be treated with dignity, respect and care by every individual and by the law.
3. Globally, different cultures undermine different aspects of these two truths—but we believe it is vital that both of them continue to shape the Christian church and the lives of all those who seek to follow Jesus. We are grieved when we see Christians, especially church leaders, failing to uphold either of them whether in the life of the church or in the church’s witness to its culture.
4. We affirm that we are committed in our churches to offering the radical hospitality of Jesus to all, regardless of sex, age, class, ethnicity, or sexuality, alongside hearing, teaching, and responding to Jesus’ radical call to holiness of life in all its aspects.
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