Anglican Communion urged to combat criminalization of homosexuality

A new report from the London School of Economics urges the Anglican Communion to use its global reach to combat the criminalization of homosexuality in 77 countries of the world, including 39 Commonwealth members. It suggests that an independent commission should be appointed to investigate

the criminalisation of same-sex intimacy between consenting adults and its relationship with the Anglican Communion with a view towards helping to secure decriminalisation

The Church Times summarizes the key findings of the report, which was based on interviews with 48 people across the global north and south.

Tracing the origins of criminalisation to British imperialism, and delineating the “significant influence” of Anglican Churches in more than half of the 77 countries in which “consensual same-sex intimacy” is a crime, they call on the Communion to build on a “growing movement” within it to end penal sanctions.

Under current laws,145 million and 40 million women are living as “unapprehended felons”, the authors estimate. Criminalisation “exacerbates HIV prevalence and mortality rates, legitimises mob violence and so-called corrective rape, and allows for a myriad of other forms of discrimination, in schools, workplaces, and all public spaces.” Such laws are “theocratic in nature, urged by churches, devised and maintained by religiosity . . . and supported by an ill-educated public”.

Published by the Institute of Public Affairs at the London School of Economics, the report, Anglicans and Sexuality: A way forward?, argues that “by its failure to condemn criminalisation and its consequences, some argue that the Anglican Communion is now complicit in these human rights violations.”

Indeed, one respondent, the Rev. Professor Andrew Linzey, is quoted in the report emailing,

The English archbishops are maintaining wholly untenable positions of opposing same-sex sexuality, yet tolerating it in practice, while also saying human rights abuses against gays are wrong, but in reality exerting no pressure to end those abuses.

There is potential in the church to help engineer change, the authors argue.

The preliminary research [this report] contains and the conclusions we have come to should be viewed as an opportunity to forge better understanding of the nature of criminalisation of samesex sexual conduct between consenting adults. Faith groups, and the Anglican Communion in particular, can utilise that understanding to bring about positive change. As Esther Mombo of the St Paul’s United Theological College of Kenya sees it: ‘The Communion should be known for offering a place where different people find space to meet God, rather than a space where people feel judged and condemned.’

Our research has concentrated on the Anglican Communion rather than any other denomination or faith group for the simple reason that the Anglican Church is seen to have significant influence in over the half the countries that still criminalise same-sex intimacy between consenting adults.

The report suggests that an independent commission should report within four years, in time for the 2020 Lambeth Conference.

Read the Church Times story here, and the full report here.

Featured image: Anglicans and Sexuality: A Way Forward? by Kevin Childs, Jane Harris and Alex Cisneros, for the London School of Economics Consulting and LSE Institute of Public Affairs

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  1. TBTG for the London School of Economics for its analysis and challenge to the Anglican Communion. Wonder if they will get their wrist slapped like the American Episcopal Church and threat to the Scottish Episcopal Church for each saying the same thing in their own way. Listen up Canterbury and York.

  2. Cynthia Katsarelis

    As we know, the primates did condemn criminalization in January, after several key African bishops left…

    But the moral authority of ABC and ABY is significantly undermined when they are actively discriminating against their gay clergy at home. Justin actually crowed about CoE’s “orthodoxy” on the matter at the opening of that January meeting. ACC-16 holds more hope, because “walking together” in difference sounds more promising than the twisted machinations of the ABC and overreach of the primates.

  3. christopher seitz

    It appears there will of necessity be vitriol when marriage is preserved from being altered to include two people of the same sex.

    Equally, for those who reach this conclusion it will also be necessary to label the view ‘homophobic’ against the declaration of LGBT people to be such. This appears now to be the new fault line. Even pro LGBT folk and LGBT folk who take such a view of marriage will be regarded as ‘homophobic.’

    • Jean Lall

      This report is not vitriolic in tone and does not focus on the question of preserving or altering the definition of marriage; nor does it attempt to define “homophobia” on the basis of support for or opposition to same-sex marriage. It concerns the widespread, deeply unjust criminalization of all sexual intimacy between consenting adults of the same gender, a situation that places the safety, security, and happiness of millions of people at risk. The report underlines the role of British colonial administrations in tandem with Anglican missionaries in the introduction of these laws, and the cultural attitudes and theological standpoints that went with them, into the majority of the nations (39 of 77) under discussion. The suggestion is that the Church of England and the Anglican Communion have a responsibility and an opportunity to address the consequences of those historical decisions. The historical analysis helps to make clear why the task is so difficult, but also why it must be taken up. Through these laws, the anxieties and cultural prejudices which afflicted British society at a particular moment in history have in effect been imposed upon generations of people in far-flung countries who had no need for them. The report shows how these laws and attitudes can be used to further the power agendas of the few at the expense of the vulnerable (and of the truth). I agree with David O’Rourke, below, that this document makes a strong case for TEC staying IN and continuing the Anglican conversation.

    • Cynthia Katsarelis

      It’s more nuanced than that, Christopher. It’s one thing to be a clergy person who wishes to opt out of doing inclusive marriage on the basis of their individual conscience, it’s another thing to exercise power over others and not allow them/us to exercise conscience to do inclusive marriage. One version is gentler, framed with “I statements.” The other is darker and oppressive, saying “you are lesser in the eyes of god.”

      The first order of business in some parts of the world is simply to stop the human rights abuses. After that, we can talk about nuances.

      In the West, especially in the wake of Orlando, it is clear that religious based denigration of LGBTQI people contributes to a cultural climate that de-values our very lives and leaves us vulnerable to hate crimes, discrimination, etc.

      The ABC and ABY’s persecution of their married gay clergy (and some celibate, or unpartnered clergy) is decidedly homophobic.

      You don’t get to do harm, whether it is with actual discrimination or rhetoric, and then complain when the victims name their pain.

      • Prof. Christopher Seitz

        If I were to wager about the next seasons in the West/CofE: 1) you will find vigorous condemnation of violence and criminalization of gays, and 2) robust preservation of marriage as scripturally and liturgically defined and in place.

  4. David O'Rourke

    To me, this argues for staying as actively involved as possible in the Anglican Communion, to keep speaking and working for justice rather than ceding the Communion to the voices that are more than willing to say that our LGBT brethren in these 77 countries that have an Anglican presence don’t deserve to be treated as equal.

  5. MaryLou Scherer

    In Africa it is not gonna fly, I am afraid

  6. David O'Rourke

    From what I see in the report, this proposed Commission will only look at the issue of the decriminalization of same sex intimacy between consenting adults in countries where an Anglican church has a significant presence, and will not be addressing the legalization of same sex marriage in those countries. Basically, advocating for what the Anglican Communion and its member provinces have already committed ourselves to.

  7. prof christopher seitz

    Not in favor of LGBT criminalization. In favor of preserving what has been understood to be marriage.

    The main question of our next season is: can this position be held without vitriol?

    I am curious, though the outcome does not seem positive. We shall see!

    • David Allen

      This story isn’t about same gender marriage. You brought that up.

      This story is about decriminalizing homosexuality in the 77 nations of the world were homosexuality is illegal.

      • Prof Christopher Seitz

        I referred to criminalization.

        In the end virtually every topic posted here will circle round to LGBT marriage. It’s just a matter of time.

  8. Susan Forsburg

    Back in 2008, the UN tried to pass a resolution calling for homosexuality to be decriminalized. To its discredit, the US opposed. So did the Vatican, stating that it feared that decriminalization would lead to a slippery slope towards same sex marriage. I saw this policy referred to as “better dead than wed”.

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