CHICAGO, IL, November 20, 2009—The Chicago Consultation today asked the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church; Dr. Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies; and the Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, Primate of the Anglican Church of Uganda, to speak out against draconian anti-gay legislation introduced in the Ugandan Parliament last month.
“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and Jesus teaches us to care for the vulnerable and the marginalized. The proposed Ugandan legislation is as far from those commandments as it could be,” said the Rev. Lowell Grisham, co-convener of the Chicago Consultation. “The Anglican Communion has committed itself to the pastoral care of gay and lesbian people. At a time like this, we implore its leaders to speak out.”
Uganda’s so-called “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” proposes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” and life imprisonment for touching another individual with homosexual intent. Belonging to a gay organization, advocating gay rights and providing condoms or safe-sex advice to gays and lesbians could result in a seven-year prison sentence. Failing to report violations of the law within 24 hours would be punishable by a three-year prison term. In contravention of international law, the new legislation would also apply to Ugandans living in other countries.
In 1998, the Lambeth Conference, a worldwide gathering of Anglican bishops passed Resolution 1.10, committing themselves to the pastoral care of gays and lesbians. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church passed legislation (D005) in 2006 opposing the criminalization of homosexuality.
Seventeen human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have pointed out that the bill would criminalize their work and significantly diminish the effectiveness of HIV/AIDS prevention efforts. Even Exodus International, which promotes controversial therapies to change a person’s sexual identity, opposes this bill because it is so harsh.
“Across North America, Europe and Africa, people of goodwill oppose this draconian legislation,” Grisham said. “But within the Anglican Communion, only the Church of Canada has found its voice. We are eager to hear our leaders speak out on behalf of frightened, isolated and persecuted gays and lesbians in Uganda, and on behalf of all Anglicans who believe in the dignity of every human being.” Grisham said.
Spokesmen for the Church of Uganda initially supported the bill, but advocated that the death penalty provision and extradition provisions be removed. As the international backlash against the bill has intensified, the Church has retreated from its original position and now says it has no position on the bill.
American evangelist Rick Warren, who has close ties to Archbishop Orombi and the Ugandan church, has refused to condemn the bill, saying he has no position on it.
The Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal and Anglican bishops, clergy and lay people, supports the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. To learn more about the Chicago Consultation, visit www.chicagoconsultation.org.