NAIROBI, Kenya (RNS) — Conservative Anglican archbishops in Africa are challenging a decision by the Church of England to allow clergy to bless same sex couples’ marriages, warning that the move puts the worldwide Anglican Communion in further jeopardy.
The leaders are reacting to the Feb. 9 vote at the Church of England’s General Synod to permit the offering of prayers and liturgies at civil marriages. The compromise measure included the church’s desire to “lament and repent” its failure “to welcome LGBTQI+ people and for the harm that LGBTQI+ people have experienced — and continue to experience — in churches.”
The church has not changed its doctrine that marriage is a lifelong union between one man and one woman, but the archbishops of Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria are rejecting the decision to bless the unions as contrary to the teaching of the Bible.
The Church of England joined the Episcopal Church of America, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Episcopal Church of Brazil and a few other member churches in recognizing all civil marriages.
The archbishops, who together represent more than 35 million Anglicans, posted their responses to the Church of England’s decision on their diocesan websites.
“The Church of England is very good at making contradictory statements and expecting everyone to believe both can be true at the same time. That’s what they have done with this decision,” said Archbishop Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu of Uganda in his statement.
Kaziimba said that despite the English church’s insistence that it was not changing its doctrine on marriage, it is doing exactly that, the only significant difference being the terminology of wedding versus a service of blessing.
“The Church of England … has now departed from the Bible and their message is the opposite,” said Kaziimba. “They are even offering to bless that sin. That is wrong. As the Church of Uganda, we cannot accept that. God cannot bless what he calls sin.”
After the Episcopal Church in America supported the installation of Bishop Gene Robinson, a gay man, as a bishop of New Hampshire, Kaziimba said, the Uganda province broke fellowship with the American church and has since maintained it was the latter that left the Anglican Communion.