Britain's Methodists back opposition to Ugandan anti-gay law

By staff writers
12 Dec 2009

The Methodist Church has become the largest British denomination so far to condemn Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. They have said that “the Bill amounts to the persecution of people on the grounds of sexuality - and persecution goes against the love of God.”

The Methodist Church is one of the three largest Churches in the UK. Their stance is expected to increase pressure on Anglican and Roman Catholic leaders to speak out against the Bill.

The Bill would introduce life imprisonment for even minimal homosexual activity between consenting adults. International pressure has led Ugandan politicians to consider removing a clause permitting the death penalty in certain cases.

“While we welcome the fact that the death penalty clause is likely to be removed from the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill, we remain concerned about other measures in the draft legislation” said Christine Elliott, the Methodist Church’s Secretary for External Relations, yesterday evening (11 December).

She told Ekklesia, “The Bill still places severe penalties on gay people, their families and those who work for gay organisations”.

The proposed legislation would allow anyone in authority – such as a teacher or minister of religion – to be imprisoned for three years for failing to report an instance of homosexuality.

Elliott added, “God’s rule of love, as defined by the teaching of Jesus in the new commandment to love one another as he loves us, compels us to be generous. This generosity of love requires grace and deplores persecution”.

The Methodist Church's stance may have added to the already considerable pressure on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. He criticised the Bill in public for the first time today (12 December), although his office had previously said that that he was working behind the scenes and that he would not comment in public.

However, he faced numerous calls to speak out and over 3,000 people signed a petition urging Christian leaders, and Williams in particular, to oppose the legislation.

The LGBT Anglican Coalition had urged the Archbishop to reconside. They insisted that his position "appears to most people in Britain to be a disgraceful acquiescence in the demands of homophobic pressure groups both in England and in the [Anglican] Communion”.

Meanwhile, a number of Christian activists joined with people of other faiths and of none to protest outside the Ugandan Embassy in London on Thursday (10 December).

Speakers included the Rev Rowland Jide Macaulay, a gay Nigerian pastor. Addressing the crowd, Ugandan activist John Bosco described the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill as “an attack on the civil liberties of all Ugandans”.

To sign the petition urging Christian leaders to condemn the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill, please visit http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/uganda_christians/index.html.

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