Church leaders who have encouraged mistreatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT) have defended their behaviour, after the archbishops of Canterbury and York reminded fellow-Anglicans of a pledge to offer pastoral care and support regardless of sexual orientation. Church of England senior clergy Justin Welby and John Sentamu wrote after harsh new laws were passed in Uganda and Nigeria.
Archbishop Nicholas Okoh has praised Nigeria’s president for signing an anti-gay bill into law and criticised its opponents, according to a Channels Television news report. The new law, misleadingly called the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, goes far further in undermining human rights, contrary to Nigeria’s constitution and Christian values.
A special adviser on media and publicity to Nigeria’s president is trying to justify a brutally oppressive new law by claiming that it reflects national and religious values. Meanwhile signatures are being gathered for a petition asking the archbishops of Canterbury and York to speak out against this law. Overseas faith leaders may need to choose their words carefully if they are to be most effective.
Some Nigerian Christian leaders have tried to defend a new law that violates human rights and is contrary to Jesus’ call to love one’s neighbour as oneself. All too often, churches are captive to the prejudices and power-games that dominate their society and era.