The Archbishop of Canterbury has responded to news that Anglican bishops in Ghana are said to be supportive of a proposed law that would put LGBT+ people in prison.
Most Rev Justin Welby started his statement by saying: "I am gravely concerned by the draft anti-LGBTQ+ Bill due to be debated by the Ghanaian parliament. I will be speaking with the Archbishop of Ghana in the coming days to discuss the Anglican Church of Ghana’s response to the Bill."
The 'Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values 2021' bill was introduced to Ghana's parliament in July 2021 and underwent its first reading by Parliament in August, it is expected to be debated further imminently.
Independent experts, appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, presented an analysis of the draft bill to the Ghanaian Government, concluding that the legislation would be tantamount to a violation of a number of human rights standards.
They said that, according the information they had seen, the aim of the bill is to proscribe 'LGBTQ+ and related activities' (such as intercourse, 'public displays of amorous relations' and marriage), because they are 'incompatible with the sociocultural values of any ethnic group in Ghana'.
The experts wrote that criminal sanctions would apply to anyone who was gay, transgender, anyone who 'engages in sexual activity prohibited' and those who support the promotion or advocacy of LGBT+ people, such as broadcasters or campaigners.
Archbishop Justin was pushed to speak out after LGBT+ campaigners said that Anglican bishops, who the Archbishop oversees, were supporting the bill.
He continued: "The majority of Anglicans within the global Anglican Communion are committed to upholding both the traditional teaching on marriage as laid out in the 1998 Lambeth Conference Resolution I:10, and the rights of every person, regardless of sexual orientation, before the law. In Resolution I:10, the Anglican Communion also made a commitment 'to assure [LGBTQ+ people] that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.' Meanwhile on numerous occasions the Primates of the Anglican Communion have stated their opposition to the criminalisation of same-sex attracted people: most recently, and unanimously, in the communiqué of the 2016 Primates’ Meeting.
"I remind our brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church of Ghana of these commitments.
"We are a global family of churches, but the mission of the church is the same in every culture and country: to demonstrate, through its actions and words, God’s offer of unconditional love to every human being through Jesus Christ."
Jayne Ozane, an LGBT+ campaigner in the Church of England, told Premier on Sunday: "What is being proposed is going to be the most anti-LGBT criminal sanctions in the world. They're proposing that anybody who is LGBT will be locked up, criminalised for five years and anybody who supports LGBT people and works with them to try and create a more tolerant community will be locked up for ten years.
"This flies right in the face of all the human rights work that the UN and others have been doing, and perhaps most importantly, that the Anglican Communion itself has been doing and saying that LGBT people should not be criminalised.
"But what makes this proposal even more shocking is that it is the Ghanaian bishops themselves who are endorsing such sanctions. And that's, sadly, I think one of the most horrifying things of this whole really tragic and horrific proposal."
The Archbishop of York and the Bishop of London have joined Justin Welby in condemning the bill.
Clergy in the Diocese of Portsmouth have also issued a statement because of its links with the Anglican Church in Ghana, saying they are "seeking urgent conversations" with their colleagues there.