Leaders of major churches in Ghana, which is home to a broad range of religions, have joined in condemning homosexuality as a “perversion” and backing legislation that, if passed, would impose among of Africa’s toughest anti-LGBTQ measures.
In Nigeria, the umbrella group for Christian churches portrays same-sex partnerships as a sin worthy of the severe jail penalties imposed by current legislation.
Bishops affiliated with the worldwide United Methodist Church are planning to join an in-the-works breakaway church in order to maintain their practice of refusing to recognize same-sex marriage or appoint LGBTQ clergy in some African nations.
Some significant Protestant churches in the United States, Western Europe, and other countries have pushed for LGBTQ inclusion. This hasn’t happened in Africa, with a few exceptions, where Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Lutheran leaders are among those who oppose such inclusion.
Caroline Omolo, associate pastor of the Cosmopolitan Affirming Community in Nairobi, Kenya, said, “The conventional churches — all of them — they are truly utterly against it.” It’s an unique church in Africa that caters to a primarily LGBTQ audience.
“They’ve always put together a gang to try to suppress us or disband the church,” Omolo added. “They don’t want it to show up anyplace,” says the source.
Ghana, which is typically thought to be more human rights-friendly than most African countries, is currently under fire because of a measure in Parliament that would impose prison terms ranging from three to ten years for those who identify as LGBTQ or support that group. Human rights advocates have criticized the bill, while religious leaders in Ghana have endorsed it.
“Their involvement in promoting queerphobia and transphobia is apparent, and it’s really worrisome and dangerous,” said Abena Hutchful, a queer Ghanaian who co-organized a recent rally in New York City against the law.
According to Graeme Reid, head of Human Rights Watch’s LGBT Rights Program, “the bill’s biggest backers claim to be doing this in the name of religion.” The policy, he said, was “a case study in extraordinary brutality.”
The bill’s sponsors claimed that they spoke with important religious leaders while formulating it. The Ghana Christian Council, the Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference, and the country’s senior imam are among those who have endorsed it.
“If we don’t tolerate murderers, why should we welcome someone who engages in immoral sexual behavior?” The president of the bishops’ conference, Archbishop Philip Naameh, told The Associated Press. “Taking a stand against having more children is a decision that is detrimental to the existence of the Ghanaian state.”
According to the Rev. Dr. Cyril Fayose of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Christian Council, whose members include Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Anglican churches, homosexuality is “an act of depravity and evil.”
He said earlier this year, “Homosexuality is not a human right, and we reject it categorically.”
The Christian Association of Nigeria has vowed to penalize any church in Africa’s most populous country that demonstrates tolerance for same-sex partnerships.
According to Methodist Bishop Stephen Adegbite, the association’s director of national issues, such acceptance “would never happen.”
When asked about the Nigerian legislation that makes same-sex partnerships illegal and punishable by up to 14 years in jail, Adegbite stated there are no other options.
He stated, “The church can never be compromised.”
Such remarks enrage Nigerian LGBTQ advocates like Matthew Blaise, who told the Associated Press that he was abused by a Catholic priest who was upset that he wasn’t straight.
“Instead of utilizing love as a way of communication, the church has been horrible when it comes to LGBTQ problems,” Blaise remarked.
Catholic Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial metropolis, told the Associated Press that Catholic doctrine “recognizes in the dignity of every human being.” LGBTQ persons who engage into same-sex partnerships, on the other hand, are living a “disordered way of life” and should modify their ways, he added.
One of the United Methodist bishops, John Wesley Yohanna, is based in Nigeria and has stated his intention to leave the UMC and join the planned Global Methodist Church. That new organization, which is expected to be formed next year, is the product of a coalition of Methodists in the United States and overseas who oppose the LGBT-inclusive policies advocated by many Methodists in the United States.
Bishops Samuel J. Quire Jr. of Liberia and Owan Tshibang Kasap of the United Methodist Church’s Southern Congo region have both expressed interest in joining the split.
The opinions of African bishops reflect socioeconomic and cultural sentiments broadly shared across the continent, according to the Rev. Keith Boyette, a Methodist elder from the United States who leads the Global Methodist effort.
He stated, “Same-sex orientation is considered unfavorably.” “This is true whether a person belongs to a Christian denomination, a Muslim faith, or a religion that is more indigenous.”
In Uganda, where many LGBTQ individuals are afraid of assault and arrest, a retired Anglican bishop was prohibited from presiding over church events in 2006 because he expressed sympathy for homosexual people.
Christopher Senyonjo said he realized that sexuality “is a deep, fundamental part of who we are” after decades of ministering to besieged LGBTQ individuals. We should be able to allow individuals to be themselves.”
“Ignorance is a major issue in all of this,” Senyonjo told the Associated Press. “There is a lot of pain when there is ignorance.”
President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda approved a severe anti-gay law in 2014, which in its original form included the death sentence for certain homosexual conduct. A court body later that year, under heavy international criticism, overturned the Act on a technicality.
However, a statute from the colonial era that makes sex acts “outside the order of nature” illegal still stands.
Church officials, according to Frank Mugisha, a prominent homosexual activist in Uganda, are “the primary drivers of homophobia in Africa.” He claims that certain Anglican officials have increased their animosity toward LGBTQ persons in order to avoid losing adherents to anti-LGBTQ Pentecostal religions.
Only one African country, South Africa, has permitted same-gender marriage. Even in churches, gay and lesbian couples frequently have difficulty being accepted, let alone having their weddings solemnized by clergy.
“People tell me, ‘I grew up in this church, but now I’m not welcomed,'” said Nokuthula Dhladhla, a priest with the Global Interfaith Network, a religious organization that fights for LGBTQ rights.
She claims that some religious leaders secretly favor same-sex marriage but are hesitant to say so publicly for fear of being marginalized by their more conservative counterparts.
Desmond Tutu, the world-renowned Anglican Archbishop of South Africa who opposed apartheid, has been a vocal advocate of LGBTQ rights.
He previously remarked, “I would not worship a God who is homophobic.” “I’m not going to a homophobic paradise.” No, I’d reply, ‘Sorry, but I’d much prefer go somewhere else.'”
Some Kenyan religious leaders, according to Caroline Omolo, an activist pastor in Nairobi, blame LGBTQ persons for the coronavirus outbreak.
“When we say we’re still serving God,” she explained, “they don’t believe it’s possible.” “They believe it’s something strange and that it should be stopped.”
However, she claims that certain teachers and students at Kenya’s theological institutions are supportive of her 300-member LGBTQ church.
“We call the pupils the future generation, tomorrow’s leaders,” she explained. “I believe nothing will be able to unsettle us if we have that populace on our side.”