Anglican archbishop thanks Uganda’s leaders for nation’s harsh new anti-LGBTQ+ law

By David Paulsen
Posted May 31, 2023
Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba

Uganda Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba has led the East African province since March 2020. Photo: Church of Uganda

[Episcopal News Service] Anglican Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba of Uganda praised the country’s newly ratified anti-LGBTQ+ law, which has been condemned worldwide by religious leaders and government officials for further criminalizing homosexuality in the East African country and toughening punishments to include the death penalty in some cases.

Kaziimba issued his statement on behalf of the Anglican province he leads, saying the church is “grateful” for the new law and welcomed its passage by the Ugandan Parliament and approval on May 29 by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni. The Anglican Church of Uganda opposes the death penalty, Kaziimba said, though it would “recommend life imprisonment instead” for those crimes.

“Homosexuality is currently a challenge in Uganda because it is being forced on us by outside, foreign actors against our will, against our culture, and against our religious beliefs,” Kaziimba said.

The law has been called one of the harshest anti-gay measures in the world. It adds the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which could include transmitting HIV/AIDS or engaging in sex with someone with a disability. Other convictions for same-sex intercourse could be punished by life in prison, while “promotion of homosexuality” carries a sentence of up to 20 years.

U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement May 29 calling the law “shameful” and “a tragic violation of universal human rights – one that is not worthy of the Ugandan people.”

“No one should have to live in constant fear for their life or being subjected to violence and discrimination,” Biden said.   “The dangers posed by this democratic backsliding are a threat to everyone residing in Uganda.”

The law was enacted the same week as the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops released the final version of its Lambeth Calls document, which specifically upholds the dignity of all people, regardless of their sexuality. “Prejudice on the basis of gender or sexuality threatens human dignity,” the document reads.

The Ugandan archbishop, however, was among the African bishops who refused to participate last summer in the Lambeth Conference, which is convened about once a decade by the archbishop of Canterbury. Kaziimba and the archbishops of Nigeria and Rwanda have espoused hardline anti-LGBTQ+ views in justifying their provinces’ ongoing boycott of the Lambeth Conference and other Anglican Instruments of Communion. Their objections have focused on the more progressive stances on LGBTQ+ inclusion adopted by The Episcopal Church and some other Anglican provinces, including Brazil and Canada.

This year, a larger group of conservative Anglican bishops representing the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches announced they would no longer accept the leadership of the archbishop of Canterbury because the Church of England’s Synod had agreed in February to allow clergy to bless same-sex couples. The Anglican Communion’s 42 provinces are autonomous but interdependent, with the archbishop of Canterbury given the status of first among equals and seen as a “focus of unity.”

Many of the same Anglican conservatives gathered in April in Rwanda for what is known as the Global Anglican Future Conference, or GAFCON. Kaziimba, a member of GAFCON’s Primates Council, attended and spoke at the gathering. The conference concluded by adopting a statement outlining its objections to existing Anglican Communion structures while warning against the promotion of “sexual and gender confusion.”

Episcopal News Service emailed GAFCON seeking comment on Kaziimba’s support for Uganda’s new anti-LGBTQ+ law. GAFCON leaders have yet to respond.

In 2014, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby co-signed a letter to other Anglican primates that argued against criminalizing homosexuality and emphasized the Anglican Communion’s opposition to “the victimization or diminishment” of LGBTQ+ people. Kaziimba’s predecessor, Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, responded by endorsing and defending Uganda’s laws.

GAFCON has tacitly endorsed those laws as well. It issued a statement in 2014 that equated the global condemnation of Uganda’s anti-gay measures to natural disasters and terrorist violence. “We are equally concerned for the affected communities in Chile from the recent earthquake, terrorist attacks in Kenya, and the backlash from the international community in Uganda from their new legislation,” the statement said.

Consensual same-sex relations are illegal in 64 countries, about half of them in Africa, according to a database maintained by the LGBTQ+ rights group ILGA World. Like Uganda, Nigeria’s laws include the death penalty for certain offenses.

At the Primates’ Meeting in 2016, Welby lamented what he said was “the extreme suffering” of LGBTQ+ people in countries where their relationships are illegal. Participating Anglican leaders also adopted a statement in which they “reaffirmed their rejection of criminal sanctions against same-sex attracted people.”

Ntagali of Uganda didn’t attend that Primates’ Meeting, saying the Anglican Communion lacked “discipline and godly order.”

In 2021, Nigeria Archbishop Henry Ndukuba sparked outrage for describing homosexuality as “a deadly virus” and “a yeast that should be urgently and radically expunged and excised lest it affects the whole dough.”

Welby called Ndukuba’s language “unacceptable” for dehumanizing LGBTQ+ people. “I have written privately to his grace, the archbishop, to make clear that this language is incompatible with the agreed teaching of the Anglican Communion,” Welby said.

Welby also spoke out in October 2021 against an anti-LGBTQ+ bill introduced in Ghana’s parliament that had drawn the support of Anglican bishops in the country. ” I am gravely concerned” by the bill and “will be speaking with the archbishop of Ghana in the coming days to discuss the Anglican Church of Ghana’s response,” Welby said. “On numerous occasions the primates of the Anglican Communion have stated their opposition to the criminalization of same-sex attracted people.”

Regarding both Nigeria and Ghana, Welby cited a resolution approved in 1998 by Anglican bishops at that year’s Lambeth Conference. Conservative bishops have said one of their top priorities is reaffirming resolution, known as Resolution I.10, because it asserts the church teaches marriage is intended only for a man and a woman. The resolution also states: “All baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.”

More recently, Welby joined Pope Francis and a top Presbyterian leader in denouncing the criminalization of homosexuality, while speaking to reporters at the end of an ecumenical pilgrimage to South Sudan last February.

Francis called such criminalization “an injustice.” Welby said he agreed, though calls to repeal anti-LGBTQ+ laws have “not really changed many people’s minds.”

– David Paulsen is a senior reporter and editor for Episcopal News Service. He can be reached at