Southwark priests resign from canonies following Ghanaian bishops’ backing of anti-LGBT bill

THREE priests in the Diocese of Southwark, including the next Archdeacon of Southwark, have resigned as honorary canons of a Ghanaian cathedral, in response to Ghanaian bishops’ apparent support for the criminalization of LGBTQ+ people.

In a parish newsletter sent December 11, the Vicar of St John the Divine with St James the Apostle, Kennington, Reverend Mark Williams, wrote: “It is with great sadness that I inform you that I resigned as Canon of Asante Mampong Cathedral in Ghana. A bill has been introduced in Ghana’s parliament criminalizing LGBTQ+ people and those who support them. . .

“Unfortunately the churches felt pressured to support this bill and they did. After several weeks of discussion with the Archbishop of Ghana, church support for the bill has not changed in the public domain, which has left me and two other Ghanaian canons from the Diocese of Southwark, with no choice but to resign. This fills me with immense sadness considering my association with the Church in Ghana for about 17 years. Please pray for Ghana and for all those affected by this proposed law change. »

On Tuesday, he said there had been “conversations over several weeks” before he sent the email.

The Rector of the North Lambeth team, Reverend Angus Aagaard, who has also resigned as Canon of Asante Mampong Cathedral, said the Archbishop of Ghana, The Very Reverend Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith, had been an assistant priest in the parish for two years, and that “we all hope to continue our strong relationship with him”.

The third priest to step down as an honorary cathedral canon is the Rector of St George the Martyr along with St Alphege and St Jude, Southwark, the Reverend Jonathan Sedgwick, who is due to be installed as Archdeacon of Southwark in May. On Wednesday, he said the three had resigned “with a very heavy heart but because of the very public support of the Anglican Church for this legislation. We are very clear that we wish to continue in friendship and fellowship with our Christian brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church in Ghana.

Church of England bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury have expressed concern over support for the bill, which was indicated in a statement by the Ghana Provincial House of Bishops of the Provincial Church. from West Africa (News, October 21, 2021).

Bishop Welby later apologized for commenting without first speaking to the Ghanaian Archbishop (News, November 19, 2021). He told the General Synod in November that the Anglican Church of Ghana had not, contrary to reports, endorsed the proposed criminalization of the LGBTQ+ community in the Bill (News, November 19, 2021): a statement not yet confirmed in the public domain by the Ghanaian bishops.

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