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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis' visit to Africa has hit a diplomatic minefield due to the Anglican archbishop of South Sudan's condemnation of same-sex blessings as constituting "unfaithfulness to the God who has spoken through His written word."
In an explosive statement targeting Abp. of Canterbury Justin Welby, who is traveling with Pope Francis to South Sudan, Abp. Justin Badi Arama threatened to break communion with the Church of England after it approved blessings for homosexual couples on Jan. 18.
Anglican bishops led by Welby were violating the "clear and canonical teaching of the Bible," Badi warned on Tuesday, noting how the role of archbishop of Canterbury as a "moral leader and a figure of unity within the Communion" will be "severely jeopardized."
The response of the English bishops "belies the loss of confidence by the bishops in the authority and clarity of the Bible as we have received it. They are re-writing God's law for His creation; laws that are re-affirmed by Christ in the gospel accounts," Badi Arama added.
The primate of South Sudan also blasted the bishops' document on homosexuality as "a farcical compromise, with many contradictions, and no theological case made for blessing same sex unions."
"Anglican ecclesiology requires that provinces don't act independently of each other," Badi said, warning that "a Synod vote in favor of the bishops' proposals would be a major step in revisionism" and "inevitably lead" to a "re-configuration" of the Anglican Communion.
"The Anglican Church has always seen itself as an expression of God's 'one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,'" the primate stressed.
Archbishop Badi Arama chairs the Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches, a body representing 75% of Anglicans around the world.
"Archbishop Welby cannot compartmentalize his role as Primate of England from his role as 'first among equals (head of the world-wide Communion),'" Badi pointed out.
"He [Welby] says he will not personally use the 'prayers of blessing,' but his 'extremely joyfully celebratory' welcome of the blessing prayers, and his leadership of the House of Bishops in proposing this response, means that he is actually advocating false teaching from a biblical point of view," Badi observed.
"We will, in the grace of God, both defend and propagate this death-defeating, life-transforming gospel," Abp. Badi promised.
"The Global South bishops will stand firm on Scripture regarding marriage between a man and a woman. They will not compromise under any circumstances," Dr. David Virtue, editor in chief of Anglican news media VirtueOnline, told Church Militant.
"Some African bishops have already broken with Canterbury, it only remains to be seen if the GSFA bishops will follow. Or will they still stand by Welby and Canterbury? Will they declare that the Church of England bishops have officially become 'unfaithful?' Will they declare that 'severely jeopardized' means that communion with Canterbury is finally and irreparably broken?" Virtue asked.
In July 2022, Badi threatened to break communion with the mother church of Anglicanism if it went ahead with same-sex blessings, explaining, "We cannot just deceive ourselves, saying: 'Fine, we are together.' We are not really together."
"We cannot break bread with bishops who betray the Bible. ... [The Eucharist] is not just food," Badi said. "So if we are now saying 'God was wrong. We have discovered the truth,' then where is it written in the Bible? Being a Christian, you go according to what the Bible teaches."
In 2003, Anglican bishops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo unanimously condemned homosexual relations and said it "wishes to disassociate itself from relations with dioceses and parishes involved in homosexuality."
"The Anglican province of Congo condemns every immoral act which promotes active homosexuality as a cultural norm. The gospel purifies all culture and must be in agreement with Holy Scripture," the bishops declared.
Pope Francis will visit the DRC from Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 and then spend two days in South Sudan with the archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on an ecumenical pilgrimage for peace, the Vatican announced.
In an interview with the Associated Press published on Wednesday, Francis called for the decriminalization of homosexuality. "I would tell whoever wants to criminalize homosexuality that they are wrong," Francis said.
African bishops who support sodomy laws "have to have a process of conversion," he said, adding that they should apply "tenderness, please, as God has for each one of us."
Observers who noted that the remarks were targeted at the African bishops just before the pope's apostolic journey to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan slammed Francis for engaging in what the pontiff has condemned as "ideological colonization."
In 2008, the autonomous government of Southern Sudan adopted a penal code that prohibits "carnal intercourse against the order of nature," punishable by a fine and a sentence of up to 10 years imprisonment.
Same-sex marriage is not recognized in Article 40 of the Congolese Constitution: "All individuals have the right to marry a person of their choice of the opposite sex and to create a family."