Long jail sentences for gays in African countries such as Uganda and Nigeria have been imposed by Governments with the support of local Christians. Typically, they impose penalties of 14 years to life imprisonment.

The laws have been toughened by Christian politicians such as Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni – with the backing of local churches.

Its been usual for critics to accuse Western Christians of going along with this state of affairs. But Eternity‘s video interview with Michael Ovey, head of Oak Hill College (a leading evangelical seminary in Britain), reveals that Western Christians have been pushing their African brothers and sisters on this topic. Conservative Western Christians have been pushing their African colleagues to oppose laws that punish homosexuals.

Ovey states that to imprison gays for being in relationships is against the gospel.

Ovey is a leader in the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) network, which is the key international grouping that links large African Churches such as the Church of Uganda (9 million members), Anglican Church of Kenya (4.5 million members ) and the Church of Nigeria (20 million members), with conservatives in the west, such as Sydney’s Anglicans.

In the video, Ovey states that to imprison gays for being in relationships is against the gospel. This strong statement by a world leader of conservative Anglicanism reveals a discussion between African and western Christians that has not been publicised. During his interview with Eternity, Ovey showed a depth of passion about this subject. He is convinced that using the State to impose a Christian view cannot be justified and, in fact, harms christianity.

A possible result of this sort of discussion was seen in in 2013-14, when the Ugandan Government backed down from imposing the death penalty for homosexuality, after the church of Uganda – a very conservative church – opposed it.

The activities of a small group of US evangelicals in supporting the original bill was publicised at the time, but what has remained a secret is the push back by Western evangelicals, who advocated a softening of the proposals.

A report by the London School of Economics (LSE) Institute of Public Affairs, published earlier this year, identified the Anglican Communion (the worldwide network of churches based on the Church of England) as a key institution that could drive change against draconian anti-gay laws in Africa.

It suggested a working party be set up, but identified more liberal Christians as the ones who could drive this change. Unknown to the LSE researchers, a concerted attempt to change African Christian’s attitude to laws regarding homosexuals is already taking place.

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