LONDON, United Kingdom, (AFP) – The head of the worldwide Anglican Communion Justin Welby on Friday said he had expressed his "grief and dismay" to the Ugandan Church over its support for the country's anti-gay law.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last month signed into law the controversial anti-gay bill, introducing draconian measures against homosexuality that have been described as among the world's harshest.
Under the law, identifying as gay would not be criminalised, but "engaging in acts of homosexuality" would be an offence punishable with life imprisonment.
"I have recently written to my brother in Christ, the Primate of Uganda, Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba, to express my grief and dismay at the Church of Uganda's support for the Anti-Homosexuality Act," Archbishop of Canterbury Welby said in a statement.
"I make this public statement with sorrow, and with continuing prayers for reconciliation between our churches and across the Anglican Communion," he added.
Kaziimba expressed support for the bill, saying that "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".
"The African way" is a "lifelong, heterosexual, monogamous marriage", he added.
Welby rejected Kaziimba's comments, saying "this is not about imposing Western values on our Ugandan Anglican sisters and brothers.
"I have reminded Archbishop Kaziimba that Anglicans around the world have long been united in our opposition to the criminalisation of homosexuality and LGBTQ people.
"Supporting such legislation is a fundamental departure from our commitment to uphold the freedom and dignity of all people," he added.
The Ugandan Church was one of 10 that in February said it no longer recognised the Church of England and Welby as leaders of the global Anglican Communion due to its decision to allow blessings of same sex unions.
The issue looks set to further deepen the divide between the seat of the Anglican Church in Canterbury and its international members, which make up the bulk of its 85 million worshippers.