Canterbury Has No Authority Over Church Of Uganda

On Sunday 1 March, I was privileged to be present for the installation of The Most Revd Dr Stephen Kaziimba as the 9th Archbishop of the Church of Uganda.

So much was familiar: the warmth, colour and vitality of the worship; the courtesy with which the many guests and dignitaries were recognised; the gospel-centred preaching; and, of course, the length of the service – which at around six hours is normal for such occasions in Africa, but can be quite a shock to international guests!

Significant change

But although the form was familiar, some deeply significant changes in substance were brought into focus that point to how Anglican identity is changing in the 21st century. As was the case in 2012 for the enthronement of Archbishop Stanley Ntagali, the preacher was the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), then Archbishop Bob Duncan, now Archbishop Foley Beach (notwithstanding that according to the Archbishop of Canterbury he is simply an ecumenical partner).

And now in 2020, that recognition was made quite explicit in the new Archbishop’s Charge. Referring to both the ACNA and the more-recently formed Anglican Church in Brazil, Archbishop Kaziimba affirmed ‘They are not ecumenical partners, but genuine Anglicans’ and they lead ‘Bible-based alternatives to the liberal Anglican Churches that forced out their Bible-believing founding bishops and clergy’.

This shift from an institutional identity to a more consciously confessional Anglicanism, which is at the core of the GAFCON movement, was reflected in the structure of the service itself. Archbishop Welby’s role was simply that of a regional Primate amongst others. As the Church of Uganda’s Press Release stated: ‘Greetings were brought by Anglican representatives from global regions – The Most Revd and Rt. Hon. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England, brought greetings from England, the UK and Europe.’

For the avoidance of any doubt, the press release stated plainly: ‘The Archbishop of Canterbury has no authority over the Church of Uganda and his presence was not required for a new Archbishop of Uganda to be installed.’

The reason for this need to disassociate from Canterbury’s authority is then made clear: ‘The Church of Uganda is, in fact, concerned about the Archbishop of Canterbury’s support for homosexuality and same-sex unions. He has consecrated a gay bishop in England, invited gay and lesbian bishops to the upcoming Lambeth conference, and promotes the recognition of same-sex unions in the church, schools, and society… For these reasons, the Church of Uganda House of Bishops will not be attending the Lambeth Conference.’

This is a remarkable statement. The reason given for non-attendance at Lambeth is not the presence of bishops from the notoriously revisionist Provinces, but the actions of Archbishop Welby himself. This should give evangelical Anglicans in the Church of England who claim that no action needs to be taken until the Church of England formally changes its liturgy or doctrine serious pause for thought.

Respect for British missionaries

So why was Archbishop Welby invited? The unofficial answer seems to be that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office severely lent on the State House. The official reason was to distinguish between person and office, past and present, with the observation that ‘the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury represented the appreciation the Church of Uganda has for the British missionaries who first brought the gospel to Uganda, and the respect the Church has for the historic roots of his office.’

So we should thank God for Archbishop Kaziima and like-minded Primates whose unflinching commitment to that historic gospel is set to bring deep change. As the Archbishop urged in his Charge, we need ‘to sharpen our focus so we are single-mindedly focused in everything we do on making Christ known in the power of the Holy Spirit.’

Charles Raven


Let’s Talk About Robots…

A few weeks ago, I attended a round table with a panel of experts, exploring a Christian response to artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

My primary mission there was to observe and to learn. It was fascinating listening to attendees discuss their fears and hopes for the future. Robotics and AI is a massive subject and it is complicated, too. I suspect the daunting nature of the issue puts many people off. But what is clear is that robots and AI are set to play an increasingly prominent role in our lives. In turn, this will prompt huge questions about the value of work and what it means to be human.

The best and sharpest minds are being employed by global companies like Google and Microsoft to develop cutting-edge technology to enhance and expand things like data collection. An invasive surveillance of everyday life is going on and nearly all of us will be affected by it. Change is happening very, very quickly. For example, it is only 11 years since the first Apple iPhone, and new models come to market with increasing frequency. Just think about the enormous and myriad ways smartphones have changed our lives. Alexa, Android, Apple, iPads, tablets and so on are prominent in families and even among children. Did you know that Silicon Valley’s mantra is ‘move fast and break things’?

Unsurprisingly, in this context, the round table was unanimous in agreeing that Christians must not simply ‘exit the stage’ on this issue. I am thinking especially of those working in tech industries, who carry the greatest responsibilities. But church leaders too will need to think through a clear, biblical position on the use of technology as young and old become increasingly reliant on it. So, what specific insights do we have to offer?

Fortunately, the Bible furnishes us with vital principles and teachings which can help shape the evolving conversation about the ethics of all this. God, the supreme Creator, has blessed humanity with ingenious abilities, and technology is part of our subduing the earth and extending our dominion over it. We do not want to be Luddites and anti-technology for the sake of it. But we must also sound a note of caution. The Christian teaching about the image of God, about humans as uniquely crowned with glory and honour and possessing eternal and immortal souls, must be at the forefront of our thinking. With all the changes happening around us, we need to stand against simulated personhood and simulated relationships and champion instead real, human relationships and the unique worth and value of human life. Ultimately, technology must serve us and not the other way around.

Moreover, our view of human sin means we can more realistically assess what is going on. Humans possess a unique ability to ruin what is good and to turn it to evil. Take Facebook. Its founder was convinced that connecting people around the globe was a good thing. In some ways he was right. But Facebook has also facilitated sin and evil in ways he didn’t imagine. Christians can offer much-needed checks and balances to the ‘tech evangelists’ of Silicon Valley.

We can also champion the need to prioritise protecting the most vulnerable from exploitation and harm. At the moment, power is being concentrated in the hands of a small number of ‘all-powerful’ tech companies. With God’s heart for the most vulnerable on our minds, Christians see the need to break up monopolies where power is too concentrated. We also see the need to protect groups like children, especially maintaining the adult/child distinction online where it is often blurred.

So where is all this going? It’s impossible to say. But what is clear is that the nature of work itself could profoundly change. The nature of meaningful relationships will also be up for grabs. I don’t think we need to fear the future. But we do need to prayerfully discern the times. The Christian faith, in its purest and truest form, has an essential role to play in shaping society’s engagement with new technology. Let’s pray for our brothers and sisters working in this space, for God-given wisdom, discernment and courage. To find out more go to: uk/cause/technology

James Mildred

James Mildred is the Communications Manager for CARE (Christian Action Research and Education)

Heidi: Loving Life

Heidi Crowter, a 24-year-old woman who has Down’s syndrome (DS), has launched a landmark case against the UK Government over abortion law which allows terminations up to birth for babies with Down’s syndrome and other disabilities.

The case is being brought jointly by Heidi and Cheryl Bilsborrow, whose two-year-old son Hector has DS. The aim is to stop babies with disabilities being singled out by the current law. A Crowd Justice Fund set up to raise money to bring the case to the government, reached the necessary £20,000 within a week. The target was increased to £50,000 to fund the next part of the case which involves appointing a barrister.

Media interest

Heidi’s parents Steve and Liz said to en: ‘When a solicitor approached a friend asking if he could help in any issues regarding DS she asked us if Heidi would be interested in taking a case against the government for discrimination in the womb. The answer was a typically Heidi enthusiastic YES!

‘There was immediate media interest in the story from The Sunday Times, Victoria Derbyshire, and Channel 5, amongst others. Interest was heightened because it was the first case brought by someone with DS challenging discrimination before birth. [As en went to print, the government had not responded to the letter.]

‘The prevailing response was support for Heidi’s campaign from around the world. The DS community responded positively to the campaign and social media began buzzing with #ImWithHeidi.’

In her own words

Heidi said: ‘When I found out that the UK law allows abortion up to birth for Down’s syndrome I was really upset and deeply offended. The time limit for babies without DS is 24 weeks. I think this is downright discrimination in the womb. What it says to me is that my life just isn’t as valuable as others.

‘I love life! I became a Christian when I was about 12 years old and was baptised when I was 13. I love going to church and singing hymns. I moved into my own flat when I was 20 and have a few hours of support each week. I’m getting married in July.’


A UN report by the special rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities (A/HRC/43/41) noted that the UK was singling out babies with disabilities and recommended a change in the abortion law. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities stated: ‘The right to life includes the right to survive and develop on equal basis with others. Disability cannot be a justification for termination of life.’ 92% of parents terminate after a prenatal diagnosis of DS. There were 3,269 disability-selective abortions in 2018 and 618 of these were for Down’s syndrome. This represents a 42% increase in abortion for Down’s syndrome in the last ten years, with figures rising from 436 in 2008. The Disability Rights Commission (now the Equality and Human Rights Commission) have said that this aspect of the Abortion Act ‘is offensive to many people; it reinforces negative stereotypes of disability … [and] is incompatible with valuing disability and non-disability equally’.

The law

In 1990 The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990 changed the termination time limit to 24 weeks except where ‘there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped’. Babies have been terminated up to birth for DS, cleft palate, and harelip under these Ground E terminations. Abortion providers have suggested that the law should indeed be equalised. However for them, this means extending the right to abort up to birth for all pregnancies.

In interviews, Heidi and her mum have been clear that this campaign isn’t about abortion choices per se, but about the direct discrimination being faced by those in the womb who have DS and other conditions or disabilities.