Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

New West African archbishop urges govt to ban gay marriage

The Bishop of Liberia, the Rt. Rev. Jonathan Hart, has been elected Metropolitan Archbishop of West Africa in succession to the late Archbishop Tilewa Johnson of The Gambia.

At a meeting of the provincial synod held 1 May 2014 in Sierra Leone, Bishop Hart was elected by his fellow bishops to oversee the Anglican Church in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Guinea and The Gambia. The Church of the Province of West Africa is divided into two internal provinces: The Province of Ghana overseen by Archbishop Daniel Sarfo, who also serves as the Primate and Metropolitan Archbishop of the Church of the Province of West Africa, and the Province of West Africa, comprising the dioceses of Liberia, Bo, Freetown, Gambia, Guinea and Cameroon.

In a press conference held 7 May 2014 Archbishop Hart responded to questions from reporters on the issue of gay marriage in Liberia. Following pressure from the U.S. government in 2012, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf declined to support a ban on gay marriage in the West African nation, stating that her government would “guarantee people’s civil liberties.”

A backlash against what was seen as the US government’s interference in Liberian political affairs has animated Liberian politics over the past year, with religious and political leaders denouncing the linkage between US foreign aid to pro-gay government policies. Archbishop Hart told reporters that same-sex marriages and gay blessings were forbidden in the Episcopal Church of Liberia, and he had no plans to change this policy. “We as the Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Liberia have made a pronouncement that we do not condone same sex marriage; we will not allow it,” he said.

The archbishop urged President Johnson Sirleaf to take a stand to uphold marriage and enact legislation banning gay marriage, the Monrovia News reported. “We appreciate what the government will do, but we as a church need to take a position; we as a church must be able to say to our members that we do not encourage them to get involved in such practice,” said Archbishop Hart.

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