Friday, January 20, 2006

Why Listen When We Can Beat, Defame and Incarcerate?

Thinking Anglicans has kept us informed regarding a curious story that continues to unfold within the Church of Nigeria. For those who haven't been following it, allow me to offer a brief summary with some background material.

First, keep in mind the following segment of Resolution 1.10 from Lambeth 1998 regarding Human Sexuality:

This conference...recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ...
Now consider some of the statements made by the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola in 2003:

"This is an attack on the Church of God - a Satanic attack on God's church...I cannot think of how a man in his senses would be having a sexual relationship with another man. Even in the world of animals, dogs, cows, lions, we don't hear of such things."

"When we sit down globally as a communion, I am going to sit in a meeting with a man who is marrying a fellow man? I mean it's just not possible. I cannot see myself doing it."
So much for "listening to the experience" in Nigeria.

In October 2005, a brave group of gay and lesbian Anglicans in Nigeria challenged Archbishop Akinola:

Changing Attitude Nigeria achieved national awareness today by having an article published in the Daily Sun, Nigeria's national mass circulation newspaper. The article confronts the Primate of All Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, with the reality of gay and lesbian worshippers in Anglican churches across Nigeria. It reminds the church of the commitment made by the Primates, including Archbishop Akinola, to listen to the experience of homosexual persons in each province and reflect on these matters...
For their efforts, Director Davis Mac-Iyalla and eight members of Changing Attitude Nigeria were beaten and jailed. Undeterred by these draconian tactics, Changing Attitude proceeded with their plans to host the first General Meeting of the Changing Attitude Network in Nigeria in November 2005. It is estimated that approximately 1,000 delegates attended, although this number was strongly refuted by the Church of Nigeria, with some claiming that the event never happened.

Unable to block news reports that offered evidence of faithful gay and lesbian Anglicans residing in Nigeria, the Church of Nigeria then began a smear campaign against Changing Attitude Director Davis Mac-Iyalla. As the Church of Nigeria's website is down at the time of this writing, you can find a tamer version of this scathing "press release" here. The one posted on Nigeria's site mentions Davis Mac-Iyalla by name. The CofE Newspaper carried this story on these accusations.

Changing Attitude has asked the Church of Nigeria to provide evidence to support these allegations, and provided some evidence of their own to refute this attempt to defame the character of Davis Mac-Iyalla.

Rather than respond to what appears to be a case of "bearing false witness", today we are confronted with a new tactic being launched in Nigeria; same sex unions will be outlawed. Archbishop Akinola is quoted in the news report, as well as having his photo included. Note this line from the report:

...Justice Minister Bayo Ojo said the law would also ban "any form of protest to press for rights or recognition" by homosexuals, the AFP news agency reports...
In other words, Changing Attitude members are now identified as outlaws.

Peter Akinola is the most prominent conservative leader in the Anglican Communion. The actions of the Church of Nigeria in this one particular story alone would seem sufficient to give anyone, conservative, liberal or moderate, reason to seriously reconsider if this is the direction the Anglican Communion wants to move in the future.

J.

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