...I want to address one recurring untrue accusation concerning our attitude towards homosexual persons. Our vote was not an "anti-gay" vote. We affirm that as Christians we believe that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, and deserving of the utmost respect...Nice words, if they are true. The Bishop refers to Archbishop Akinola's letter as evidence for the truth of his statement. Here's the Primate's argument:
...Sadly, I have also heard that some are suggesting that you are now affiliated with a Church that seeks to punish homosexual persons. That is a distortion of our true position. We are a Church that teaches the truth of the Holy Scriptures and understands that every person, regardless of their religion or sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, loved by God, and deserving of the utmost respect. That is the conviction that informs our passion for evangelism and drives our determination to establish new dioceses and congregations. We have no desire to place anyone outside the reach of God's saving love and that is why we have supported well reasoned statements such as Resolution 1.10 from the Lambeth Conference in 1998 and also the section of the Dromantine Communiqué, which condemns the "victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex.""The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria, in its desire to see the strengthening of marriage and family life in our society, has commended the legislators for tackling this difficult issue." The Archbishop has done nothing. It was the standing committee. They were forced to do it to strengthen marriage and family life. And all they did was commend the government for tackling the issue. Got all that? That is the new and improved line.
As I am sure you have heard, there is a bill currently being debated by the Nigerian Legislature that addresses the topic of same-sex marriages and homosexual activism. The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria, in its desire to see the strengthening of marriage and family life in our society, has commended the legislators for tackling this difficult issue. We have no desire to see our nation follow the path of license and immorality that we have witnessed in other parts of the world. And we also oppose the severe sanctions of Islamic law.
We recognize that there are genuine concerns about individual human rights that must be addressed both in the framing of the law and its implementation. I am glad to inform you that while the Honorable Speaker of the House, a Moslem, wanted the immediate and outright passage of the bill, the Deputy Speaker, an Anglican, persuaded his colleagues to allow full public debate on it...
The problem is, it is a complete and total fabrication, and a very poorly weaved one at that. One more time, let's revisit the official statements from the Anglican Church of Nigeria:
From February 2006:
The Bill against Homosexuality:From September 2006:
The Church commends the law-makers for their prompt reaction to outlaw same-sex relationships in Nigeria and calls for the bill to be passed since the idea expressed in the bill is the moral position of Nigerians regarding human sexuality.
Human SexualityNote that both of these reports, entitled "Message to the Nation, " have Peter Akinola's name attached at the conclusion.
The Church affirms our commitment to the total rejection of the evil of homosexuality which is a perversion of human dignity and encourages the National Assembly to ratify the Bill prohibiting the legality of homosexuality since it is incongruent with the teachings of the Bible, Quran and the basic African traditional values.
So, in the new rationale we have this statement:
"...we have supported well reasoned statements...which condemns the "victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex..."
Yet in the Archbishop's Message to the Nation, we have this:
"...the total rejection of the evil of homosexuality which is a perversion of human dignity and encourages the National Assembly to ratify the Bill prohibiting the legality of homosexuality..."
Apparently, in the Archbishop's mind, tossing someone in prison for 5 years is not "victimization." And it is not "diminishing" someone to do so, if that person's human dignity is perverse.
Either we accept this twisted logic, or must admit that one of the above statements is not true.
The only way I can see to clear up the confusion of these contrary statements would be if the Archbishop was to admit that the previous communiques were in error, and apologize for them. Will that happen? Don't hold your breath.
UPDATE: Jim Naughton and Matt Thompson have some thoughts on this. For those seeking a boiled down version of this latest attempt at spin, Matt offers a good paraphrased version of Abp. Akinola's letter:
Thanks for your vote. I heard you guys are concerned that you're now "anti-gay". Not true. I love gay people. Many of my best friends are gay people. I also heard that you're worried about the fact that I endorsed that legislation, not once but twice. Yeah, I know. It looks bad. But we don't want to be like Massachusetts or Cape Town, do we? I mean, seriously. And besides, there was this one guy in the legislature, an Anglican, who wanted to debate the bill. The Muslim guy didn't. Did I mention that no one ever brings up the fact that there's Shari'ya in many northern Nigerian states? Anyway, thanks for your vote.FURTHER UPDATE: The Nation covers this in an entry entitled "Holy Homophobia". The author emphasizes that the "blame it on the Muslims" tactic rings hollow in light of the evidence. Worth a read.