Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Some Facts About Nigeria's New Churches in Virginia

From the Diocese of Virginia:

...The 15 churches above represent just over 7% of the churches in the Diocese. In terms of membership numbers, the 15 churches represent 11% of baptized membership and 18% of the diocesan average Sunday attendance of 32,000 as reported in annual parochial reports. In terms of financial support for the Diocese, in 2006 the 15 churches pledged $41,000 to the diocesan operating budget, nearly half of which came from one church, All Saints’, Dale City...
Note that those figures are not just about the congregations that joined Nigeria last weekend, but also those who had previously left TEC, and those who are expected to leave in the near future.

Yes, it is sad. But it is certainly not the mass exodus that some other sites, and even some of the secular media, have made it out to be.

I must admit to being surprised by the strong media coverage. Compared to other developments over the last few years, this one is not really that big of a deal. Some of the members of these new Nigerian churches obviously had some connections among the media.

Stephen Bates offers us a few words on this development:

...These groups have chosen homosexuality as a defining issue because they believe it is something that will unite and mobilise sympathisers in a way that other current issues in the church, such as women's ordination, have not been able to do. There is still a visceral distaste for the idea of homosexuality and the prejudice against it can be characterised not as bigotry but as something sanctioned by a few (and there are only a few) references in the Bible. Interestingly, the same mobilisation in defence of biblical orthodoxy does not seem to apply to other facts of life about which the Bible's authors were quite as adamant, pre-eminently divorce. Surely this can't be - can it? - because many more folk have experience of divorce in their families these days than of homosexuality, and that even some of the most outspoken evangelical leaders are themselves divorced...

...In the same spirit of Episcopal pick'n'mix, the American churches have chosen the Archbishop of Abuja, the Most Rev Peter Akinola, as their archiepiscopal leader; a man whose vehemence against gay people - quite in defiance of current Anglican position statements - has led him to vociferously support Nigerian government legislation which would prevent gays meeting, let alone campaigning to improve their status and condition in Nigerian civil society. His willingness to cross provincial boundaries to interfere in other churches is also, incidentally, against current Anglican polity...
Which leads me to ask again for an explanation from one of these Virginia congregations;

Please explain how ordaining gays and lesbians can trouble your conscience, yet throwing them in jail does not. This really makes little sense to me, and to be quite honest, is cause for me to question your motives.


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