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FEATURE

Nigerian Anglican church in the dark ages


November 3, 2003

Nigeria's Ernest Sonekan (L) shortly after his arrival at the Cathedral church of Christ in Lagos (AFP) LAGOS — The conservative leaders of the Anglican church, led by Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria, have won their fight to stop the progress of the church towards a more liberal view on homosexuality.

Peter Akinola, the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, and Emmanuel Kolini, the Anglican Archbishop of Rwanda, in a joint statement made on October 17, 2003, said they had "experienced the power of the Holy Spirit moving among us" at an Anglican summit in Lambeth. The two conservative men had just persuaded the entire Anglican Communion to condemn the ordination of gay priests and the blessing of same sex unions.

Afrol News, describing 2003 as an "annus horribilis" for the Anglican church reported that as the issue of homosexuality had split the communion into one conservative camp - led by African archbishops - and one liberal camp of the Northern churches plus Njongonkulu Ndungane of South Africa.

Canon Gene Robinson, a gay Canadian priest, was confirmed as Bishop of New Hampshire, meanwhile, Oxford in England almost got a gay Bishop and the Episcopal Church of the USA approved of the blessings of same sex unions. African churches however, broke all ties with the Diocese of New Westminster and the USA Episcopal Church.

The victory of the anti-gay camp was almost total, Afrol reported. While the Lambeth summit reaffirmed the Anglican Church's "commitment to listen to the experience of homosexual persons in an ongoing process of study," all the gains for gay clergy and Anglicans made in North America and Britain this year were nullified.

The final resolution of the Lambeth meeting means that "the wider Communion cannot support the recent developments for the blessings of same sex unions or the election of Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire," according to an official statement from the Church. "Indeed, the ministry of Gene Robinson as a bishop will not be recognised or received in the vast majority of the Anglican world."

The summit thus blessed the "state of impaired or broken communion" with the Diocese of New Hampshire and with the whole of the US Episcopal Church for "many parts of the Anglican Communion," including most African churches. It however still remained unsure how these divisions were to "affect the relationship of each province with the See of Canterbury as the centre of unity of the Communion."

Official statements from the Lambeth conference include remarkably few references to religious issues - they do not even refer to the Bible - and only sum up technical details of the practical compromise achieved. They further illustrate that the conflict was not over religion but over conservative versus liberal world-views.

The fight indeed had been both bitter and loud. In particular Nigerian Archbishop Akinola didn't bother to stick to diplomacy as he reportedly lifted the rhetoric to Mugabean heights during the fight. The Nigerian Primate observed "the rich churches of the North" to be manipulative and to use their financial power to force the poorer churches of Africa and Asia into "heresy". Africa's churches now needed to become financially "self-reliant as a matter of urgency," Mr Akinola stated, while breaking ties with those Northern churches practicing "a new imperialism".

Akinola found comrades-in-arms among many of his counterparts in the developing world, where the issue of homosexuality mostly remains taboo. In Africa, Mr Akinola was joined by the Archbishops of Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi and Central Africa and by several Asian and Caribbean churches. His outspokenness even helped him get elected Chairman of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) two weeks ago.

Though the anti-gay campaign of the Nigerian Primate was successful in most church provinces of the South, he also met his most eager resistance in Africa. Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Southern Africa led the liberals' campaign against Mr Akinola. The Archbishop of Canterbury - the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion - meanwhile had to make a diplomatic retreat from his pro-gay conviction to take the role of mediation.

With two African Archbishops leading the two camps into the battlefield, the fight for a long time seemed to break even. The liberal camp however didn't possess the same arms as the conservative camp, which more or less openly threatened with a break-up of the Anglican Community. This price was, finally, too expensive for the Communion, resulting in yesterday's victory for Mr Akinola.

The Primates agreed to let the issue and the fight rest for now and not make any more inflammatory statements. Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria and colleague Kolini of Rwanda however still needed to celebrate their victory in public. While not mentioning the issue, their joint statement noted: "We are so grateful to God for hearing the prayers and cries of his praying people to preserve both the truth and the unity of the Anglican Communion."

In related news, while Akinola celebrated in Lambeth, Nigerian newspaper, This Day, reported October 16, 2003 that the Church of Nigeria had renounced in its entirety the declaration by some dioceses in Canada, the United Kingdom and America to ordain and recognise the gays within the priesthood as well as accept homosexuals for marriages, describing the move as not only madness but as satanic. "We totally rejected and renounce this obnoxious attitude and behaviour, it is devilish and satanic. It comes directly from the pit of hell. It is an idea sponsored by Satan himself and being executed by his followers and adherents who have infiltrated the church. The blood and power of Jesus Christ of Nazareth will flush them out with disgrace and great pains," the church declared.

In a press briefing to mark the 2003 Synod of the Diocese of Calabar, Anglican Communion, the Bishop, Rt Rev. Tunde Adeleye, lamented that such decisions of the European faithful were quite different from Nigerian thought, adding that the Episcopal Synod of the Church of Nigeria had promptly condemned the declaration.

"Our church is evangelical, orthodox, bible based, liturgical and charismatic. We do not find an example of [same] sex marriage in the Bible for us to follow," stressing that even animals do not mate with their same-sex as they seemed to be wiser than men in that case." Adeleye said.

He remarked that it was sad and disgraceful to mankind and the church as well as frightening to know that such a nasty idea was coming from the places where the entire world had imagined that civilisation emanated from.

"In one of my sermons in the cathedral, I did mention that this is immoral, sinful and unacceptable to both human being and animals. Those who wish to practice it must be far less than animals. We have no apologies," he declared.

Rev Adeleye also suggested that one way out of the current fuel crisis in Nigeria would be to build more petrol stations - at least three petrol stations in each state capital with each of the stations having more than ten selling points.

It only begs the question as to whether those who are so blatantly un- or misinformed should be given a public platform for statement at all, on any matter. –Behind The Mask


Previous Behind The Mask stories
Racism at Cape Town gay bars out in the open
Uganda queer activists write the president
"Unnatural practises" law stands in Botswana

 

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