1/27/2006

The Voice of Shame and the Shame of Silence:

It is hard to know which is more shameful: (i) That the Government of Nigeria proposes to make unlawful homosexual behavior and freedom of speech and assembly for homosexuals; or (ii) that there is support of such proposed laws by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican).

Fr. Jake of “Fr. Jake Shakes the World” does a splendid job of spelling out the real scandal of the Church of Nigeria’s support for these repressive measures. He states at the close of his essay, “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.”

Several writers, along with Fr. Jake, have pointed out that the Church of Nigeria’s support of the State’s proposed repression of homosexual freedoms of assembly and speech is so far from the statement of the Lambeth Resolution 1.10 as to constitute a betrayal of the intentions of that Resolution. That statement read in part, “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...”

Voice of America online reports on the comments of the Anglican Church in Nigeria’s spokesman:

“The Anglican Church in Nigeria Thursday said it welcomes government decision to push for legislation to outlaw homosexuality. The government said it will introduce legislation to punish homosexuality by up to five years in jail and ban same-sex marriages. A spokesman for Nigeria's Anglican Church described homosexuality as an abomination.

The spokesman for the Anglican church in Nigeria, Reverend Tunde Popoola, says the proposed ban is appropriate. The Anglican community in Nigeria has long waged a vigorous campaign against homosexuals, as Reverend Popoola explains.

"The Anglican church in Nigeria has been in the forefront of condemning the attitude because the church sees it as an aberration, in other words, we see it as against the norm. We see it as an abomination," he said.”


It is not hard to understand the Church of Nigeria’s support. The political and social pressures in Nigerian society must be immense, split as it is by serious religious and social divisions. But in speaking out in favor of the proposals and by not distancing themselves from the repression the proposals will bring the Church of Nigeria succumbs to very charges it raises against the West, namely that of becoming subservient to the culture.

It is doubly disappointing that the Church of Nigeria has not spoken out against these proposals, since the Church has exercised some courage in denouncing corruption in Government. If the Church felt it could not speak out forcefully (which is what is needed) at least it could have called for further conversation and discussion, or something!

The fact is that the Church of Nigeria, and in particular the Archbishop, Peter Akinola, are indeed supportive of laws which will criminalize homosexual behavior and any assembly or speech in support of homosexual persons.

Stephen Bates, in A CHURCH AT WAR, asks, “Why has no one told Peter Akinola that he is a bigot?” (pg 306, new edition) So let us ask that. What is left of the Archbishop’s claim to moral virtue when he supports the suppression of any and all expression from homosexual persons? What is left of the claim that he assures homosexual persons that “they are loved by God …and full members of the Body of Christ.”?

And, while we are at it, shame on the American Anglican Council that can cause a critical comment on the persons nominated for Presiding Bishop to be written in less than eight hours from the time of the announcement of the slate, and yet does not seem to be able to criticize the support of the Church of Nigeria for the criminalization of homosexuals in Nigeria.

We might also note that the Moderator of the Network of Anglican Communion Dioceses and Parishes, seemingly a good friend of the Archbishop of Nigeria, likewise seems to have nothing to say about the bigotry inherent in the Church of Nigeria’s support.

And why the silence from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Episcopal Church?

What is going on here? Is it simply that everyone in the Anglican World is so embarrassed by the position of the Church of Nigeria that they are stunned to silence? Is it that no one wants to put the Church of Nigeria on the spot because relations with the State are tenuous? Perhaps the Church of Nigeria is unwilling to speak because everyone is jumping aboard the bandwagon to criminalize homosexuals in Nigeria.

Perhaps too no one really takes seriously the extent to which the planned limits placed by Nigeria on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of association run counter to the most basic of human rights and counter to the best hopes of life in religious community. But surely some people in authority in the church somewhere can speak out!

The critiques that exist so far come from various blog sites. That is not enough.

There has been an important and powerful (and short) essay in the Church Times condemning the proposed laws and asking the Church to speak up. That is a good start. There must be more. If the Church of Nigeria is unwilling to speak out, others must.

I call on the Archbishop of Nigeria to speak out against the repressive laws being proposed by the Government of Nigeria. If he cannot or will not do so, I call on the AAC and the Network to distance themselves from his support of this repression.

I call on the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Episcopal Church to issue statements critical of the repressive laws being proposed by Nigeria.

As Giles Fraser, author of the Church Times essay, “Would You Walk From A Lynching” says, “Forget the unity of the Church: not standing up to this is tantamount to walking away from a lynching.”

38 comments:

  1. Not to say how easy it will become to accuse anyone voicing any kind of criticism of the Nigerian goverment, and so on, of homosexuality...

    And have them put in the tin.

    It's been done before - in the European Middle Ages, from 1215.

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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  3. One does have to wonder:

    if Sharia Law is acceptable to the Nigerian chuch, why isn't Islam?

    when persecution is OK, how does anyone, begining with the craven Archbishop of Canterbury allege that Peter Akinola is or leads a Christian?

    If, as seems likely, the invitation list for Lambeth excludes +New Hampshire and includes ++Nigeria, how can any Christian attend?d

    Questions are blowing in the wind.

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  4. Mark, thank you for this essay and for raising these questions. I must say I was not at all surprised to see +Akinola supporting the criminalization of homosexuality. Incidentally, if you want TEC to speak against that action in Nigeria, then shouldn't TEC also be taking a moral stance in those states right here in the good ol' U S of A that have similar laws on the books?

    But! that being said, I must add I was shocked and stunned [and I thought surely nothing coming out of +Akinola's mouth could stun me anymore!] that the legislation proposes further to stop all homosexuals' speech, assembly, or efforts to engage in discussion on this subject. I assume it would also prevent any "heterosexual" allies from taking such actions. This is a truly terrifying prospect and, like you, I do not understand why no other bishops/primates are speaking out against that.

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  5. Yes, thanks for this.

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  6. I too am saddened but not surprised at the complicity of some elements within the communion and more specifically, within the Episcopal Church, in this ongoing abuse of basic rights and dignity in Nigeria.

    On the one hand I think that some of the Network/AAC people do not fully understand who it is that they're jumping into bed with. I don't know if they fully understand the extent of corruption in that country and in some of its institutions, including unfortunately the Anglican province.

    On the other hand, they may not care about this at all. They only seem interested in appropriating the provincial church name for their own uses.
    They may have simply reasoned that opposing the Episcopal Church on some issue or other is more important than allying themselves with a primate and even group of primates, who enshrine into law even talking about standing up for rights.

    If this isn't subverting and even destroying the requirements of the Gospel I don't know what is.

    I too note that within hours of noting the nominees for PB, the schismatics were able to write up a denouncing letter about them all, but they have not been able to write up anything about the deplorable situation and outright lies promoted in the Nigerian church.

    Their silence is very telling.

    I for one do not believe that they are acting with the guidance or assistance of the Holy Spirit, because many of their actions contravene everything that the Spirit has done and demanded from us throughout history.

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  7. Lambeth 2008 must admit what some of us have known since Lambeth 1998: that Resolution 1.10, so far from being the "mind of the Communion" on human sexuality, was a deeply flawed, politically manipulated, poisonous pastiche. The proof is in the unrelenting acrimony it has generated in the Communion since the moment it passed.

    The opposite ends of the Communion on this issue have not been able to comply with it; it has clearly failed as an expression of consensus.

    It should be repudiated and in its place should be adopted a resolution equally accountable to Scripture, tradition and reason and far more humble about what flawed humans may know of God's plan for human sexuality.

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  8. Anonymous, I hardly think it requires much from anybody on the "re-asserting" side of the issue - except, of course, to refrain from persecutions, and to treat all individuals with respect and dignity.

    If that's too much to ask, it seems to me the problem is not with Resolution 1.10.

    However, I agree with you it should be torn up, as it's not, apparently, worth the paper it's printed on.

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  9. obadiahslope29/1/06 4:40 AM

    "I don't know if they fully understand the extent of corruption in that country and in some of its institutions, including unfortunately the Anglican province.

    Every human institution is arguably corrupt, but it would be helpful if RMF could provide evidence for this accusation. ISTM that in the interests of civil discourse, we should restrict our posts to what we can reasonably provide evidence for.

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  10. obadiahslope,

    It is simple to provide evidence for it, as lately the Nigerian church leadership have been engaged in an attack and slander against some of their own members. They have disseminated lies and falsehoods.

    They then nod approvingly and state their clear support for laws forbidding freedom of speech and association. This is corruption in my book. How about in yours?

    If you are not up on this issue, I suppose that is something to find out about.

    But certainly the AAC/Netowrk people must know or should know. Yet their silence is persistent.

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  11. obadiahslope29/1/06 4:29 PM

    When you accuse a government or institution of being corrupt it generally means that they are taking money that they are not entitled to.
    I am glad you are not making this charge against the Nigerian Church. Thank you for the clarification.

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  12. obadiah,

    Well there are all sorts of corruption, taking and using money not entitled to is one, certainly. When we talk about institutions we don't always mean corruption to mean stealing money.

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  13. At least address yourselves to the issue and not the spin. The Anglican Church of Nigeria has expressed support for proposed legislation that outlaws behavior, not status or orientation. Debate that all you want but don't put words into the morth of the Archbishop nor attribute postions to him that he has not uttered.

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  14. " "Lambeth 2008 must admit what some of us have known since Lambeth 1998: that Resolution 1.10, so far from being the "mind of the Communion" ....."

    Yup, and then expel the bigoted who make it so starting with the arch-heretic Peter Akinola.

    FWIW
    jimB

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  15. Anonymous said, "The Anglican Church of Nigeria has expressed support for proposed legislation that outlaws behavior, not status or orientation."
    But are you allowing yourself to see how chilling that is? They propose to outlaw the "behavior" of arguing for civil liberties. They propose to outlaw the "behavior" of saying that people with homosexual orientation are fully human. They are not just outlawing homosexual behavior; they propose to outlaw any dissent from the status quo. Frightening. But perhaps an excellent model for the AAC/IRD and Bush administration.

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  16. Several comments, Lisa
    1. Read the report. There is nothing in the report that says the church supports the restrictions on advocacy only the conduct.
    2. Advocay is conduct. And it is advocacy of what is already illegal conduct in Nigeria that is propsed to be banned.
    3. No doubt the adoption of such legislation will chill advocacy. But why do you seek to impose out Western notions of civil liberties on Nigerians? We permit advocacy of all kinds of things that many other countries would not tolerate having nothing to do with human sexuality. I don't think the law restricting advocacy is a good thing but I am not a Nigerian and while I think that it is unnecessarily broad, the right of a goevernment to ban public advocacy of illegal acts is not without parallels all over the world and in all kinds of cultures.

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  17. Anon,

    Let me get this straight, the UN Charter of Human Rights is an imposition on Nigeria? OK, another reason to demand they go or we leave Lambeth.

    FWIW
    jimB

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  18. I don't feel qualified to articulate why the nation of Nigeria thinks it should ban advocacy of same sex marriages. But nowhere in the world is freedom of speech absolute. In this country, there are laws against obscenity and against speech designed to provoke a breach of the peace. "You can't shout FIRE in a dark crowded theater." Slander is actionable. You can't tell offensive jokes in the work-place if it would create a hostile work environment. People in Sweeden and Canada have been charged with anti-bias crimes for articulating a conservative Biblical view on homosexuality. In no Muslim country can a Christian encourage a Muslim to become a Christian. What "free speech" means in a given culture or context may be very different from what you and I understand by it.

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  19. Another tortured defense of tortuous reasons to not allow people to stand up for basic human rights and dignity. All of it clothed in lofty sounding words and strained definitions in defense of a church standing up for banning people from advocating for peace and justice before the law.

    Don't go to the Communion when the powers that be decide to ban Christianity or even mentioning Christianity.

    We will just point them to the cowardly reasoning offered here and point out, Sorry, some cultures unfortunately do not permit Christianity, because you know, like here, we can't yell fire in a theater, so where you are, you can't mention Christianity. Too bad you are in one of those places, but who are we to judge whether such things are proper or not.

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  20. Anonymous (why do they have to be anonymous?) wrote: "People in Sweeden and Canada have been charged with anti-bias crimes for articulating a conservative Biblical view on homosexuality. "

    Now, this was the spin, not the fact ;=)

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  21. Goran asks: why anonymous? Short answer - because I live in a revisionist diocese where expression of any view contrary to the view of our bishop results in threats and bullying.

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  22. RMF : Your comments are spin. Nowhere does the article say that the church of Nigeria expressed support for the proposed prohibition of advocacy of same-sex marriage. Attack the Nigerian government's position -- that is fine - but why is it necessary to distort what the Nigerian church has said? I am sure you are more than capable of addressing the merits of what the church actually said without having to put other words into their mouths.

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  23. Anonymous, I bet your bishop doesn't really care what you post on here. Or do "the tentacles of the Episcopal Church" now extend to monitoring the blogosphere?

    Is this what you believe the Church spends its time doing?

    At any rate, let's do a quick reality check.

    Those who have been inhibited in the Church, have openly defied their bishop and the Church by proclaiming that they are no longer in the particular diocese and that they are no longer in the Episcopal Church and that their bishop has no authority over them.

    The bishop then says, well, alright, and defrocks the priest.

    Isn't this the sort of authority to correct and guide, that many of the schismatics, hope they will get through an Anglican Covenant?

    Moreover, why do the priests complain, when they have already noted that they do not recognize the authority of the Church or of the bishop? By inhibiting them, the Church is signaling that they too recognize that the priest has left the flock.

    Sadly, it is perhaps only after the formalizing of the break, that the priest and his congregation realize what they have done.

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  24. Anoynmous,

    As I said in my previous comment, this has been an ongoing issue. You may need to brush up more fully before lodging the "spin" stuff.

    There is no spin here.

    This is fact. And it is shocking.

    There are other reports besides the one from the BBC, in Nigeria and out of it, where the Church in Nigeria has clearly stated its support for the government's position to ban even advocacy.

    They do not make a secret of it. They are happy to publicize it.

    And then there are the actions of the Church leadership there, on this issue as it applies to specific members of the Church, which is as sorry a state of affairs as I have ever witnessed coming from Church leadership.

    This is a serious matter impacting the lives of real people and not an arena for "spin."

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  25. Many concerned comments here but most pretty clueless about the situaiton in Nigeria (or most parts of the non-Western world)and reacting from their own perspective. I can only say I understand those concerns but the cultural gaps are obvious.

    I seriously doubt Nigeria would have been so sensitive to this issue if not for the intense lobbying by Western-based gay right groups. You don;t find similar reaction in most other countries.

    I suspect it is not gays that Nigeria is afraid of but keeping at arm's length the powerful gay lobby in the West which is shaping much of the controversies of today.

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  26. Thanks, guys. You've dealt with "Anonymous" more gently than I might have been able to.

    +Nigeria supports the law. The law makes it a crime to advocate the position that homosexual persons are full human beings and full members of the body of Christ. It's that simple, "Anonymous." I'm coming at this from a Christian/Lambeth 1.10 construct -- not a Western construct.

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  27. Anonymous wrote: "Short answer - because I live in a revisionist diocese where expression of any view contrary to the view of our bishop results in threats and bullying."

    What a coincidence! I live in a "reasserter" / Network diocese where expression of any view contrary to the view of our bishop can result in... wait for it...

    Threats and bullying.

    So let's all of us make a deal - any, real threats and bullying need to stop from either side, but we all agree to be adults, display intellectual & emotional maturity, and learn to tell the difference between being persecuted and merely being disagreed with. OK ?

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  28. Goran - I am not making things up. It is Western lobby and pressure through media and $$ which leads to the fear of 'assemblies' and public debates on this matter in Nigeria. Such bans are not common in other Third world countries.

    We need to ask whether we are all concern for truth or propaganda. If it is the latter, Nigeria is such an easy target, with it's lack of subtleties and nuances in the way things are said in English.

    So keep finding faultlines and cracks to pry open the rest of the Communion if you like.

    All along, we have been quietly tolerating, compromising, discussing, agreeing to disagree, but the consecration of GR inspite of Lambeth 1998 and the various pleadings/warnings has made AND the subsequent arrogance and sheer lack of 'communion-awareness', coupled with in the past - years of manipulation and control - all have made it impossible for others to walk with you.

    We are magnifying a lot of smaller faults but ignoring the major wounds which ECUSA has caused the rest of the Communion.

    Please don't say I am making this up. There are of course good examples of Christ-likeness in cetrtain parts of ECUSA but as a whole, 815 has to be and do a lot more to convince the rest of the Communion. By the signs of it thus far, we can only hope in vain.

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  29. You are making things up.

    You also made things up in your post on Sweden, my country, where we too have our own languages, making us less than proficient and nuanced in foreign languages...

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  30. Anonymous: you really know how to destroy any remaining shreds of your own credibility, don't you?

    From the same sicko thinking which produced the (so-called) "World-Wide Jewish Conspiracy" {Run! Or better yet, Kill!!!} comes

    the powerful gay lobby in the West which is shaping much of the controversies of today

    This "blame the victim" rhetoric is demonic: I rebuke it in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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  31. The Nigerian government has every right to prohibit non-Nigerians participation in its internal politics. Every country has that right -- most exercise it. Americans were rightly outraged when an English newspaper attempted to intervene in our last presidential election.

    That said, the law the Nigeran heretics are supporting does not prohibit forign intervention, it prohibits citizens peacefully seeking to influence the laws of their own country. That is a clear violation of human right, the UN Charter of Human Rights and a fair number of treaties the Nigerian government has signed.

    It is also simply evil. And the Church's endorsement is evil. Once a government or a church starts defining some people in and others out of the human family, the road to Treblinka is open and the direction clear.

    FWIW
    jimB

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  32. J C Fisher

    It is not imaginary, i can tell you that. If you think it destroy my credibility - it's up to you to judge me that way. And I am not the sort who succumb to controversies (and dont many posts here suggest that kind of thinking too?)

    In my country - the lobby is constant - media, business, political arenas AND church. I have gay friends or gay supportive friends. It is never a problem. But it is a heavily politicised issue and THAT is the problem. Communities will know how to sort things out but some folks make it an issue and pressurise other societies in many unhelpful ways.

    No, it is far from imaginary. I hear it, I see it and I talk to people who are involved. Politicians, clergy etc. I am not suggesting it is a huge organised machinery or some sort of Da Vinci stuff, but the lobby goes on in places where it matters.

    And perhaps we can have some sensible conversation if you folks are not too quick to personally run down and attack commenters? And invoking the name of Jesus? Wow.

    If you want to hear echoes of your own views, well, maybe this forum is not what i thought it was.

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  33. So what about your spin on Sweden, Anonymous?

    I am prepared to hear your excuses.

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  34. Beyond the general uselessness of replying to posts by Anonymous, since it takes little to establish a pesudonym, so far the posts by Anonymous, whether one person or more, have stated that the posts are either spins, distortions, or in the end, another example of the creeping gay Western propaganda machine. If these are calls for "sensible conversation," you must start over with something else.

    If your aim is to just lodge drive by posts that insult and then claim that you are being victimized when you are ridiculed, don't bother.

    As far as interferece in Nigerian politics by outsiders, standing up for and demanding certain human rights and practices in other countries, hardly qualifies as unwarranted interference. If this is to be the new definition of interference, I reject that too.

    This issue is pretty simple. The Nigerians say there are no glb Nigerians, much less groups dedicated to speaking up for them and demanding justice and dignity before the law, which in Nigeria would mean at a minimum, not killing or imprisoning them.

    So to keep these nonexistent Nigerian people isolated, the government are passing laws to prohibit them from speaking out or even meeting together.

    They are doing this with the full applause of the Church leadership there, who have repeatedly issued lies and slanders against their own members who are glb.

    Now if against this reality you wish to posit some kind of sinister or otherwise creeping cabal of Western homosexual panglobalists then feel free to do so, but naturally we'll feel free to point out that the issue is real people, not homosexual panglobalists. We may even snicker at the idea of there being such.

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  35. Beyond the general uselessness of replying to posts by Anonymous, since it takes little to establish a pesudonym, so far the posts by Anonymous, whether one person or more, have stated that the posts are either spins, distortions, or in the end, another example of the creeping gay Western propaganda machine. If these are calls for "sensible conversation," you must start over with something else.

    If your aim is to just lodge drive by posts that insult and then claim that you are being victimized when you are ridiculed, don't bother.

    As far as interferece in Nigerian politics by outsiders, standing up for and demanding certain human rights and practices in other countries, hardly qualifies as unwarranted interference. If this is to be the new definition of interference, I reject that too.

    This issue is pretty simple. The Nigerians say there are no glb Nigerians, much less groups dedicated to speaking up for them and demanding justice and dignity before the law, which in Nigeria would mean at a minimum, not killing or imprisoning them.

    So to keep these nonexistent Nigerian people isolated, the government are passing laws to prohibit them from speaking out or even meeting together.

    They are doing this with the full applause of the Church leadership there, who have repeatedly issued lies and slanders against their own members who are glb.

    Now if against this reality you wish to posit some kind of sinister or otherwise creeping cabal of Western homosexual panglobalists then feel free to do so, but naturally we'll feel free to point out that the issue is real people, not homosexual panglobalists. We may even snicker at the idea of there being such.

    edit: ate my name!

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  36. Florida Episcopal6/2/06 9:09 PM

    Dear God forgive me. I started searching for recent human rights violations, with Church support, in Uganda and Rwanda. Then I realized that I WAS HOPING TO FIND IT, despite the suffering of the persecuted, to use against the African bishops who are plundering my diocese. I have sunk to depths I couldn't imagine even a week ago. Please understand, I am a "cradle" Episcopalian in the Diocese of Florida. Our own Bishop Howard, formerly of Trinity, NYC, who ministered to the dying on 9/11 and opened his church to rescue and recovery workers all of the following year as a place of refuge, peace, rest, refreshment, safety, and the presence of our Lord in the face of Hell itself. A priest who flung his church doors open for sanctuary as the neighboring towers came crashing down and death was all around has come to us! Now, here he is, holding together this diocese, a very conservative diocese already without outside "help", a diocese now under attack from the AAC/ACN because Bishop Howard will not turn our diocese over to the Network! Please pray for him and his Canon. They are doing an amazing job as faithful stewards while disgruntled Network priests lead their congregations astray and even try to claim diocesan property in the name of the "Authority of Scripture". Ha! Some seem to be fixated on Scripture when it is convenient to their cause. Isn't it wonderfully comfortable when Scripture lays down a law that I know I'll never even be tempted to break! My church is splitting; may they go in peace and find what they seek. The rest of us want to return to "feeding His sheep", but this petty battle is
    such an irresistable diversion. Please pray for us, all of us. It's so easy to lose sight of Him in the absurdity!

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  37. Hang in there, "Florida Episcopal": you will be in my prayers (along w/ your diocese, your bishop, and ALL the suffering Christians in your diocese---including those who want to leave it).

    That's the thing about being w/ Christ, on the Way of the Cross: we learn (again), that we have to rely totally upon Him.

    I'm sure that out of this cross, will come a much stronger Episcopal Church---and Anglican Communion, of which it is integrally a member. (Larger? Smaller? I don't know---but stronger, in the Gospel)

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OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.