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.”