2/11/2006

The Silence Continues


Some time ago I wrote on this blog about the support by the Anglican Church of Nigeria for proposed legislation in Nigeria outlawing same sex marriage, same sex relations and any action by anyone in support of either. I asked then, “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.?”

The exact language of that proposed law is now available and its terms are harsh. To cut to the heart of the matter, the Bill states:

  • “Any person who is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

  • “Any person goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.

  • “Any person performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.”

This proposed law makes marriage between two persons of the same sex impossible by definition, without warrant in the courts of Nigeria, any ceremony related to such a claim illegal, the persons in such a ceremony or anyone conduction, witnessing, aiding or abetting the ceremony a criminal, and any organization or meeting of gay people or their supporters to consider changing this law illegal.

The peculiarities of the grammar in the matter of gay organizations makes it hard to get to the crux of this part of the legislation, but the best read I make of it is that this law makes it illegal to hold meetings of gay persons to talk about gay issues, to publicize such or to speak in such meetings of gay relationships, in other words to have any substantive conversation about being gay. It seems to me that anyone attending such meetings would fall under the general description of “Any person who is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private.”

The question for us in the Anglican Communion is this:

The proposed law would make impossible any meeting in Nigeria related to Lambeth 1998, 1.10 and it’s resolve to “listen to the experience of homosexual persons” or its assertion that “they (homosexuals) are loved by God and that all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.” And the Archbishop and Church’s support of this law effectively says, we can meet with, respect, and listen to the experience of homosexual persons, but not in Nigeria.

The Archbishop of Nigeria has been a person of growing influence in Anglican circles and his voice carries far. Right now he speaks with two voices: the one which lauds Lambeth 1998 resolution 1.10 and claims it is the voice of the Church, and the other which rises in support of legislation that would criminalize the listening required by that very resolution, and subject “full members of the Body of Christ” to criminalized status, in spite of God’s love for them. He speaks, one might say, with a forked tongue.

Bad laws abound, and God knows we all have our share of them. But few laws are accompanied by making it illegal to meet to change those laws. Laws of these sorts are laws of sedition, laws making it illegal to rise up against bad laws, or bad rule.

Such laws should be particularly onerous to people of faith, for they make possible State control of religion. The law today may make it illegal to meet to criticize the laws against marriage of persons of the same sex. Tomorrow it may make it illegal to meet to criticize the laws governing divorce, or ceremonies setting persons apart as ministers of the Gospel. These things have a way of backfiring.

The question remains: Will the Archbishop of Nigeria explain himself, or do we assume from his support of these measures that he has no intention of providing any safe meeting places for gay Christian persons and no intention of honoring those parts of Lambeth resolutions he finds inconvenient?



18 comments:

Zafrod said...

I just want to commend you on your site. There seem to be so few people willing to both follow Christ and embrace the values of love and tolerance that he spent 33 years teaching. Thank you for reminding me that there are Christians leaders out there who are not afraid to speak out in support of love and tolerance.

It is hard for me to believe that the teachings of Christ will survive this period of hate and fear, but if they do it will be because of people like you. As a straight, tolerant Christian, I thank you.

Ann Marie said...

I have been struggling with this silence. A friend and I have been trying to think of ways we can show support for GLBTs in Nigeria and other places and call the leaders of the Anglican Communion to issue a call for justice. We have come up with a few ideas but are not sure how effectual they will be as lone voices. Does anyone have suggestions as to how we can effectively call for a stop to this silence.

janinsanfran said...

All I can say is that the behavior of the leaders of the Nigerian Anglican church hurts me. But I am far away ...

Ultimately, it is the gays of African countries who will confront their patriarchs with their inhumanity and thereby force them to deal with the everyday implications of their doctrinal obsessions. There is little we can do from outside that will help. Perhaps we can help mitigate the suffering that those African gays will have to undergo to bring truth into the world?

J.C. Fisher said...

I'm afraid there's only one word to say to this proposed legislation (and any Christian's complicity with it):

Anathema.

:-(

J.C. Fisher said...

(Um, "complicity with supporting the legislation", that is)

rmf said...

I suppose it's possible for Akinola to suddenly change course and allow a listening space for lbgt Anglican Nigerians, but he and the rest of his leadership, insist that there aren't any.

And anyway they equate same sex affections with crimes and subhuman activity. So the chances of anything changing from their point of view, are extremely slim to zero.

bls said...

It should be obvious from his open comments in the press over the past several years that Peter Akinola never had any intention of abiding by the Lambeth 1998 call for "listening." I mean, what part of "lower than animals" did we all not understand?

But it's good to have this all out in the open now. The Archbishop of Canterbury is making a huge mistake by deciding to stand with the numerically-powerful worldwide Akinolans and "historical Christianity." And so is the rest of the Anglican Communion; the silence is indeed deafening.

But as you note, these things have a way of backfiring.

bls said...

Meantime, it's past time to get awareness of this into the secular world and start raising voices against it.

The Church is hopeless, but the press isn't.

Anonymous said...

So, Akinola gets an invitation to Lambeth, and Robinson dosen't? Not being invited should perhaps be considered a complement!

FWIW
jimB

Thunder Jones said...

Wouldn't be nice to have a government that could oppose this kind of legislation? Are any governments challenging Nigeria for this kind of bad legislation?

Thunder Jones said...

Has anyone heard a peep of this on T19?

Tobias said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tobias said...

This Nigerian action is appalling on so many counts. I am particularly concerned at the apparent violations of the UN Declaration on Human Rights, particularly Articles 18-20. One can safely assume that the MCC would not be allowed to function in Nigeria -- the state is telling religious bodies what they can and cannot do; and freedom of assembly is denied.

I am even more astounded that +Canterbury and +Second Avenue remain silent on the matter: have they been so cowed by the Nigerians that they dare not speak? Are they afraid to risk being goosed by the gander -- called to task for asserting part of Lambeth's casserole without eating the whole mess of pottage? (I for one shy away from reliance on the shattering cane of Lambeth: if something is wrong it is wrong, whether Lambeth says so or not!)

Meanwhile, people are dying over cartoons; symbols have become reality, and confusion reigns. Is it any wonder that the moral vision of the world is clouded? (For a reflection on this, see my blog post )

God help us hold fast to what is good...

Prior Aelred said...

Tobias echoes my original comment on this matter at Thinking Anglicans & which I shared with the HoB/D listserv -- "appalling" is hardly a strong enough word -- also my distress at the silence from Anglican leaders (Rowan, I am looking at you).

This is approaching Orwellian "thoughtcrime" (except that it is actually proposed as written law, alas).

RMF said...

It is is disgraceful, appalling, even wicked, that the Church leadership in Nigeria are so proudly behind laws to persecute and exclude minorities.

Cantaur's 100% silence on this is shocking.

Lisa said...

Brother Tobias wrote: I am even more astounded that +Canterbury and +Second Avenue remain silent on the matter: have they been so cowed by the Nigerians that they dare not speak?
Amen, brother! And is this not the sort of item on which we would typically expect to hear Archbishop Tutu speak eloquently & passionately? What gives??

Anonymous said...

(Dave since there are many other using Anonymous) - I still think you have not accurately stated the position of the Nigerian church, but regardless, legislation making it illegal to advocate non-violent change in the law is misguided and discriminatory. The Nigerian church should say so. And we in the West should be saying far more about the murder of Christians in Nigeria by Muslim fanatics as well as the burning of their churches. (OUR silence is shameful). We should have much more to say about the murder of Jews in Israel by Palestinian thugs. (OUR silence is shameful.) We should have much more to say about the murder of the unborn. (OUR active support of organizations that promote such murder is beyond shameful).

Tobias said...

Another great irony, of course, in all of this, is that the alleged "slippery slope" that homosexuality will lead to polyamory actually seems to run uphill in Nigeria, where polygamy is legal, and even common in some areas.