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?