Interestingly the Living Church and TLC has published a story on these remarks, using quotations from what it says are from a press release of March 15th from the Diocese of Pittsburgh’s press office. That article came out on March 14th but refers to the press release in the past tense, “Bishop Duncan emphasized the context of Nigerian culture in a statement released March 15.” So TLC it appears had the press release a day earlier than its official posting.
The release was dated March 15th and as of today, March 16th, has not yet been posted by the AAC or the Network pages, nor has it appeared on Titusonenine, or the Episcopal News Service, or for that matter by the Diocese of Pittsburgh. David Virtue did post it. I am sure others, including the Diocese of Pittsburgh, will get around to it.
Here it is:
“Press Release for immediate release
March 15, 12006
The following quote was released from The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan, Bishop
of Pittsburgh and Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network today:
Bishop Chane’s comments betray a profound lack of empathy or
understanding for the position that Archbishop Akinola and all
Christians in find themselves in. During the last few weeks in , an
archdeacon has been murdered and two bishops have survived assassination
attempts. All were attacked by what appear to be Islamic extremists.
During the same time, Islamic violence ignited by the publishing of
Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed have claimed the lives of scores
of lay Christians and seen numerous churches destroyed in .
Further, it should be noted that while the proposed law sounds harsh to
American ears, the penalty for homosexual activities in those parts of
Africa under Islamic Sharia law (such as the Sudan and portions of
Northern Nigeria for that matter) is death. It is precisely the
imposition of these much harsher Sharia laws that Archbishop Akinola and
other Anglican leaders in Africa have resisted so strongly for many
years with little publicity or support from the West.
It is jarring, to say the least, to see church leaders, who claim to
champion the primacy of local understanding and culture, demanding that
foreign sister churches give up their own local understanding and
culture and be judged by an American understanding of individual rights.
There is a word for the one-way imposition of values – colonialism.”
The charge that Bishop Chane’s essay in the Washington Post “betray(s) a profound lack of empathy.” Well, Bishop Chane in the article is not questioning the Archbishop’s difficult ministry in a complex social and political context, nor is he (I would hazard to guess) unmindful of the religious struggles in Nigeria. Rather he questions the why the Archbishop actively backs the proposed law, given the Anglican Communion’s statements on the need to respect homosexual persons. More importantly, Bishop Chane asks the following:
“I also feel compelled to ask the archbishop's many high-profile supporters in this country why they have not publicly dissociated themselves from his attack on the human rights of a vulnerable population. Is it because they support this sort of legislation, or because the rights of gay men and women are not worth the risk of tangling with an important alliance?”
The Moderator’s remarks answer this question in several ways:
- The Moderator does not distance himself from the Archbishop’s actions but rather suggests that the Archbishop is providing a moderate alternative to Sharia law. He says, “It is precisely the imposition of these much harsher Sharia laws that Archbishop Akinola and other Anglican leaders in Africa have resisted so strongly for many years with little publicity or support from the West.” The Moderator perhaps does not remember the serious protests from the West of the Sharia law and its use of beheading, cutting off of hands, and other inhumane punishments that have arisen in the past. And perhaps the Moderator has admitted the harshness of the proposed Nigerian laws by making the comparison of harsh and harsher. Nothing however is said to the imposition of laws against public assembly and meetings to redress grievances. Human rights violations are very much to the point in criticizing Sharia laws, but also in criticizing the development of unjust civil law. For this reason the State Department has issued a criticism of the proposed law, and it is for this reason that concerned people of faith should also enter the conversation. It is also what makes the Archbishop of Canterbury's scathing atack on the US Prison in Guantanamo appropraite and powerful.
- Bishop Chane asks why there has not been a criticism of the Archbishop’s support of the proposed law: “Is it because they support this sort of legislation, or because the rights of gay men and women are not worth the risk of tangling with an important alliance?” The Moderator seems to support the law as the lesser of two evils, and he comes to the defense of the Archbishop without once raising a question about the proposed law itself, except to say that it is harsh. It would appear that the answer is obvious – the alliance is too important. The Moderator’s remarks do him a disservice.
In his closing sentences the Moderator says,
“It is jarring, to say the least, to see church leaders, who claim to champion the primacy of local understanding and culture, demanding that foreign sister churches give up their own local understanding and culture and be judged by an American understanding of individual rights. There is a word for the one-way imposition of values – colonialism.”
The Moderator seems to miss the point that the values being promoted in the question and challenge to the Archbishop are not “American understanding(s) of individual rights” but rights that are recognized widely by the community of nations as pertaining to all people – particularly the right to freedom of speech and assembly, and obligations that hold, supposedly, for the community of churches in the Anglican Communion to assure gay and lesbian members of the churches that they are Children of God and assured of the same dignity give to all persons.
The Moderator accuses Bishop Chane, and by extension other church leaders that are critical of the Archbishop, of colonialism. There is no doubt in my mind that very much of whatever an American Anglican says betrays some form of colonialism, for just as we are all at some level racist we also stand convicted of colonialism. And one day in God’s justice, the race card will be played along with the colonialist card, and when that comes we will all be found wanting. Meanwhile, casting the first stone will have its consequences, not the least of which is that it answers Bishop Chane’s question, and not to the good.