12/26/2006

The Archbishop of Nigeria Digs a Hole for Christmas.

It was an odd sort of Christmas Present: an interview in the New York Times titled, At Axis of Episcopal Split, an Anti-Gay Nigerian, by LYDIA POLGREEN and LAURIE GOODSTEIN. It was posted from Abuja, Nigeria, with the interview date of December 20, 2006. It was published on Christmas Day. It is worth reading in its entirety HERE.

Fr. Jake has as always an interesting take on the whole thing. I hope you will read what he has said HERE.

Several additional remarks:

The article opines, that “Archbishop Akinola has created an offshoot of his Nigerian church in North America for the discontented Americans. In doing so, he has made himself the kingpin of a remarkable alliance between theological conservatives in North America and the developing world that could tip the power to conservatives in the Anglican Communion, a 77-million member confederation of national churches that trace their roots to the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury.”

The NYT speaks of a the Anglican Communion as a “confederation of national churches,” a description I think is basically sound. “Confederation” is certainly more apt than either “federation” or “world-wide church.”

The article then quotes Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., who says, “He sees himself as the spokesperson for a new Anglicanism, and thus is a direct challenge to the historic authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury.” Professor Douglas, who is a careful observer of such matters and not given to immoderate charges, confirms what has been widely understood: that Archbishop Akinola is directly challenging the “old Anglicanism" and the Archbishop of Canterbury. This, of course, has been a challenge in preparation for some time: the changes in the Church of Nigeria’s Constitution, the emergence of the Global South as a force working for a realignment of Anglican churches, the Archbishop’s leadership in several regional and worldwide religious organizations, all serve the ends of his challenge to Canterbury.

The article then states, “Archbishop Akinola’s views on homosexuality — that it is an abomination akin to bestiality and pedophilia — are fairly mainstream here. Nigeria is a deeply religious country, evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, and attitudes toward homosexuality, women’s rights and marriage are dictated largely by scripture and enforced by deep social taboos.”

The writers got the right items in this commentary, but the wrong order. My sense is that Nigerian attitudes toward homosexuality, women’s rights and marriage are dictated largely by deep social taboos and enforced by scripture, not as the article suggests first by scripture and then enforced by taboo. The claim that homosexuality is contrary to “African values” lies first in the taboos of the culture and then in the overlay of scripture.

The writers report that, “Archbishop Akinola spoke forcefully about his unswerving convictions against homosexuality, the ordination of women and the rise of what he called “the liberal agenda,” which he said had “infiltrated our seminaries” in the Anglican Communion.” If this part of the reporting is accurate, Archbishop Akinola weighs in finally in opposition to the ordination of women.

There is a quite revealing supposedly supportive statement from Martyn Minns: “Bishop Martyn Minns, the rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Va., who was consecrated by Archbishop Akinola this year to serve as his missionary bishop in North America, said Archbishop Akinola was motivated by a conviction that the Anglican Communion must change its colonial-era leadership structure and mentality.

“He doesn’t want to be the man; he just no longer wants to be the boy,” Bishop Minns said. “He wants to be treated as an equal leader, with equal respect.”

Well, the NYT got it mostly right. Bishop Minns, since his consecration, has been priest in charge of Truro Church. That ends in just six days. Bishop Minns may be motivated by the notion that ails the Anglican Communion is “its colonial-era leadership structure and mentality,” but I must presume his motivation includes wanting to do something about it, namely to assist in the Archbishop’s challenge to Canterbury.

Bishop Minns “boy” and “man” observation has so many layers to it that it is hard to know where to start. Perhaps it is enough to say that it has been a long time since any one I can think of would ever think of the Archbishop as anybody’s “boy.” As to his being treated as an “equal leader, with equal respect,” I would certainly hope that was the case.

Over the past months there has been considerable concern for the Archbishop’s support of Nigerian legislation criminalizing homosexuality and any expression of support for gay and lesbian rights.

The NYT article quotes the Archbishop as saying, “No bishop in this church will go out and say, ‘This man is gay, put him in jail.’ ”

The writers reported that the Archbishop “added, Nigeria has the right to pass such a law if it reflects the country’s values. “Does Nigeria tell America what laws to make?” he said. “Does Nigeria tell England what laws to make? This arrogance, this imperial tendency, should stop for God’s sake.”

Archbishop Akinola equates criticism of this law with imperial tendencies. In an earlier letter to the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), which is a Church of Nigeria “mission” in the United States with Bishop Minns as its bishop, the Archbishop roundly criticized those who believe him wrong for NOT speaking out on matters of religious rights and social concerns.

There he said, http://www.canaconvocation.org/news/ “I am troubled, however, by the silence of outside commentators concerning the rights of the clergy, Christians, and particularly converts to our Church whose lives are threatened and too often destroyed because of mob violence. I see no evidence of compassion for those whose rights are trampled on because of the imposition of unjust religious laws in many parts of the world. There seems to be a strange lack of interest in this issue.”

The Archbishop wants the voice of ‘outside commentators’ on these matters, but considers such voices an “imperial tendency” when they are directed against him. He also doesn’t know what he is talking about: the imposition of unjust religious laws has come under considerable scrutiny by churches and a wide range of religious commentators in the US and elsewhere in the West.

The last few sentences of the New York Times report reveals more than we may ever want to know about the Archbishop:

“Self-seeking, self-glory, that is not me,” he said. “No. Many people say I embarrass them with my humility.”

Anyone who criticizes him as power-seeking is simply trying to undermine his message, he said. “The more they demonize, the stronger the works of God,” he said.”

The reporters, Lydia Polgreen and Laurie Goodstein have given us a remarkable and devastating view of the Archbishop.

This article was indeed a strange gift, but finally an important contribution to understanding both the Archbishop and his US missionary bishop, Bishop Minns. The Archbishop is digging a hole out of which he will not be able to climb, and Bishop Minns is offering the sort of help that will only make the hole deeper.

No matter that the members of the parishes who voted to leave the Episcopal Church for better climes were told otherwise, they are entering into a relationship with an Archbishop that sees criticism as demonizing, supports either passively or actively proposed Nigerian legislation that will severely restrict freedom of speech, is against the ordination of women, the “liberal agenda.” They have opted for leadership from someone who is also contending for leadership of the Anglican Communion, is not committed to the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and is working for communion wide “realignment” away from a confederation to a more metropolitical structure.

Well the hole gets deeper all the time, and one wonders how long it will be before things begin to unravel.

14 comments:

  1. Thank you Mark for the excellent recap of Akinolan tunnelvision digging and bailing...

    Unravel? You betcha, there are too many smart folks in North Virginia to keep
    "walk'n the walk" when the a nutso shepard is leading them off a cliff.

    Sooner, rather than later, things will change. +Minns needs to continue with his former retirement plans unless Akinola Grandstands in Nigeria and gets the "legislation" dropped!

    Kaplunk!

    Only one way...Jose!

    Bite the poison bullet and then see what ya got (Bush is doing the same thing this weekend in Texas but he may not be as smart as +Akinola is shifty).

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  2. Akinola's Gospel.

    Wow.

    I am most grateful, Mark, for your cross-cultural analysis:

    The writers got the right items in this commentary, but the wrong order. My sense is that Nigerian attitudes toward homosexuality, women’s rights and marriage are dictated largely by deep social taboos and enforced by scripture, not as the article suggests first by scripture and then enforced by taboo. The claim that homosexuality is contrary to “African values” lies first in the taboos of the culture and then in the overlay of scripture.

    Akinola seems perfectly capable of hanging himself as far as the American media is concerned.

    He is certainly not alleviating any headache he has created for Truro, Fall Church, et. al.

    Good news? I think Charlie Brown said it best, "Good grief!"

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  3. Well done ... my PERSONAL favorite part was being reminded that woman was created "as companion" to man ... ah yes, timely reminder, eh??? Happy 2nd Day of Christmas, All!

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  4. ++Desmond Tutu is a humble man in spite of his many successes and honors. You don't hear him talking about how humble he is. Mother Teresa didn't talk about her humility either; her work confirmed the gospel she believed in and the humility with which she did that work with no need to tell people how humble she was. True humility doesn't talk about itself. That's pure pride.

    It is ironic that ++Akinola insists Nigeria and its Anglican Church should be allowed to pass whatever legislation or regulation they feel are proper without comment or condemnation from any other part of the world. What seems contractory is that he does not give that same grace to the US and especially to TEC. We must conform to His Grace of Abuja but without any real reciprocation from him. This is not humility -- this is pure arrogance. Sorry, but that's precisely how it looks to this person in the Episcopalian pew.

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  5. My spiritual director has long held before me that anger is most often, if not always, rooted in fear. There is little else to add except to reflect for a moment on the roots of the current crisis in the Anglican Communion through that important piece of understanding.

    The most unnerving thing about the recent article in The New York Times about Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria is not so much what he says, but how he reflects in his words and actions a deeply rooted anxiety -- fear -- that resides at the center of so much of the vitriol on all sides of the rifts we suffer from in our faith community at present.

    We live in an age of fear. I don't have the experience to say if it is more so now than at other times in world history, but the language of the great movers and shakers of our day reflects the root of so much driving the human family at the present time: war on terror, insurgents, evil ones.

    Even the language of Anglicanism in our day, with all its subtleties, has overtones of fear: the title of the Windsor Report: "Walking Apart". Impaired Communion. Canonical Violations. Episcobabble. Voluntary withdrawal. Strained bonds of affection. And some old Christian standbys: heretics, schismatics, apostasy.

    I dare not venture to argue which side likes to use the fear language more. It is too easy to demonize. And demonization is a child of fear.

    We have a common enemy, perhaps among the oldest and most devious and universal of demonic tools: fear.

    We fear the other. We fear those who disagree with us. We worry about the ones who might try to harm us if we dissent.

    The antithesis of fear is, of course, courage, but more importantly, daring to love in the midst of such heated attacks and rages of fear, even as it burns holes in our communities and digs chasms that appear impassable.

    I confess for myself and to God that I want to start looking for this new way out of fear in the New Year. So I learn to stand in solidarity with those who suffer most from fear, be it their own or those of others. Perhaps there we have more in common, be we "progressive" or "conservative," "reasserters" or "reappraisers."

    And we have Christ in common. And Christ is born in our hearts, leading us to resurrection, to be born again. Born again free from fear, and to stand anew with the One who is ushering in a new day.

    The Christians better than I will be standing outside the fear in the days to come. Help me watch for them and may we learn from them together.

    God's peace.

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  6. Fear and Hate! Yep, no doubt about it...purposely generating extreme FEAR/HATE is immoral (care to review our last years with Bush, Rove, Rumsfeld and "The Network"...on and on, the weapon of mass destruction is FEAR.

    Where's TRUST in God? TRUST, can't exist without paying attention to the distractions and the dishonorable hype of hate and demoralizing others...and getting "instincts" more rightsized instead to OVERSIZED to get whatever it is that you think you MUST HAVE or MUST KEEP!

    Fear!

    Here is a link to the History of Homosexuality in prehistorical Africa...it seems that not only were there "words" for homosexuality but there was plenty of it even in Akinolas neighborhood. Lies that promote fear, intollerance and HATE must be FACED FULL FRONT...confrontation, loving or not, is the responsible response to the promoters of fear, hate and shame...NO means no and I congratulate you "r" for speaking of the REAL instigator of our "current circumstances"...the only way out is to face the FALSE reality on every issue and to then rely on GOD for a clearer and cleaner road to peace...peace, in every area of our lives, Christian or not, ready or not, it's time for REALITY:

    (scroll down to ancient beliefs and homosexuality in prehistoric Africa or read it ALL)

    http://www.bidstrup.com/phobiahistory.htm

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  7. I wonder what BabyBlue has to say about this...

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  8. “Why didn’t God make a lion to be a man’s companion?” Archbishop Akinola said at his office here in Abuja. “Why didn’t he make a tree to be a man’s companion? Or better still, why didn’t he make another man to be man’s companion? So even from the creation story, you can see that the mind of God, God’s intention, is for man and woman to be together.”

    I can't believe such a shallow analogy was said by a bishop... And by the way, isn't he a "lion against the liberal agenda" according to several friends he has?

    I bet his wife is in severe danger...

    “Why didn’t God make a lion to be a man’s companion?”

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  9. David Virtue seems to excel in "fear mongering", as he reviews the events of 2006 in relation to TEC. He writes:

    "It was a year that witnessed The Episcopal Church's continued decline into the morass of moral relativism by a church already on a slippery slope to oblivion. From hetero to homo, from transgendered to bisexual...can polymory be far behind? (Polymory defined as a new theory of marriage and bonding in which people can have a legitimate multi partner relationship, and still maintain a high level of egalitarianism.)"

    John Henry

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  10. I just had a very ugly mental picture of Virtueless surreptitiously fondling himself as he wrote that bit about polyamory.

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  11. Akinola is emerging as a prophet.

    One of the amazing things about the whole gay controversy is that homosexuality is presented as the equivalent of heterosexuality, and yet no evidence is ever presented to validate that. The evidence is completely on the other side — the emotional agony of unfaithfulness (almost without exception in gay relationships, the physical suffering of gays experiencing many times the prevalence of several diseases, and the social turmoil it creates by creating families without fathers and families without mothers. We search absolutely in vain for evidence on the other side of the equation in any of these three areas.

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  12. Yes, a prophet in the Church of Hate, where anon and many others will happily line up to administer the osculum infame.

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  13. Well,
    here is one well-annotated report regarding gay and lesbian couples and their families in the United States, referencing recent scientific studies, and issued by the American Psychological Association, which, until only a few decades ago, regarded homosexuality as a disorder.

    Evidence you may not agree with, but evidence just the same.

    God's peace.

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  14. I apologize for barging in in this fashion, but I hope that the issue I’m raising is one that you and your readers will find of great interest. At least I hope you will! Thanks for reading on:

    Celebrate Evolution Sunday – 11 February 2007

    By Michael Zimmerman

    The Second Annual Evolution Sunday will occur on February 11th 2007. Your help is needed to make this day a success. This date is an opportunity for congregations across the country (indeed, around the world) to join together to discuss the compatibility of religion and science. Evolution Sunday is being sponsored by The Clergy Letter Project, a collection of more than 10,400 members of the Christian clergy who have signed a letter asserting that Christianity and modern evolutionary science need not be at odds with one another.

    In a two paragraph plea (reproduced below), these Christian clergy members assert that they “believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests.” They go on to urge that modern evolutionary theory rather than any form of creationism or intelligent design be taught in our country’s public schools and conclude by requesting that “We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.”

    One of the main goals of The Clergy Letter Project is to demonstrate to the broad spectrum of Christian believers that, unlike what is being shrilly shouted by many fundamentalist ministers, a choice does not have to be made between religion and science. Because the two are compatible, congregants should feel comfortable accepting both. Additionally, the signers of The Clergy Letter want to go on record making it clear that those fundamentalist ministers are not speaking for the majority of Christian clergy.

    Last year, in an attempt to further this message and to elevate the quality of the national discussion on this topic, The Clergy Letter Project sponsored the First Annual Evolution Sunday event. On this day, 467 congregations from every state, the District of Columbia and five countries participated by hearing sermons, having an adult education class or a children’s Sunday school class, or joining in a lunch discussion group. While each participating congregation chose an event that made the most sense locally, together a major international statement was made.

    Last year, Evolution Sunday received a great deal of very positive national publicity with articles in virtually every major newspaper in the country. Indeed, the one in the New York Times was the most e-mail article for the week it appeared. Additionally, it is clear the event hit a nerve with creationists: both the Discovery Institute and Answers in Genesis issued press releases condemning Evolution Sunday.

    The Second Annual Evolution Sunday event has now been scheduled for 11 February 2007. If you are a part of a congregation, please think about having it participate. It is only by broadening the base in this way that we will be able to reach out to a growing number of people and, hopefully, improve the understanding that people have about the interrelationship between science and religion.

    Signing up is easy. Simply send an e-mail to Michael Zimmerman at mz@butler.edu indicating your congregation’s desire to participate along with the name and location of your congregation and its leader. Your congregation will be immediately added to the growing list.

    The Clergy Letter Project’s web pages provide more than 50 sermons delivered by clergy last year on this topic. Check them out at www.evolutionsunday.org. So, if you or a member of the clergy you know are in need of ideas, this is a good place to start.

    Additionally, if you are a member of the Clergy and have not yet signed The Clergy Letter, please think about doing so. A note with your name, congregation (optional) and address to mz@butler.edu will get you signed up.

    Most importantly, please help by spreading the word about The Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Sunday to others who might be interested in participating. Please forward this note to friends and colleagues and ask them to do the same. Please post this note on as many list serves as you can. In short, please help us reach more people as quickly as we can. Efforts like this will make a positive difference for both religion and science around the country.

    Michael Zimmerman, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of Biology at Butler University, Indianapolis, Indiana, is the founder of The Clergy Letter Project.

    Visit The Clergy Letter Project on the Web at www.evolutionsunday.org


    The Clergy Letter
    Within the community of Christian believers there are areas of dispute and disagreement, including the proper way to interpret Holy Scripture. While virtually all Christians take the Bible seriously and hold it to be authoritative in matters of faith and practice, the overwhelming majority do not read the Bible literally, as they would a science textbook. Many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the ark – convey timeless truths about God, human beings, and the proper relationship between Creator and creation expressed in the only form capable of transmitting these truths from generation to generation. Religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth. Its purpose is not to convey scientific information but to transform hearts.
    We the undersigned, Christian clergy from many different traditions, believe that the timeless truths of the Bible and the discoveries of modern science may comfortably coexist. We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth or to treat it as “one theory among others” is to deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance to our children. We believe that among God’s good gifts are human minds capable of critical thought and that the failure to fully employ this gift is a rejection of the will of our Creator. To argue that God’s loving plan of salvation for humanity precludes the full employment of the God-given faculty of reason is to attempt to limit God, an act of hubris. We urge school board members to preserve the integrity of the science curriculum by affirming the teaching of the theory of evolution as a core component of human knowledge. We ask that science remain science and that religion remain religion, two very different, but complementary, forms of truth.

    Signed by 10,418 Christian clergy member as of 19 December 2006
    z

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