In the seeming flush of victory Bishop Minns of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and the Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) that ordained Bishop Minns, Archbishop Peter Akinola, have felt it necessary to dance through the fires of criticisms concerning the support by the Church of Nigeria for legislation that would clap people in jail for associating with one another in support of gay people. So on December 22nd two letters were published, one from the Bishop and the other from the Archbishop, supposedly in thanksgiving for the votes taken by several parishes in Virginia to leave the Episcopal Church. Much of these letters was taken up with the criticism of the support of this bill.
Bishop Minns had this to say:
“I want to address one recurring untrue accusation concerning our attitude towards homosexual persons. Our vote was not an “anti-gay” vote. We affirm that as Christians we believe that every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, and deserving of the utmost respect. As the Dromantine Communiqué (issued by the Primates when they met in
Archbishop Akinola wrote:
“Sadly, I have also heard that some are suggesting that you are now affiliated with a Church that seeks to punish homosexual persons. That is a distortion of our true position. We are a Church that teaches the truth of the Holy Scriptures and understands that every person, regardless of their religion or sexual orientation, is made in the image of God, loved by God, and deserving of the utmost respect. That is the conviction that informs our passion for evangelism and drives our determination to establish new dioceses and congregations. We have no desire to place anyone outside the reach of God’s saving love and that is why we have supported well reasoned statements such as Resolution 1.10 from the Lambeth Conference in 1998 and also the section of the Dromantine Communiqué, which condemns the “victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex.”
As I am sure you have heard, there is a bill currently being debated by the Nigerian Legislature that addresses the topic of same-sex marriages and homosexual activism. The Standing Committee of the
We recognize that there are genuine concerns about individual human rights that must be addressed both in the framing of the law and its implementation. I am glad to inform you that while the Honorable Speaker of the House, a Moslem, wanted the immediate and outright passage of the bill, the Deputy Speaker, an Anglican, persuaded his colleagues to allow full public debate on it.
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.
We are concerned about eternal destiny and the need of every person to know the saving love of God. We preach a Gospel for all people that not only offers welcome but also the promise of transformation. We are delighted that you share these convictions with us and look forward to mission and ministry together with you in the coming years.”
Well, we need to keep our eyes on the ball: Both Bishop Minns and Archbishop Akinola affirm that homosexual persons are to be respected as persons loved by God. But respect is not the issue. One can have respect, say, for a murder, and still work to have laws that will make life imprisonment mandatory for those who commit murder. Archbishop Akinola and the Church of Nigeria believe that sexual activity between persons of the same sex, advocacy of such activity, conversation about the possibility of such activity, and indeed changing civil law so that such activity might be legal are all crimes for which persons we respect as persons may be jailed.
Nothing of what Bishop Minns or Archbishop Akinola have written counters the claim that the Church of Nigeria supports the criminalization, or the continued criminalization of homosexual sex, advocacy of homosexuals and free expression of any desire to change the laws of the society. The proposed law in
So, contrary to the fine words the support of criminalization continues.
There are two comments that would lead us away from a focus on the clear support of the
The one is that what is being proposed is not as bad as the severe sanctions of Islamic law. So while it is repressive, it is not as bad as it could get. This is not compelling as a reason to support the proposed law.
The other is the accusation raised by Archbishop Akinola at the close of his letter: “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.”
There is no doubt that we need to be present and concerned for the lives of fellow believers in those places in the world where lives and property are destroyed by mob violence. In
Further, of course, the Archbishop suggest that there is “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.” To the contrary there is considerable concern about the imposition of Islamic law, the restrictions on freedom of worship in many places and the legal support of religious intolerance in even various sectors of the
Throwing us off focus involves these two ploys: (i) this is not as bad a law as might be otherwise in place, (ii) we don’t here you complaining about other repressive laws. Neither of these, of course, are what is being raised as a criticism. The criticism, once again, is straightforward: The Church of Nigeria supports legislation that criminalizes freedom of speech and assembly as it pertains to gay and lesbian persons. That’s it. There is an easy way to counter this charge. Simply say, “The Church of Nigeria does not support the legislation in question.”
They have not said this.