The Archbishop of Nigeria is not my friend.

Sublime thoughts from the Archbishop of Nigeria and others: Coming to a Church near us, the thought police with canes, pleas and blame.

Archbishop Peter Akinola was interviewed by ThirdWay Magazine this week. Church Times had a summary of that interview HERE. As usual, Thinking Anglicans is the jumping off place to the links to this. Thanks to TA. The web pages of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has been giving reports on their provincial clergy conference. The latest of these is titled "VC (vice chancellor) warns against dangers of sexual perversion."

The two together give some considerable insight into the patterns of supposedly Anglican thinking in the Church of Nigeria. I have for your edification made bold several intriguing ideas

First to the ThirdWay interview.

The Archbishop said, "
I wish the church had some law-enforcement agency we could encourage to arrest the arrestable, to jail the jailable, to banish the banishable; but it doesn't. All the church can do is proclaim the word, and it is doing it".

"As for the multitude in general - 'Oh, freedom, freedom, freedom!' That's what they say, isn't it? I call it 'permissiveness'. You have a culture of anything goes. You see a woman dressed so shabbily, all her chest open, you see a man by the roadside playing guitar, wearing only pants, you see - Look, parents have a duty. Parents have a duty. Teachers have a duty. That is the way it used to be. We have abdicated our responsibility. Parents, teachers, pastors have all become irresponsible. That is why things are going haywire....Don't just let - 'freedom, freedom, freedom!' Your child begins to grow up and do all sorts of things, you cannot even cane him, you cannot even reprimand him, you cannot do anything, they say it's illegal, because all sorts of laws have removed parents' control over their children. All this must change."

Later, remarking on the breakdown of relations with the Episcopal Church, the Archbishop said,

"I called my brother out, Frank Griswold, who was Primate [of the Episcopal Church in the
United States of America] at that time. I said, 'Look, please!' and I embraced him. 'You and I have come a long way.
For the sake of the rest of the church, please tell your people: We will have to close shop. We will have to close all our churches in Africa, and Asia. As a family, please don't!'"

Now, just to make it clear - The Archbishop wishes he had a law-enforcement agency. Well, of course that was a preachers joke...he has instead something more - the Word. But the wish is there, at least as a friendly joke. But wait, wait. No it appears that even if that is not possible it would be really good if parents, teachers and pastors, had the policeman's truncheon, aka "the cane." Caning would take care of the policing issue, eh?

And then we have the Archbishop pleading with the mean old Primate of the Episcopal Church to stop doing awful things because "We will have to close all our churches in Africa and Asia." Back in 2003 the Church of Nigeria claimed 15-18 million members. Now it claims 20 million - twenty million in the pew on Sunday, says the Archbishop. I am at a loss to see how the Archbishop's predictions to Presiding Bishop Griswold make sense. The church in Nigeria continues to grow and the Episcopal Church continues to work out its own vocation in the wider Church and in the Anglican Communion. It would appear that the church in Africa and Asia did not have to shut down.

So wish to have a law enforcement agency for the Church to go along with the Gospel. Barring that, teach the parents, teachers and pastors to cane their children. And, just for good measure, make sure that any failures in church growth can be directed to that awful Church in the US rather than, say, at the need for better teaching, parenting and pastoring in place.

Now to turn to the instructive lecture to the clergy of the Church of Nigeria:

The Vice Chancellor of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Venerable Professor, ChineduNebo spoke to the assembled clergy. The article reports, "Professor Chinedu Nebo "has harped on the spiritual consequences of indulging in sexual activities that contradicts the Bible."

The harping takes on a unique ring. The article reports the following:

“It's simply regrettable that the church which is supposed to offer biblical and scriptural guidelines is possibly in a dilemma. Much of the debates in the church over the issue on human sexuality are a matter of hermeneutics. These debates have arisen because of the interpretation and use of the scripture.

“The words in the Bible stand for ever the way they are. Too much of intellectual exercise in the interpretation of the bible is unnecessary! If we adopt an objective, literal approach to understanding of the bible, rather than a sophisticated approach aimed at displaying our foolish wisdom and intelligence, then we would be better off. The Scriptures when considered objectively are neither silent nor confusing concerning homosexuality. They always treat homosexuality as a violation of the divine order.”

The article then notes that Professor Nebo, "
called on Christians to be on guard lest they be carried away by the erroneous teachings of 'unprincipled' men warning that the ongoing but sad debate on human sexuality in the Church of God cannot be unconnected with the signs of end time as foretold in the Scriptures."

The Church of Nigeria seems to think it useful not to exercise the brain cells too much in the pursuit of biblical interpretation. It is unnecessary. And it makes it so much easier to realize that any sort of debate concerning the place of homosexual persons in the church "cannot be unconnected with the sings of end time as foretold in the Scriptures."

So what to do with the permissiveness of culturally warped people in Nigeria, poisoned by Western decadence? Arrest them (no, no, can't do that...no police); cane them (ah yes that's better); blame all the failures of family, church and nation on them (the permissives); and at the last remind them that they (the permissives) are bringing on the end times (which gives added joy to the caning and blame...after all if the end is coming whose fault is it?)

Remind me again just why the Lion of Africa isn't just a big pussycat of a guy, a friend of Jesus and a friend of mine?


  1. A differing view on the interpretation of Scripture:

    “Scripture requires exegesis, and it requires the context of the community in which it came to birth and in which it is lived. This is where its unity is to be found, and here too its unifying meaning is opened up. To put it yet another way: there are dimensions of meaning in the word and in words which only come to light within the living community of this history-generating word. Through the growing realisation of the different layers of meaning, the word is not devalued, but in fact appears in its full grandeur and dignity. ... This particular structure of the Bible issues a constantly new challenge to every generation. It excludes by its nature everything that today is known as fundamentalism. In effect, the word of God can never simply be equated with the letter of the text.”

    Who is this revisionist yahoo? Pope Benedict XVI, speaking today in Paris

  2. Or a friend of mine. My, oh, my! Is it any wonder LGBT Anglicans are beaten in some corners of the world?! What will the ABC say to this? "Now, now...let's not talk like that"? And what's this about not thinking? Are they really sure they're still Anglican?

  3. Nom de Plume12/9/08 8:42 PM

    "Delivering a paper titled 'Human Sexuality: Our Position'..."


  4. The words in the Bible stand for ever the way they are. Too much of intellectual exercise in the interpretation of the bible is unnecessary!If we adopt an objective, literal approach to understanding of the bible, rather than a sophisticated approach aimed at displaying our foolish wisdom and intelligence, then we would be better off.

    Absolutely. When the Bible says that the Earth has corners and rests on pillars, it means what it says and our part is simply to acquiesce. And let any would-be Galileos take notice: as the ecclesiastical authorities established in 1633, when the Bible says that God made the Earth so firm that it cannot be moved, that's that - the Earth doesn't move about the Sun, contrary to the objective, literal meaning of the Scriptures. It has to be the other way around. Let us have no unseemly exercise of intelligence when reading the Bible.

  5. Akinola is not the best face to put on the reasserter cause and many of his assertions are not admired. But "every blind hog finds an acorn". He IS right about a necessity to be guided by biblical tenets more than cultural norms. On that single point he is accurate. Hopefull his successor will strike the better pose and true Via Media (not interpreted as the middle way between culture and culture, but the middle way of theological extremes).

  6. If we adopt an objective, literal approach to understanding of the bible, rather than a sophisticated approach aimed at displaying our foolish wisdom and intelligence, then we would be better off.

    OK, I think we can call these people fundamentalists now.

  7. ninh noted,

    "OK, I think we can call these people fundamentalists now".

    That's too broad. It's necessary to believe in fundamentals on essentials of the faith, or else we are a meditation movement rather than a creedal Church. So in that way, we are fundamentalists. However, the questions has become tortuously clear: "what are the immutable fundamentals and their source?" Let's answer that rather than fixing the quick labels.

  8. I sincerely wish you could meet him, Mark. The first time I met him five years ago I had no idea who he was. He was sitting in the back of the Undercroft at Truro, by himself, listening to a talk on the upcoming General Convention.

    I remember wondering about who he was, he didn't draw attention to himself at all and I wondered if he was visiting from Uganda or perhaps Tanzania.

    We all went upstairs to the Church for a short worship service and I sat next to the visitor and we shared a hymnal. He sang with great feeling and he was very warm, very father-like. He wasn't stand-offish at all, but joined in and I still had no idea who he was until he was introduced during the service.

    It's hard to describe his humility in print or the respect he is shown by his clergy and priests and their families - it's something I suppose you have to experience. He is a decisive leader (there's no question about that) and lion-hearted is an appropriate way to describe him.

    I've seen rather cocky seminarians be questioned by him and see them show him deep respect. There is just something about him that causes that to happen - even to the most flippant of folks.

    When I met the young man from Nigeria who is overseeing the Global South's outreach to AIDS victims and their families, I heard his own testimony of how Peter Akinola ministered to him when he discovered his own fiance had contracted AIDS. It was devastating on so many fronts - the young man was heartbroken. But again I heard the testimony about a bishop, an archbishop, who ministered to this distraught young man, as he realized his dreams of marriage and a family with the love of his life were lost. There was no acrimony, no outrage, no judgmentalism, no pointing fingers, just the love of a father for his son.

    The young man decided to dedicate his life to helping others with AIDS and their families. Peter Akinola has much to do with that becoming a reality.

    Yes, actually - I think Peter Akinola would be your friend, Mark. Do you want to be his?

    The last time I saw him I asked him in polite conversation when was he leaving for Nigeria? Apparently, Americans do this. It's meant - I don't what we mean by it. But think about how many times you meet someone from out of town and you ask "how long are you here?" Or "when are you leaving?" It's like we immediately have to start planning - it's a fascinating American characteristic.

    And so I asked him that and he didn't even miss a beat - he said "Want to get rid of me all ready?" I was dumbstruck. I'd just insulted him without meaning to. I tried to stammer a reply. He broke out in a big smile and his eyes twinkled.

    "Why do Americans always ask when you are leaving?" he said smiling.

    All I could think of is how many people really did want him to go away, but I was not one of them.


  9. babyblue... the title and the last remark of course come from the saying known to parents sometimes, "The Policeman is your friend." That turns out mostly to be true, but when it is not true it is not true. Police with clubs and canes to a creditable job in trouncing across the line from criminal behavior to socially disliked behavior. We were terrible about that in the South, not much better in the North, and it is not unknown in much of Africa and even good ol England.

    So, no The Archbishop in his bluster is not my friend.

    At the same time you and I and I believe the Archbishop, and almost everyone else who knows Grace in their lives live completely in the hope that we will be friends, with each other because of the Lord Jesus (as in Jesus is a friend of mine...and yours) and with all others who live in harmony with us. The question is what to do when the harmony is not there.

    No doubt the Archbishop and I could be friends, but he is the Lion etc, and I am not. On other issues it works the other way I am sure. We are, I suspect, not friends yet.

    I wrote a poem about the transformation to friendship between lions and lambs some time ago - its part of a new book of poems -

    On Transformation

    When the lion lies down with the lamb
    I will believe in transformation
    on one part or the other, or both.

    Until then I believe in transfiguration,
    where everything is filled with wonder,
    and maybe sweet compromise:

    Where the lion says,
    "I'll pretend you taste good
    when all I get is a nuzzle,"

    and the lamb pretends the lion said,
    "I won't eat you,"
    but still sweats.

  10. Well, you can bet he does not want to be my friend Baby Blue, or any other sexual minority brother or sister.

    We already know how he behaves in the presence of one of us. He acts the fool, as he says he did at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine!

  11. Yes! Awesome! Yes!

    Come and bring your church police, Akinola! Bring them into the sanctuary and drag me out of my pew, kick me to the ground, pull my hair and tear my clothes and cast me out of the church! Bar the doors against my coming in! Call me names and throw garbage at me as I walk down the street.

    Then I will be truly blessed, to be persecuted for believing in the Gospel.

    (Okay, that's it, no more reading the Little Flowers of St. Francis for me.)

  12. "We already know how he behaves in the presence of one of us. He acts the fool, as he says he did at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine!"

    David, could you flesh this out a bit? Is it in one of the interviews linked above?


OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.