Pro-gay Anglicans say Nigerian Church 'obsessed' with gays
Archbishop Peter Akinola and leaders of the 25-million strong Anglican Church in Nigeria have been accused of being 'obsessed' with homosexuality while ignoring other major issues of concern from the perspective of the Gospel.
The comments came from the Dean of Southwark, the Very Rev Dr Colin Slee, in an interview yesterday with BBC Radio 4's World at One programme, which was exploring the current row over a letter from developing world Primates that appears to challenge the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
Dr Slee, who is a senior protagonist in the Inclusive Church network, said that the 'obsession' of the Nigerian Primate and church leadership was 'deeply cultural' more than it was theological.
He added that it stood in contrast to the Church's relative silence over 'the massive abuse of women, polygamy, female mutilation and stoning [in Nigeria] for adultery'.
In particular he criticised the heads of the Nigerian Church for failing to take an adequate stand against the threats of stoning against women caught in adultery under a version of Sharia law.
Those who have faced the death penalty in such circumstances include Amina Lawal, Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim.
At the end of St John's Gospel in the New Testament, Jesus is recorded as having intervened to stop the stoning of a woman caught in adultery, proclaiming 'let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.'
The Archbishop of Nigeria was also strongly criticised this weekend by Oxford philosophy lecturer and vicar of Putney Dr Giles Fraser in the Guardian newspaper.
In a piece headlined ëRebuff this mad, bad clique with a bullying version of the Gospel', Dr Fraser, who is also an Ekklesia associate, describes Dr Akinola as 'ringleader of a clique of archbishops trying to unseat Rowan Williams from Canterbury.'
But one of those working with Archbishop says that Akinola did not perceive the content of the Primates' letter to be 'controversial' and says that relations between the Nigerian leader and the Dr Williams were 'warm' at the South-South meeting.
Dr Fraser quotes Archbishop Akinola as having said 'I cannot think of how a man in his senses would be having a sexual relationship with another man. Even in the world of animals, dogs, cows, lions, we don't hear of such things', and 'God created two persons - male and female. Now the world of homosexuals has created a third - a homosexual, neither male nor female - a strange two-in-one human.'
Psychologists, theologians and human rights advocates have condemned such remarks as cruel and inaccurate.
Changing Attitude Nigeria, a group of Christians calling for the full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in the Anglican Church throughout the world, has criticised Dr Akinola for refusing to meet with them in accord with the Windsor Report's call for ëlistening', and also for ignoring their persecution.
In Nigeria, as in many parts of the world, gay people are attacked, imprisoned and killed.
Changing Attitude Nigeria leader Davis Mac-Iyalla and eight members were arrested and held in Wuse police station, Abuja, towards the end of October. The arrest seems to have been speculative, but the suspicion remains that they were targeted because of an article in the Sun newspaper of Nigeria.
Dr Akinola has also recently been robustly challenged on his theology and his approach to church politics by the Bishop of Washington DC, whose Episcopal Church USA has frequently been traduced by those who think of themselves as traditionalists.
Critics of the Nigerian Church's vehement opposition to the role of lesbian and gay people in the Christian community argue that its use of biblical texts and traditional teachings ignores contemporary scholarship and alternative interpretations.
Over the past few days Archbishop Akinola has been at the centre of a media storm over the outcome of the third (Anglican) South-South Encounter in Egypt at the end of October.
As chair of the event he helped coordinate a letter from Primates' responding to a presentation and question-and-answer session with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
The letter was made public, against the wishes of some, and its signatories have been contested. One has since been removed. Dr Akinola has robustly denied claims of impropriety and says that 'no-one objected' when it was drafted.
In the letter, 13 out of 38 Primates (regional heads) in the Anglican Communion praised Dr Williams' scholarship and the contents of his paper on the doctrine of the Church.
But they also expressed concern over ëomissions', and raised the question about whether his personal and theological sympathy for gay people was preventing him from taking the sterner action the majority want against the inclusive policies in the US and Canadian Anglican Churches.
The letter also criticises the Church of England, and questions its state link, because it has agreed that clergy can be registered in same-sex relationships under the new UK Civil Partnerships Law (due to be implemented in December) provided they remain celibate.
Those who believe that Anglican theology and teaching can and should be affirmative towards lesbian and gay people, including the Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev Dr Peter Selby, say that the Church's position is actually mean-spirited and insufficiently supportive.
[Also on Ekklesia:
Rowan Williams calls for active dialogue over gay conflict; Read Stephen Bates of The Guardian in conversation about his book, A Church At War; buy
Gays and the Future of Anglicanism
; Nigerian gay and lesbian Christians challenge Archbishop Akinola;
Episcopal bishop rejects Nigerian criticism on gays