Historic first meeting for gay Nigerian Christians
The first general meeting of a new network of lesbian and gay Christians took place in Nigeria this past weekend - defying harassment from the authorities and condemnation from church leaders like the outspoken Nigerian Anglican primate, Archbishop Peter Akinola.
Around a thousand delegates were due to attend the gathering at the National Art Council in Abuja including 100 lesbian and 900 gay members of Anglican churches from every part of Nigeria.
The meeting from 25-27 November 2005 constituted the largest gathering of lesbian and gay people ever held in Nigeria and the first gathering of gay Anglicans. Presentations were made by Davis Mac-Iyalla, convenor of the national network, and the Rev Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England.
During prayer time at Holy Communion on Sunday, prayers were offered for gay and lesbian people all over the world, for Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and for Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire in the USA - whose election caused a furore across the Anglican world.
'It's no surprise to me that [Nigerian archbishop] Peter Akinola has trouble comprehending the context in which we find ourselves in America,' Bishop Robinson declared in an interview during his recent trip to the UK.
He added: 'To be a homosexual in Nigeria is to be arrested and imprisoned; so how would Peter ever have the opportunity to meet a faithful and loyal and prayerful Anglican who also happens to be gay or lesbian, and get to know them and have his heart changed by that?'
The aim of the Changing Attitude Nigeria general meeting has been to provide an opportunity to encourage new members attending from every part of Nigeria. Groups have been established so far in Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt.
There were also calls for deepening the process of listening to lesbian and gay people to which the Most Rev Peter Akinola committed himself with the other Anglican Primates in February 2005.
The Lambeth Conference of worldwide Anglican bishops in 2008 was also on the agenda. A planning group for the event is due to meet in England on 6 December.
Changing Attitude Nigeria also discussed and the need to advise their own bishops about the lesbian and gay Christian experience.
Davis Mac-Iyalla declared: 'We want to use the meeting to encourage our members to go back and begin to tell their families about their sexuality. If we let our families know about our sexuality our parents will begin to influence their local churches.'
He continued: 'We also want our message about the place of lesbian and gay people in the Anglican Church to be carried to our bishops and other church leaders. One of our goals is to encourage some of the delegates to start new groups in their own location after the meeting.'
Changing Attitude Network Nigeria was founded in August 2005 by Davis MacIyalla, aged 33. Davis was previously working with the late bishop of Otukpo diocese, the Rt Rev Prof I Ugede. The group works for the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in every Province of the Anglican Communion.
[Also on Ekklesia: Nigerian gay and lesbian Christians challenge Archbishop Akinola; Gay Christians send Archbishop stiff Christmas message; Bishop of Worcester supports gay civil partnerships; Pro-gay Anglicans say Nigerian Church 'obsessed' with gays; Anglican leaders called to transcend differences; Blessings for same sex relationships increasing in C of E; Little hope for positive outcome from Anglican Primates meeting; Evangelicals form network to support gay and lesbian Christians, plus recent reports on the Global South Encounter: Akinola denies rift over Primates' letter to Williams; Bishop's name removed from disputed letter to Archbishop of Canterbury; Anglican Primates deny attack on Archbishop of Canterbury; Primates disown open letter to Archbishop of Canterbury]