Nigerian church fraud warning includes allegation against gays
The communications department of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, based in the capital Abuja, has sent out a communique warning that internet fraudsters are trying to con innocent people out of money by making false claims about their Christian intentions.
The message, written on 28 December 2005 but distributed today by the official Anglican Communion News Service, also includes an allegation that such tactics are being used to fund non-existent 'homosexual meetings'.
Addressed to 'the general public', the notice, under the name of the Rev Canon Akin Tunde Popoola, warns of 'the activities of some fraudulent personalities who exploit Christian love and the good name of the Church all in a bid to defraud unsuspecting people, especially foreigners, of money.'
The Anglican Church says it receives 'dozens of mails seeking to verify supposed priests administering bequests of none-exist[ent] estates, missionaries selling pets that never get delivered, or collecting aids for the sick or orphaned with seemingly convincing pictures.'
Fake emails seeking to solicit funds from vulnerable and gullible people are a long-standing and widely publicised problem, with Nigeria apparently being among the centres of this activity.
But the timing of this latest 'warning' seems also to be connected with the Nigerian Anglican Church hierarchy's vigorous campaign against lesbian and gay Christians and their supporters.
For the message says, inter alia: 'We have even seen a situation where a supposed knight collects money to organise homosexual meetings that only take place on sponsored news reports.'
No further details are given, but the reference would seem to be linked to attempts to discredit the recently formed Changing Attitude Nigeria network, an association of gay Christians.
CAN says the Church's communication department simultaneously sent out a notice implying that Davis MacIyalla, Director of the Changing Attitude Network, Nigeria had claimed to be a knight of the Church when he is not.
The organisation has issued a strong rejection of the various imputations against it.
The Nigerian Primate, the Most Rev Peter Akinola, has recently been criticised for a letter on disputes within the worldwide Anglican Church circulated on behalf of leaders from the Global South and including unauthorised signatories.
The December 'fraud' message goes on: 'The Church of Nigeria Ö states categorically that no respectable minister of the Gospel in our Church nor indeed any true member sends unsolicited mails to people they have never met offering or requesting money.'
The Anglican Church in Nigeria says that those receiving unsolicited requests for money by email should inform their internet service provider (ISP) and send a copy 'to our Government agency firstname.lastname@example.org for tracking and prosecution of those involved when caught.'
It stresses: 'Though we have over 6,000 ordained clergy, and an even larger number of evangelists and other lay workers, there are organised structures in the Church whereby identities can be verified', and says that this can 'even include the ever growing millions of members of the Church'.
Supporters of Changing Attitude Nigeria believe the homosexual reference in the release to be a 'smear tactic'.
Last year the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who has been under fire from hardline anti-gay Anglicans, asked all parties to the increasingly heated debate over homosexuality in the Church to desist from vituperation.
[Also on Ekklesia: Historic first meeting for gay Nigerian Christians; 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; Sexuality row may be irresolvable, says ex-Archbishop; Archbishop of Nigeria launches salvo at Windsor Report; Episcopal bishop rejects Nigerian criticism on gays; Williams rebukes conservatives over approach to gay issues; Akinola denies rift over Primates' letter to Williams; Bishop of Worcester supports gay civil partnerships; Newspaper suggests Africans set to found splinter Anglican church; African bishops say Windsor Report is offensive]