The war of words over sexuality and authority within world Anglicanism stepped up a notch today, with controversial Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola - who many believe wishes to take over from the Archbishop of Canterbury as the focal figure in the 77-million strong church - standing accused of having a major document written for him by Western conservatives.
The charge will hit hard, because Archbishop Akinola and his allies frequently accuse those who believe in a church inclusive of lesbian and gay people of "compromising the Gospel to corrupt Western culture".
Their opponents say that the voices of African, Asian and other two-thirds world Christians are being suppressed by organised conservatives and fundamentalists funded from the West, and that attempts to use ant-colonial rhetoric to support equality within the Christian churches is "bogus".
On Sunday 19 August 2007 the Church of Nigeria published a letter from Archbishop Akinola to the Nigerian Synods entitled “A Most Agonizing Journey towards Lambeth 2008“ - referring to next year's gathering of worldwide Anglican bishops.
Colin Coward, Director of the inclusive church pressure group Changing Attitude England, commented at the time: “Analysis of the text and comparison with Archbishop Akinola’s interview in The Guardian, Lagos, published 30 July 2007 suggests that, like most of the publications from Abuja, this was written for the Archbishop by his conservative American secessionist friends. It is dishonest. It misrepresents church history and the recent history of the Anglican Communion.”
This analysis has now been confirmed, says CA, by an article in today’s Church Times, 24 August 2007.
It confirms the suspicion, Changing Attitude suggests, that many of the documents and press releases issued by the Church of Nigeria and Archbishop Peter Akinola have their origin in or are heavily edited by Bishop Martyn Minns, Canon Chris Sugden, Canon David Anderson and other Western conservatives.
Pro lesbian and gay Anglicans who travelled to Tanzania in February 2007 to lobby the Anglican primates' meeting speculated at the time that Archbishop Akinola was reporting to conservative lobbyists ("quite improperly", they say).
Chnaging Attitude claims that "today’s report reveals that they were clearly doing more than this. They were drafting material for Archbishop Akinola to take back to the Primates’ Meeting. They prepared an alternative text for the final Communique which Archbishop Akinola was given to present to the Primates. The final press conference on the Monday evening was delayed until nearly midnight, almost certainly because Akinola was arguing at length with the other Primates, desperately trying to force the [alternative] agenda on the other, mostly unwilling, Primates."
Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude, declared today: “The analysis of Archbishop Akinola’s letter reveals and confirms much more than the information about the complex authorship of the letter. The majority of the letter was written or redrafted by Bishop Martyn Minns [leader of a group of breakaway American Eiscopla Congregations who now recognise Akinola's authority above that of Canterbury].
He went on: "This demonstrates that the most extreme demands being made of the Anglican Communion by the secessionists originate not with Archbishop Akinola in Nigeria but from Bishop Minns and other extreme conservatives associated with CANA."
“The conservatives who have been driving the Global South agenda have tried to present themselves as orthodox in contrast to what they claim is TEC’s heterodoxy. In their campaign to defeat those of us who support the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Anglican Communion, they are prepared to use methods which we believe to be abusive, dishonest and fail to embody Christian values," he added.
Coward continued: “The full inclusion of LGBT people in every Province of the Anglican Communion is something for which Changing Attitude and our partners in Integrity will continue to work, with integrity, honesty and openness of process. We have never believe that the fragmentation of the church is a necessary or inevitable result as our Communion works through what is clearly a challenging and painful process.
Chnaging Attitude conclude: “We are faithful, orthodox Anglicans. We are working together to provide resources for the Lambeth Conference in 2008. We are developing relationships and networks between LGBT Anglicans across the Communion. We are committed to the Listening Process. We believe the process will both benefit the church and change the church. We understand that it is this potential for change that persuades conservatives to oppose these developments and repeatedly to ignore paragraph 3 of Lambeth Conference Resolution 1.10 which commits the Communion ’to listen to the experience of homosexual persons’. We know this listening process is changing, and will continue to change the Communion, as the experience of Anglican LGBT people becomes more widely heard and understood.”
See also Savi Hensman's analysis of the struggle within global Anglicanism on Ekklesia: Re-writing History: the Episcopal Church struggle