Saturday, March 04, 2006

What are American Anglicans going to do about it?

I am now planning (unless something big comes up) to leave the subject of Nigeria, ECUSA, the AAC, the Network, Archbishop Akinola, Bishop Chane, The Anglican Communion, and others to the far better equipped. But I wanted to finish off (maybe) with a summary of the situation as I see it.

Homosexuality is broadly decried, if not outlawed, in Africa. The Nigerian Federal Government plans to ban not only homosexual sex, behavior, and marriage per se, but now also advocacy for homosexuality -- all with the expressed support of major Nigerian religious organizations, most notably that headed by Archbishop Peter Akinola, the Anglican Church of Nigeria.

Aside from issues of orthodoxy, on which I take no public position given my outsider status, this effort in Nigeria is not only, as Bishop Chane has said, a violation of UN standards to which Nigeria is a signatory, but also a violation of the spirit of American codes of conduct as codified in the Bill of Rights, specifically the 1st Amendment. (Not that Nigerians need to pay attention to our Bill of Rights -- I mean, standards of conduct should be defined relative to prevailing cultural norms, right?)

Alan Wisdom, the interim president at the Institute on Religion and Democracy spoke late this week to the Washington Blade:

The Institute on Religion & Democracy, a conservative Christian group based in Washington, D.C., is one member of the network that Chane decries.

Chane "raises a legitimate concern about the Nigerian law relating to sexual expression," said Alan Wisdom, interim president at the Institute on Religion & Democracy. "We would oppose a law like that."

However, Wisdom said, Chane, "tries to make Archbishop Akinola out to be this intolerant hateful person that we have not found him to be."

It is good to see that someone associated with the conservative Anglican community is willing to take a stand on this issue. Of course, it would be nice if Wisdom had said that he "does oppose a law like that," rather than hide behind "would," hoping that the issue may never come up.

In the end, however, it's not his problem (he runs an umbrella group for Episcopalians, Presbyterians and Methodists). It's the problem of the Anglican Communion, and the Global South's bishops. And here in the United States, it's the problem of the American Anglican Council, and of the Anglican Communion Network.

Wisdom's defense of Akinola -- that Chane "tries to make ... Akinola out to be this intolerant hateful person that we have not found him to be" -- is ultimately irrelevant, because Chane's argument can be discussed outside the context of Akinola's personality. We can all, for the sake of argument, assume that Akinola is a man of great compassion and spirituality, and still say to him that his Church's perceived mission (and the mission of most other religious organizations) of eradicating homosexuality from Nigeria cannot trump the right to free expression.

Chane and others in ECUSA have raised the issue -- it's time for the AAC and the Network to take a stand.

It's also time for the global Anglican Communion to deal with the near-incitement to violence by Akinola's highly publicized (2/21) statement in the wake of anti-Christian violence in northeastern Nigeria, which said, "May we at this stage remind our Muslim brothers that they do not have the monopoly of violence in this nation" and that "C.A.N. [Christian Association of Nigeria] may no longer be able to contain our restive youths should this ugly trend continue." That day and the next, at least 80 northern Muslims (and some Christians) were killed in the southern Niger Delta city of Onitsha. Volunteer groups have called for ABpC Rowan to censure Akinola. That's not likely to happen without a serious food fight -- but perhaps the American churches, with which he has made cooperating agreements on doctrinal grounds, could have a say.

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