Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Things fall apart

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
- excerpt from The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats

Peter Boyer's New Yorker article on the trouble brewing in the worldwide Anglican Communion is not online. (UPDATE -- actually, it now is, and it can be found here. That's what I get for taking too long to write this.)

This is a shame. Without actually going out and buying a copy (my wife and I get a subscription), the hopeful reader must rely on an online interview with the author by New Yorker staffer -- and website and softball team manager -- Matt Dellinger. Comments from conservative Anglicans in response to the article, though generally positive, have actually referenced the interview (see here, for example), not the article.

The article is significant, both for what it includes and for what it leaves out. While Boyer accurately and informatively describes the current crisis within the Anglican Communion over orthodoxy, he does not discuss one of the more interesting and frightening byproducts of that crisis -- the uncomfortable behavior of arguably the most powerful Anglican in the world, Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola.

Akinola has received criticism for a wide variety of activities within the Anglican Communion that are not really problems for anyone on the outside, such as myself. But when he endorsed a bill (pdf) last month that would have serious civil rights implications for homosexuals living in Nigeria, he effectively thrust the problems of the Anglican Communion into the public domain.

The legislation is itself curiously written. It is ostensibly a ban on gay marriage (the short title of the bill is the "Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006"). Without reading it, one might assume that it is similar in scope and intent to the Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA) proposed in the US House of Representatives in May of 2003 by Colorado congresswoman Marylin Musgrave, and re-introduced by Senator Allard (R-CO) in January of 2005, in response to the entrance of gay marriage into civil law in Massachusetts. The superficial similarity of the FMA and the Nigerian legislation makes it difficult to push our current leadership to do anything about it -- how can we call for the legislation to be withdrawn if we ourselves are having a similar debate?

However, banning gay marriage is moot in a country where there is already a far more strict anti-sodomy law (a colonial era law calls for 14 years' imprisonment). In fact, the real impact of the legislation is two-fold. First, by banning gay marriage, even in entirely private ceremonies, the legislation is an infringement on religious liberty, and possibly an effort to ban church organizations that support homosexual rights from operating within Nigeria's borders (discussed below).

But far more problematic is that the legislation calls for a penalty of five years' imprisonment for anyone who is involved in a gay marriage (whether that marriage occurs within or without Nigeria is not specified) or for anyone who "is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private" (Section 7c). In essence, the bill outlaws "being" gay in Nigeria, codifying the overwhelming taboo among Nigerians (and most Africans) against homosexuals in a law that would give license -- in a country with one of the most corrupt governments in the world -- to harrass, imprison, torture, and possibly kill members of a growing sector of Nigeria's population: the openly gay.

Akinola is not the only Nigerian cleric to support this legislation; it has broad support from Nigerian Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, and Pentecostals.

Prior to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo's visit to the United States two and a half weeks ago, a variety of international human rights organizations called Obasanjo to withdraw the legislation. Since then, calls have been made by Obasanjo loyalists within his People's Democratic Party (PDP) to expedite the passage of the legislation through the Nigerian Federal Assembly.

The benefit of the doubt

Boyer's article is one part history, one part character study, and one part systems research. What appears to interest him most about the crisis in the Anglican Communion, as he says in his interview with Dellinger, is how this crisis has come about, and what structural elements within the Communion have made the crisis possible:
Unlike the Catholic Church, there is no Pope, no overriding single authority, and this is the source of the tension that is finally threatening to tear the whole thing apart.
Boyer's article closely follows this train of thought. In response to the consecration of openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson, of New Hampshire, he says in his interview with Dellinger, "You would think that the question would be 'What does the Church say about this?' But, in this particular church, because of its nature, it's a difficult question to answer. Liberals say that the Bible might seem as though it’s condemning homosexuality, but that it's not, really; the conservatives say that there's a plain meaning of the Bible when it says homosexuality's a sin."

Boyer leaves us with the strong impression that this is a religious struggle that will be fought in the courts, "jurisdiction by jurisdiction, and parish by parish", that the struggle within Anglicanism, the struggle between the Gospel of transformation and the Gospel of affirmation, the struggle between "reasserters and reappraisers" is a local struggle between conservative American Anglicans and politically charismatic Africans on one side who believe that acceptance of homosexuality violates the Gospel of transformation, and an aging Church with no center that has long accommodated members who hold that homosexuality is a facet of human sexuality, which, like heterosexuality, is sanctified only by marriage.

In other words, what do I care? Isn't this an Anglican issue?

I'm willing to give conservative Anglicans the benefit of the doubt. While I actually have the positive belief that homosexuality is just another facet of human sexuality, and that it is therefore perfectly normal and good for homosexual couples to want to marry (and therefore solemnify, sanctify, and stabilize their relationships with vows), it is not my place as a non-Anglican to have an opinion on what the Anglican Communion teaches or believes, even if there is, according to Boyer, "no overriding single authority" to tell me what those teachings might be. Ultimately, what Anglicans decide will have little if any impact on my life.

Of course, participants in this crisis within the Communion are not so sanguine. When Robinson was consecrated in 2003, the moderator of the conservative Anglican Communion Network, Bishop Robert Duncan, of Pittsburgh, was in shock (New Yorker article):
When Robinson was elected bishop, his seminary classmate Bob Duncan offered his prayers but not his congratulations. To Duncan, it was an occasion for grieving; his church had just taken a turn to heresy. "I was a seminary classmate of Gene Robinson's," he says. "I knew Gene. I knew his wife, his children. But that's what's so terrible, you know? What kind of church is this?"
At Robinson's affirmation at the 2003 General Convention (New Yorker article):
... twenty bishops, led by Robert Duncan, of Pittsburgh, rose in protest. "I will stand against the actions of this Convention with everything I have and everything I am," Duncan said. "I have not left, and will not leave, the Episcopal Church or my apostolic role as Episcopal Bishop of Pittsburgh. It is this Seventy-fourth General Convention that has left us, betrayed us, undone us. May our merciful Lord Jesus have pity on us, His broken bride." With that, Duncan and the others walked out.
Archbishop Akinola is equally clear (New Yorker article):
Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria, has been outspoken on the issue declaring that the Western church has so assiduously accommodated trends in the secular culture that it has betrayed the faith. "What is written of God is for all time, for all people," he told me this winter. "But when you take what is convenient for you, and you hold on to that, and that which is not convenient for you, you throw it away -- then there is a problem."
And Dr. Henry Luke Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda, makes a similarly strong stand (New Yorker article):
They [the Africans] regard with dismay the progressive turn of the Western church, its willingness to rethink the fundamentals of the faith, and its apparent doubt about the plain meaning of Scripture. "The Bible doesn't make as much sense to them as it used to, to their ancestors," Henry Luke Orombi, the Archbishop of Uganda, says. "The interpretation of the Bible is no longer what it was before. And that's why the church life in America is anemic and feeble."
For conservative Anglicans, this is on the face of it a struggle over the nature of the Gospel. In broad terms, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ signifies to the Christian, in Paul's words (Galatians 2:20), that "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." It is the Gospel of Transformation. Dr. Orombi's Easter Message (quoted on TitusOneNine) states the sentiment better than I can:
Death is the most destructive force in the world and no one else in the whole world except Jesus has overcome death by rising from the dead! That means that those who are “in Christ” can also overcome death and all the other destructive forces at work in the world today. In Christ, we can have victory over negative attitudes, over self-destructive behaviours and habits, over hurtful experiences, over damaging relationships, and over devastating circumstances. ... We are not powerless to deal with these issues in our lives! Jesus has conquered death; He is victorious. And, through Him, we too can be conquerors and victorious.
As Boyer tells it, the affirmation of Bishop Robinson at the 2003 General Convention was a denial of the Gospel of Transformation, for a Gospel of Affirmation -- or, as Canon Kendall Harmon has coined it, "reappraisal" of the Gospel message instead of "reassertion" (New Yorker article):
The consecration of Gene Robinson pains Duncan because of its implicit denial of the core elements of the Christian faith: sin and redemption. "If sin isn't sin, you don't need a Saviour," he says. Like many conservative Episcopalians, Duncan says that his battle is not with Gene Robinson, or even over the issue of homosexuality, but with what he considers a radical reinterpretation of the faith by the liberal church. "I'm not in a fight over sexuality, gracious sakes," he says. In his earlier career in campus ministries, he often ministered to young gay and lesbian people. "I loved them and cared for them," he says. "We brought them in and helped them understand that God loved them. And actually not all of them came out of their same-sex affection, but they grew a lot toward God. We just made it clear we can't bless the relationships. Everybody's a sinner; you've got to break yourself."
Duncan and most of his colleagues are quite clear that they welcome homosexuals in the church, but that they will not bless or condone homosexuality. I know this to be true from my own observation.

However, these statements constantly beg the question. Why was Robinson's consecration the tipping point? Wasn't there already plenty of "heresy" in the Anglican Church to make just cause? Indeed, Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, retired of Newark, made his bones with the publication of the "12 Theses." I would have thought that these would be enough to signal to conservatives in the Communion that, provided it countenanced statements like these, ECUSA (the Episcopal Church USA) was long gone as an organization centered on the Gospel of Transformation. However, unlike the affirmation of Robinson, the "12 Theses" were never adopted at a General Convention. Conservative members of ECUSA were deeply unhappy with them, as well as with movements within the Church that trended in that direction, but they were willing to let Spong rant in his corner provided it did not become the official stance of the Church.

Robinson's consecration provided both a real crisis (in terms of the broad adoption of a position that strongly implies a non-Orthodox stance on the Gospel) and the opportunity for those within ECUSA who felt deeply uncomfortable with long-time trend toward "The Gospel of Affirmation" to take a stand.

The political wheels turned. Knowing that they had strong (in fact, majority) support within the broader Anglican Communion, conservative members of ECUSA chose to align themselves with Anglicans outside the US, casting liberal ECUSA as the splinter group. With that, they were in a position to pressure both ECUSA to "repent" and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to keep the Anglican Communion together along orthodox lines.

Any political analyst will tell you that if you create a crisis, you create enemies, and political movements are won and lost by who those enemies are. Pick your crisis well, and you win -- at least in the short term. In the long term, the nature of the associations created in crisis is just as important as the fight itself. Republican Barry Goldwater's loss in the 1964 presidential election led to a dramatic realignment of the Republican party, with alliances formed of northeastern and western money interests and anti-civil rights southern Democrats. The realignment has been an incredible success, making possible such electoral college landslides as Nixon's 1972 and Reagan's 1984 victories. However, the realignment of the Republican Party in the 1960s galvanized the Left, made the Democratic Party the party of African Americans by a very large margin, and helped generate the broad sentiment that the Republican Party has no interest in civil rights (recent political developments in immigration and wiretapping have borne this out).

Boyer wishes to treat the crisis within the Anglican Communion as a slowly evolving explosion facilitated by a lack of ideological leadership at the top. But it's really a realignment precipitated by a crisis over homosexuality, and there are radical implications for how the different factions will be viewed from the outside. Should there be a serious schism within the Anglican Communion, with the Global South and their North American and UK allies eschewing all ties to ECUSA, the Anglican Communion will become -- in the eyes of the world -- an anti-gay (or "pro family") religious organization. And, by aligning themselves so tightly with Akinola, they cast their lot with his endorsement of Nigerian legislation that would essentially ban gay and lesbian Nigerians from "being" in Nigeria. The realignment makes conservative American Anglicans ethically responsible for that legislation -- but however tweaked their conscience might be, their need for political solidarity makes them unlikely to act until the realignment is complete and schism is already a fixture of the Anglican Communion.

Homosexuality and the African Church

While the motives of conservative Anglicans in this crisis may be as pure as those of Pilate's wife, one can't escape the conclusion that, at least in Africa, the realignment is to a very large extent about homosexuality.

As Boyer writes (New Yorker article -- man, I hope I don't get a phone call for all this quoting):
Akinola is the acknowledged leader of the church in the Global South, and as such he is possibly the most powerful figure in Anglicanism. He is, of course, subject to the prejudices of his own culture, in which homosexuality is taboo. Akinola has been quoted as saying that he cannot fathom the sexual union of two men, and that "even in the world of animals, dogs, cows, lions, we don't hear of such things." [this quote has been denied by Akinola]
I would add that many Westerners are similarly burdened by such prejudices. This needs no documentation.

That churchmen such as Akinola "hate" or "fear" gay people is a difficult thing to prove, and I hesitate to use the term "homophobia," since it implies that the kind of fear one has of homosexuals is of the same order that one might have of spiders or open spaces (I've never been "homophobic," so I don't know). Yet, it is not difficult to document the deep difficulties homosexuals face in Africa.

Nigeria and Uganda, two important centers of African Anglicanism, are on a top-ten list of the world's worst places to live if you're gay. Nigerians are deeply prejudiced against homosexuals, and are willing to forgo all pretense to civil and political rights to get rid of them. An editorial in the Tide Online (a Nigerian newspaper) makes my case (March 22):
For the society, the presence of the homosexuals -- some of whom are reportedly high profile citizens -- is a continued threat to moral rectitude and social re-engineering. It is also an enhancement to gross moral depravity on whose throes our society has tottered for too long.

In fact if the odd reports that homosexuals planned to constitute an association to protest against stigmatisation and denunciation, is anything to go by, then Nigeria is into another dimension of moral bankruptcy.

We seem to live in a society where unpredictable moral ills thrive succinctly in tandem with the spirit of free society, an euphemism for a bestial human setting, there is therefore a premonition of trouble that this monster, the so called "free society" has created could wax stronger in Nigeria.
The current Bishop of Okigwe South, David Onuoha, wrote the following on the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) website [all emphasis mine]:
Recently a group of social deviants claiming to be gays in Nigeria [Changing Attitude Nigeria] came together in order to attract recognition. There is no doubt that they were misguided and influenced into taking the action they took because asking for recognition to same sex relationships is clearly alien to our culture.

Those who have been affected by this religious virus should endeavour to channel their thoughts aright to things that are profitable and mutually edifying. Of a truth, both the apostles and disciples of this movement of those who have passion and lust for same sex union are perverts. Perversion is a psychological disorder that can be corrected.

There is no doubt that advocates of gay marriage are motivated by the need to preserve the rights of those who are inclined to live perversely. There is nothing wrong in preserving ones rights. Human rights ensure that man lives as he ought to and not as he likes to.
Leaving aside the Bishop's misunderstanding of the importance of human rights for the health of civil society, it is quite clear that the Nigerian Church is dead-set against the acceptance of homosexuality in Nigeria, on all levels.

On the Church of Nigeria website, Archbishop Akinola claims both that homosexuality is a sin, and that it is against nature. The latter is not an obvious argument (I'm a biologist, and while I could explain how it is that many species engage in homosexual mating, a conservative could simply argue that it's a Fallen World, and I lose the argument ... I guess). But by making the "against Nature" argument, Akinola is putting a philosophical veneer on what is otherwise just personal (or cultural) prejudice -- often times stated in terms of Africa's colonial past (New Yorker article):
To the Global South primates, such acts as the consecration of Gene Robinson without the broad assent of the whole church reflect an arrogant indifference to the consequences. "If you want to be very blunt about it," [Archbishop] Orombi says, "it's a form of neocolonialism."
Bishop Duncan, in a response to an op-ed in the Washington Post by the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, makes a similar point:
It is jarring, to say the least, to see church leaders, who claim to champion the primacy of local understanding and culture, demanding that foreign sister churches give up their own local understanding and culture and be judged by an American understanding of individual rights. There is a word for the one-way imposition of values -- colonialism.
Of course, in his op-ed, Bishop Chane was defending the rights of individuals in a free society, regardless of which Gospel he happens to preach -- if Duncan thinks that Chane was being inconsistent, then he misses the distinction between questions of orthodoxy and questions of human rights. Be that as it may, to use "colonialism" as a means of protecting conservative Anglicans in Africa from criticism serves not just the immediate end of defending a colleague, but further defines the African Church as a kind of de facto Anglican papacy -- infallible and authoritative, untainted by Western decadence -- something for which, according to Boyer, conservative Anglicans are desperate.

(It is ironic that conservatives use "postmodern" concepts of "local understanding and culture" to defend the "postmodern" invasion of liberal ideas in the church -- it is also ironic that Bishop Duncan should cry foul when Akinola himself calls for a "one-way imposition of values" on ECUSA. And I'm very disappointed to see that Duncan believes that our standards of human rights are simply "American" -- they have in fact been adopted by every international governing agency on the planet.)

African Anglicans are particularly sensitive to the flow of "values" from the West, not just because of old wounds, but also because of the way it makes them look to those to whom they wish to evangelize. Boyer writes (New Yorker article):
There is also a practical aspect informing the views of churchmen like Orombi and Akinola, whose churches are in competition with Islam. In the Islamic areas of Nigeria, for example, homosexuality is punishable by death, and Anglicanism's countenancing of gays complicates their evangelical mission. "Instead of proclaiming the grace of God, you have to justify that which God says should not be done," Akinola says. "Instead of putting your energy into the work of mission, you're spending your time defending the indefensible. It makes things much more difficult."
Are possible converts from Islam really balking at the thought that Nigerian Anglicans have some association with "gay" ECUSA? I don't know. Neither do I know how fast the Nigerian church is growing, or whence their converts come.

Nevertheless, it seems clear that if homosexuality has indeed become the albatross they say it has, then it would be very bad indeed if homosexuals turned up within their ranks.

Changing Attitude Nigeria

On September 1 of last year, Mr. Davis Mac-Iyalla (pictured left), a gay Nigerian, announced the launch of Changing Attitude Nigeria, a branch of the UK organization within the Anglican Communion devoted to reaching "the day when the Anglican Church fully accepts, welcomes and offers equality of opportunity to lesbian, gay and bisexual people."

On October 17, 2005, writing in the Nigerian paper, the Daily Sun, Mac-Iyalla called Archbishop Akinola's threat to sever ties with the Church of England over civil parternships "more political than religious," further arguing that:
Jesus’ teaching is about love and care. If Jesus treated the converts this way, he would not have converted Matthew, the tax collector and Mary the harlot. What the Archbishop should have done is to meet with us, know our feelings and appreciate us for whom we are. That way we can be well integrated into society. ... Let society change their attitudes towards gays and lesbians. You have them in every sector in Nigeria, even in government. It is just that they are hidden because of the contempt the society has for them and it is the church that can lead the campaign for the change of attitude towards us.
Five days later, Mac-Iyalla and eight associates in Changing Attitude Nigeria were arrested in Abuja (the national capital, and the location of the Anglican Church's headquarters) and held without food or water for three days.
They were stopped by night police who asked to check the nine of them. The police didn’t discover any guns or knives but picked an object that looked like a gun from the boot of the driver’s car. They asked who it belonged to and the driver said it was his. The police sent a radio message that they had caught criminals. More policemen came, beat Davis and the other eight and took them to Wuse police station. At the station they searched Davis’s pocket and discovered his identity card for Changing Attitude. They wanted to know if he was the author of the story in the previous week’s paper. He said that he was. They didn’t comment but took the nine to an open cell, beat Davis again, but never gave a reason. ... None of them was allow to communicate with anyone, including members of their families. No one knew where they were and there a lot of confusion outside. They were kept without food and water.
Undaunted, but with thinner wallets, Changing Attitude Nigeria held its first General Meeting on November 26, 2005 [emphasis mine]:
According to Davis, the Archbishop of All Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, has been telling the other Primates and Provinces an untruth when he says that gays and lesbians do not exist in Nigeria and are not part of the Anglican Church. Davis said contrary to Archbishop Akinola’s claims, that most of the members at the meeting were born into the Anglican Church and that some of their parents held responsible positions in the Church.

Davis Mac-Iyalla said, "We are creating a group of lesbian and gay members of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, lay and ordained. We are also prepared to be open and visible within the Church with the aim of meeting together to develop ideas, aims and objectives. Gay, lesbian and bisexual people are called by God to express their sexuality in loving, faithful and committed relationships. Therefore the Church should stop colluding with cultural repression and discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people in all parts of the world."

At this point, the interest of leaders within the Anglican Church of Nigeria had been sufficient peeked. In late December, 2005, the Church's communications director, Canon AkinTunde Popoola, released two disclaimers. One warned the general public of "fraudsters" who:
... exploit Christian love and the good name of the Church all in a bid to defraud unsuspecting people especially foreigners of money. ... We have even seen a situation where a supposed knight [of the Church, referring to Mac-Iyalla] collects money to organise homosexual meetings that only take place on sponsored news reports.
Of course, one need only turn to Lydia Polgreen's New York Times article on Mr. Mac-Iyalla's organization, dated December 18, 2005, to see that Popoola's claim that the meeting was a fabrication is pure nonsense (LexisNexis):
At one end of town on a fall Saturday morning, in a soaring cathedral nestled in a tidy suburb, dozens of Nigeria's most powerful citizens gathered, their Mercedes, Porsche and Range Rover sport utility vehicles gleaming in a packed parking lot. The well-heeled crowd was there to celebrate the Eucharist with the leader of Nigeria's Anglican Church, Archbishop Peter J. Akinola.

At the other end of town, in a small clubhouse behind a cultural center, a decidedly more downscale and secretive gathering of Anglicans got under way: the first national meeting of a group called Changing Attitudes Nigeria. Its unassuming name, and the secrecy accompanying its meeting -- the location was given to a visitor only after many assurances that it would not be revealed to anyone else -- underscored the radical nature of the group's mission: to fight for acceptance of homosexuals in the Anglican Church in Nigeria.

''We want to tell the bishop that it is our church, too,'' said Davis Mac-Iyalla, a 33-year-old former teacher who founded the group, which claims to have hundreds of members. ''They do not own the word of Jesus. It belongs to all of us.''
If that's not enough to make you worry that Akinola's sometimes less-than-straightforward communications director is being less than straightforward, read his even more important second disclaimer, which denies that Mr. Mac-Iyalla is even an Anglican:
The general public is hereby warned of the activities of a person who goes by the name of Davis (David) Mac Iyalla. He claims to be a homosexual member of the Anglican Church but extensive searches revealed that he is NOT registered in any of our over 10,000 local parishes as of the past two years. None of our over 6000 priests recognise him as an active member in any of their parishes.

He has finally been traced to be the same person who defrauded the then dying Bishop of Otukpo under the guise of marrying his daughter. Iyalla then closed down his own C & S church and took up an appointment with his then proposed father–in-law from whom he fraudulently obtained some church documents. On the death of the bishop mid 2003, Iyalla broke off the engagement and made away with large sums of money including salaries due to some staff. Since then, he has not been seen in Otukpo where he is wanted by the Police. He claims he was sacked and victimised for his homosexuality and uses that guise to further defraud unsuspecting foreigners.
Changing Attitude provides a thorough and credible defense of Mac-Iyalla's character (here, here, here, and here), answering all points made in Canon Popoola's statements.

Two weeks later, in mid-January, Justice Minister Oyo presented the legislation (pdf) in question to the Federal Assembly.

In a letter dated April 1, Mr. Mac-Iyalla claims that "Canon Popoola and Archbishop Akinola initiated the idea of the bill and persuaded the government to take it forward." It should be noted that while this claim is based on knowledge purportedly gained from Mac-Iyalla's contacts in the Church office in Abuja, it is totally unsubstantiated. However, it is not improbable. Akinola has shown himself to be an establishment figure, unused or unwilling to criticize the Nigerian President. Akinola has yet to voice opposition to Obasanjo's bid to gain a constitutionally barred third term in office, despite an earlier comment that he would voice an opinion "if the man comes out and asks Nigerians to give him another chance."

And I can say from what limited personal communication I have had with Canon Popoola that there is a great deal of unwillingness to discuss the contents of the legislation per se. He has never responded to the question of whether he thinks it would be appropriate for Nigerians to be locked up for five years for advocating gay marriage or homosexuality. And his boss, Archbishop Akinola, has unambiguously endorsed the legislation. Perhaps the Church office in Abuja is unclear about its contents -- if so, then they should clarify their position -- if not, then they are advocating a clear violation of every rational concept of civil rights ever voiced. Canon Popoola's own comments relating to this issue, along with responses from Mr. Mac-Iyalla and Colin Coward, the director of Changing Attitude UK, can be found in the comments sections of posts to ThinkingAnglicans on April 1.

It seems unlikely that they don't know what they're doing. Like Boyer points out, they have Islam on their backs, as well as the monkey of hypocrisy. Better to lance the boil now, by making that "boil" illegal under Nigerian Federal law, than have to deal with "schims" within their own Church later. Of course, the "threat of Islam" should never be an excuse to curtail civil rights.

[Another press release from Changing Attitude's Davis Mac-Iyalla dated April 17]

Anglican authority

Like it or not, the seemingly benign scuffle within the Anglican Communion over the status of homosexuality within Anglicanism has spilled over into an issue of civil and political rights. Paul Zahl, Dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry, argues that the crisis, as it currently stands, is for want of clear leadership (New Yorker article):
This whole crisis has revealed a very serious deficiency in the character of Anglicanism. ... It's a severe deficiency in Anglicanism because there isn't really a church teaching in the same way that there is in the Church of Rome. ... I would say there is a constitutional weakness, which this crisis has revealed, which may in fact prove to be the death of the Anglican project -- the death, at least in formal terms, of Anglican Christianity. We've always said that we've had this great insight, and I used to think that we did. But I'm not quite sure whether we're not on very sandy ground. ... It's at the edge of the abyss. It's about to be extinguished, and that's not histrionic.
Deperate for a "falconer" and a "centre," conservative Anglicans have looked for "a voice of one calling in the desert," as Archbishop Orombi seems to argue (New Yorker article):
A hundred or so years ago, the fire was in the Western world, and many of their great people went over to the countries in the Southern Hemisphere, and reached out there, and planted seeds there. And then things changed in the Northern Hemisphere. ... It now looks like the Western world is tired and old. But, praise God, the Southern Hemisphere, which is a product of the missionary outreach, is young and vital and exuberant. So, in a way, I think what God has done is he took seeds and he planted them in the Southern Hemisphere, and now they're going to come back, right to the Northern Hemisphere. It is happening. It is happening.
It is indeed. Last year, Archbishop Akinola announced CANA (Convocation for Anglicans in North America), an ecclesiastical mission established within another Anglican province. Akinola writes:
We see this as a creative way to provide pastoral and episcopal care for those alienated by the actions of ECUSA. As we said in our letter of April 7th, 2005, "Our intention is not to challenge or intervene in the churches of ECUSA or the Anglican Church of Canada but to provide safe harbour for all those who can no longer find their spiritual home in those churches." While CANA is an initiative of the Church of Nigeria it is our desire to welcome all those who share our faith and vision for the Church.
During a recent visit to the US (late March, 2006), Akinola wrote the following to Bishop Iker, of Fort Worth:
As you know one consequence of this has been the isolation and alienation of a growing number of Nigerian and other Anglicans. In response to this the Church of Nigeria has established CANA (a Convocation for Anglicans in North America) to provide pastoral care for those Anglicans who are unable to find a spiritual home in the Episcopal Church during these difficult times. I was pleased to hear your enthusiastic support for this endeavor and especially gratified by your willingness to fully recognize and work in close partnership with the episcopal leadership that we expect to elect and consecrate in the coming months.
Coupled with his missionary effort in the US and Canada, Akinola has also strongly advocated the complete split of conservative parishes from ECUSA, regardless of the cost to property and benefits, taking a hard line against the creeping liberal threat (New Yorker article):
Akinola and others called on Rowan Williams to withhold a Lambeth invitation from the American church "unless they truly repent." The Global South primates, in short, did all that the American conservatives could have asked, and more. When several of the primates appeared at a network convention in Pittsburgh last November, they were greeted like rock stars by the twenty-five hundred attendees. Akinola betrayed a hint of impatience with the American conservatives when he said in sharp, clipped tones, "Many of you have one leg in ECUSA and one leg in the network. With that, my friends, comes disaster. While that remains, you can't have our support. Because, you see, as we speak here, we have all broken communion with ECUSA. If you want Global South to partner with you, you must let us know exactly where you stand. Are you ECUSA? Or are you network? Which one?"
Now, the realignment of conservative American Anglicans with the Global South has exposed a new question. Are you for civil and political rights, or against them? It seems entirely probable that the new, redrawn battlelines of orthodoxy versus inclusion has put most, if not all conservative Anglicans on the wrong side of that question.


Göran Koch-Swahne said...

As we know from the great Ecumenical Councils of the 1st Millennium, going from Things to Sounds may sometimes take centuries...

But here you have put it succinctly:

a Gospel of Transformation


a Gospel of Acceptance!

(one of them is of course the well-known "other" gospel, so I shall be back sometime tomorrow, when hopefully I will be less worn out than I am to night ;=)

drdanfee said...

Thanks for the long review of how things stand at the moment.

The fact is, if the underlying issue is strict conformity among Anglicans, for reading scripture, for weighing various Christian traditions, for attending or rewriting or ignoring real church history from several past centuries, and finally for the role that human reason plays in difficult and easy discernments - then surely the point of this whole business tends inevitably towards theocracy. Not democracy. Not basic human rights. Certainly not historic Anglican leeway in a great many matters of belief and discipleship.

Then the only real questions that remain unanswered may include:
(1)who rules at the top of that theocratic heap? - You may be certain the the top dog will claim God's authority, probably via a certain reading of scriptural authority;

(2) How far is the New Anglican Conformity willing to go - especially in countries where the church is melded with economic, political, and legal establishments which seek totalitarian dominance;

(3) How soon and how far will church sanctions be empowered by violence, either via vigilante or death squad groups, or via state-sponsored force?;

(4)Just how dumbed down will the new Conformed Anglican Communion have to get to realign itself, given its new aspirations to dominance?;

(5)How will the average believer around the world who sits in a local pew like or not, this new conformed and dumbed-down version of Anglican Christianity?;

(6)After the Queer Folk are effectively bashed, who is next on the target list?;

(7)What might need to happen among all the rest of us who are no longer welcome in the New Anglican Conformity?; and of course,

(8)How in the world will this absurd and unnecessary drama of how a hostile takeover bid succeeds in changing the Anglican Communion for the worse play itself out in the long run?

Stay tuned I guess. Lord have mercy.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

”Akinola has received criticism for a wide variety of activities within the Anglican Communion that are not really problems for anyone on the outside … But when he endorsed a bill last month that would have serious civil rights implications for homosexuals living in Nigeria, he effectively thrust the problems of the Anglican Communion into the public domain.”

That Archbishop Akinola is heavily into national politics as well as international ecclesiastic politics is clear. Equally so that he thinks that his fellow human beings inside and outside of Nigeria are dispensable if they happen to be homosexual, and may be used to further his ends and those of his political allies.

But it needs be stressed that the proposed Nigerian legislation advocated and perhaps brought about by the Nigerian Primate, is a threat not only to the lives of Nigerian lesbians and gays, but to the Human and Constitutional Rights of a l l Nigerian citizens – and sets a bad example in bad Times for the rest of the World.

That the present anti-gay legislation in Nigeria, Uganda and several other former colonies around the world, is a legacy of the Colonial era, gives the lie to Archbishop Orombi’s accusation of neo-colonialism.

There is indeed a lot neo-colonialism and racism around, but not in this. On the contrary, it is the Anglican churches of Nigeria and Uganda & c that continue 19th century laws, theology and attitudes in their we-are-better-than-thou treatment of their fellow human beings.

“Unlike the Catholic Church, there is no Pope, no overriding single authority, and this is the source of the tension that is finally threatening to tear the whole thing apart.”

That the Papalism of the 1073 Dictatus papae is schism and worse was the founding principle of the Reformation. In fact, the Roman church is the only one having a Pope... This cannot be for no reason ;=)

“Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria, has been outspoken on the issue declaring that the Western church has so assiduously accommodated trends in the secular culture that it has betrayed the faith. "What is written of God is for all time, for all people," he told me this winter. "But when you take what is convenient for you, and you hold on to that, and that which is not convenient for you, you throw it away -- then there is a problem."

Now, this is really interesting. What if it is the other way around? What if it is the anti-moderns who take what is convenient for them? What if it is they who are throwing things away? What if it is they who are changing the word of God written for the umpteenth time?

The horror when AB Akinola discovers how corrupt 20th century translations are!

“For conservative Anglicans … It is the Gospel of Transformation.”

Quite. For post 16th century Calvinists the Gospel is Salvation through Law and Works from Sin. But then, this is only one very narrow interpretation of one very narrow sector of the Church; a post 16th century take on Anselmism, pre-Christian in origin; the Hellenistic anti-cosmic teachings on the Highest Being, the Demiourgos, the Vale of tears and life as the Prison of the Soul in matter.

Dust, Ashes, Nothing.

Whereas the Bible teaches the Creation by God of all things visible and invisible. And that God’s Creation is very good. God’s Creation is affirmed in the Incarnation, the life on earth of Christ, in the signs he did to show that the Kingdom is near and that being is Presence, not Absence as in Indo-European Philosophy, and in his suffering, death and resurrection.

For a long time – most of the 2nd Millennium – the academic tradition from Alexandria marginalized the actual teaching of the Bible. Only the horrors of 20th century history made the Church rediscover her Jewish and Biblical roots and ditch much of her anti-cosmic 2nd Millennium baggage in the process, affirming Life as given and the goodness of Creation.

It is no coincidence that Jesus of Nazareth was born, not in Nazareth but at Bet Lechaim; the House of Life.

Life given by God to be lived in communion with God and human beings and the rest of the Creation.

“As Boyer tells it, the affirmation of Bishop Robinson at the 2003 General Convention was a denial of the Gospel of Transformation, for a Gospel of Affirmation”

I do think this is the crux of the matter: Dust, Ashes, Nothing and Hierarchies contra God’s good Creation. All the rest is just pretext, power and bad attitudes.

“The consecration of Gene Robinson pains Duncan because of its implicit denial of the core elements of the Christian faith: sin and redemption. "If sin isn't sin, you don't need a Saviour," he says.”

To me this simply isn’t faith, but the nightmare of a frightened child.

“There is no one here who loves me.”

Faith means trust, and the real transformation comes through realizing that you are indeed loved, that Live is given, and that Life is Communion with God and his Creation. (I’m preachin, ain’t I ;=)

“Everybody's a sinner; you've got to break yourself."

This kind of statement makes me wonder what’s going on inside the person saying it – particularly since it is so blatantly loop-sided. Yes, I’m a sinner, but I do not need to “brake” myself not to bully my fellow human beings.

I’m nether a narcissist, a borderliner or a sociopath. Are you?

”However, these statements constantly beg the question. Why was Robinson's consecration the tipping point?”

I think there are 2 factors. In the moment it was bad leadership. This had been going on for quite a while, actually since the first Lambeth conference in 1868.

The Anglicans had been “nice” to each other, pretending that the very real and glaring differences weren’t there. That there weren’t in fact 2 contradictory Gospels; that of Transformation and that of Life.

The other is political. The anti-moderns, who are no others than the radicals of the new Neo-Platonist 16th century Renaissance, had been loosing ground since the arrival of Modernity, of industrialization and urbanization in the 19th century. The funny thing being, that they and their 19th century twins the Liberals, had actually started the change from pre-modern to modern.

But Modernity proved too much; general suffrage, the abolition of Patriarchal rights, the emancipations of slaves, women, other minorities and now this!

If they lose this one their Transformation will go down the drains, because it will no longer be possible to pretend – as Anglicans have since the first Lambeth – that their particular post 16th century Calvinist take on Anselm’s satisfactio is but one among several theologies of transformation; there are in fact at least 5 of them – all to some extent Biblically based ;=)

But a normal 16th century take on Anselm was about Peace, Love and Understanding, as you can see from the post on by blog of the Foreword to Paul’s letter to Filémon from the 1541 Swedish translation of the Bible ;=)

The last support for Hierarchy is about to fall. The Pastor will no longer be unchallenged. People will start asking questions… And my experience from a childhood spent in a Calvinist city is that they do not have any answers.

Spong is just a pretext. Bishop Gene is a pretext. Moreover, with the advent of 20th century essentialism in the form of the idea – strange as it is – of a sexual orientation as identity, the anti-modern cause is lost beforehand. No political realignment on the pattern of the post Civil rights laws can change that.

”Knowing that they had strong (in fact, majority) support within the broader Anglican Communion…”

Oh, I am so tired of constantly hearing this numbers nonsense! Hardly any of these angry old men in funny hats are elected in any way. They have no real mandate.

They have little more than their anger and their corrupt translations and their 19th century colonial theology.

We are witnessing the last skirmishes of the Arrière Garde, we hear the last desperate honks from the Oliphant, the Oriflamme is falling to the ground – soon the lost survivors will disappear among the trees of la Forêt Enchantée.

To me, deeply rasined in this ancient soil, it is an occasion for both joy and sadness.

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