Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Bishop Duncan starting to see the light? A big day

[updated below]

I have always maintained that my beef with the Nigerian "same sex marriage" legislation (pdf) was not over theology, nor even over whether gay marriage should be institutionalized in Nigeria, but over the Anglican Church of Nigeria's endorsement of legislation that goes beyond banning gay marriage to the point of abolishing even the most basic civil rights for gay and lesbian Nigerians.

I have been consistent in my criticism of the Anglican Communion Network, and its moderator Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh. They have been equivocal (see here also) about whether they stand by their ally Archbishop Peter Akinola's endorsement for political reasons or because they in fact believe that gay and lesbian Nigerians should be put in prison for, say, organizing meetings.

So, I was delighted to see the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, make a clear statement about the need to protect the civil rights of gay and lesbian churchgoers, followed by clear agreement from Bishop Duncan [emphasis mine]:
Bishop Duncan also lauded Archbishop Williams' call to the church to "give the strongest support to the defense of homosexual people against violence, bigotry and legal disadvantage." "I, of course, could not agree more with the Archbishop in calling for the protection of those whose affections are toward the same sex. Discrimination or violence against them as persons should be abhorrent to Christians, regardless of our understanding of what the church can and cannot bless," said Bishop Duncan.
I'm still waiting for a clear call from the Network and from Archbishop Williams for Archbishop Akinola to withdraw his endorsement -- but this a wonderful start. Perhaps more talk of Schism will give them the political cover to further loosen their tongues.

UPDATE 2:15 pm: The American Anglican Council's response to Archbishop Williams' "reflection" does match the grace of Bishop Duncan's.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I hope Archbishop Akinola caught this ...

In the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' "reflection" on the aftermath of the Episcopal Church's General Convention, and the implications that decisions there will have for the Anglican Communion, he made this vital point [emphasis mine]:
It's true that the election of a practising gay person as a bishop in the US in 2003 was the trigger for much of the present conflict. It is doubtless also true that a lot of extra heat is generated in the conflict by ingrained and ignorant prejudice in some quarters; and that for many others, in and out of the Church, the issue seems to be a clear one about human rights and dignity. But the debate in the Anglican Communion is not essentially a debate about the human rights of homosexual people. It is possible --– indeed, it is imperative --– to give the strongest support to the defence of homosexual people against violence, bigotry and legal disadvantage, to appreciate the role played in the life of the church by people of homosexual orientation, and still to believe that this doesn't settle the question of whether the Christian Church has the freedom, on the basis of the Bible, and its historic teachings, to bless homosexual partnerships as a clear expression of God's will.
I couldn't write a better summary of what I believe to be the fundamentals of my position. I have no stake in how the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion at large decides the issue of the homosexuality. My concern is that conservatives in the Church, some of whom I know and am very fond of, are failing to make the proper distinction between a theological dispute, which Williams goes on to say has to be decided "on the common basis of Bible and historic teaching," and a dispute over the abrogation of the most fundamental of civil rights for gay and lesbian Nigerians, as endorsed by Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of All Nigeria.

Archbishop Williams makes this distinction, and he makes it clearly. He says to liberals:
Unless you think that social and legal considerations should be allowed to resolve religious disputes -- which is a highly risky assumption if you also believe in real freedom of opinion in a diverse society --– there has to be a recognition that religious bodies have to deal with the question in their own terms.
At the same time, he says to conservatives:
... this is not and should never be a question about the contribution of gay and lesbian people as such to the Church of God and its ministry, about the dignity and value of gay and lesbian people.
I've been frequently frustrated by the claim of conservative Anglicans that "rights" of gays and lesbians mean nothing if their behavior is sinful. See here for an example. There are few arguments with less intellectual meat than that one. Why's that? Well, if it isn't sinful, then we have taken away someone's civil rights for something that person did not believe in the first place. Not a good thing for "freedom of opinion in a diverse society."

And, I have to admit, I've been frustrated by the claim of liberal Anglicans that external concepts of human rights can occasionally trump Scripture. I feel like they've been reading a different Bible (though I agree with them in their position on human rights).

So, I hope that Archbishop Akinola is reading Williams' reflection carefully. Because in the same Anglican Communion where liberals are letting human rights guide an evolution in the historical beliefs of the Church, conservatives are letting "orthodoxy" steal away the most basic protections that civil society can offer those in an aggrieved minority: speech, assembly, the press, and free exercise of religion. (See here for more details on the "gay marriage" situation in Nigeria.)

I hope Akinola's American supporters (i.e., the Institute on Religion and Democracy, The American Anglican Council, and the Anglican Communion Network, headed by Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh) are reading Williams' reflection, too.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Where have I gone? (and an update on Nigerian same-sex marriage bill)

Sorry if I've disappeared lately.

I'm working on a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation for funding to explore the anatomy of the sugar-transporting vasculature in plants -- otherwise known by its term-of-art the "phloem."

The word phloem comes from the Greek word phloios, which means bark. The phloem is responsible for transporting carbohydrates, amino acids, and minerals from leaves, where they're produced with energy from the sun, to everywhere else in the plant. On the right is a confocal laser scanning micrograph (CLSM) of an Arabidopsis thaliana (or thale cress) root that has been genetically modified to synthesize a green fluorescent protein (GFP) only in the phloem, marking the path by which "plant food" is moved to the growing root tip. [Image lifted shamelessley from Stadler et al.'s article in The Plant Journal.]

The grant proposal I'm writing aims to light up the phloem of Arabidopsis, but in a more subtle way. In the image to the right, the GFP is just floating around in solution -- I want to tether the GFP to the membranes surrounding the phloem conduits. Doing so would allow me to measure accurate the dimensions of the conduits.

Why bother, you ask? Well, with that data, it will be possible to predict a lot about how the phloem works over long distances. I won't go into details (you can read the abstract of my most recent paper on the subject here), but suffice it to say that if I can convince the funding panel to drop me some cash, then I'd be able to go a long way toward integrating the molecular biology and fluid mechanics of phloem biology, and I'd be able to help answer broad questions about how plants direct resources to different organs at different developmental stages.

My deadline is July 12, so don't expect too much from this blog until then.

A final word, however, and an important one before I semi-disappear:

I have received word from a human rights activist in Nigeria that the Nigerian Federal is in recess until August. My understanding is that if they don't get to the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill 2006 (pdf) by the fall, it may not get signed into law until well after the presidential election in May, 2007, if at all. I've also heard from others that Archbishop Akinola is plenty p!$$ed that the President Obasanjo hasn't made the bill a higher priority.

Honestly, this is good news. But the good Archbishop gets a black eye unless he changes his position (I don't think he will), and his conservative Anglican supporters in the US get a whole bunch of black eyes for being unable to distinguish an honest civil rights issue from an equally serious theological dispute. Still not a peep from any of them outside of the occassional comment on titusonenine that they have reservations. Shame on them.

, I'm kind of excited about the possibility that this bill will go away, at least for a while. There was so much I wanted to write about before that little monstrosity came along.

And finally
, thanks to The Salty Vicar for the link. Stay tuned -- I'm not going away forever.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

NG photojournalist released

I had reported earlier on the arrest by the Nigerian Navy of National Geographic photojournalist Ed Kashi, and his fixer Elias Courson. They were released earlier today after a three-day detention.

The Nigerian Navy claimed they were arrested for photographing gas flares from a Bayelsa State oil facility without a permit. Two journalists in Port Harcourt were reported as saying that they knew of no such permitting process.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has more.

(In an odd bit of small-world trivia, Kashi was a college classmate of Episcopal Diocese of Washington's Director of Communications Jim Naughton.)

[Photo from Committee to Protect Journalists website]

Hawking: Solve climate change with space travel!

After publically heaping scorn on Steven Hayward of AEI for repeating a suggestion by engineers that global warming could be ameliorated by putting mirrors in space to reduce incoming radiation, he asked me:
May I assume your scorn for my mention of the idea applies equally to Marty Hoffert and the other authors of the Science piece?
To which I responded, "yes":
I am constantly amazed at scientists who don't give proper attention to even the most cursory analysis of the implications of their suggestions, if only on the back of an envelope. It took me 20 minutes to do my calculation ... . I've been in plenty of meetings where people will brainstorm fanciful ideas on the off-chance that something makes sense, but we don't publish the proceedings of those meetings in Science.
Last week, Stephen Hawking (yes, that one) added his name to my "scorn" list by suggesting that the human race needs to [emphasis mine]:
... spread out into space for the survival of the species. ... Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.
I have never understood this argument. Cost aside -- and Hawking makes no quoted estimate of that -- if we can't handle those threats over a century time scale, what makes him think that we could put a significant human population on another planet?

Much of what Paul Ehrlich's Population Bomb predicted has not come to pass, but Ehrlich was axiomatically correct when he said that there's no a priori reason to believe another planet (i.e., more space) would help us solve our social and environmental crises, nor is there any reason to reason to believe those problems wouldn't follow us if we left.

So why does Hawking say stuff like this? Naivete? Possibly. A desire to sell the children's book he's writing with his daughter? Could be.

Honestly, I just don't get it. This is the only planet we have, and pie-in-the-sky schemes that rely on leaving are insane.

[Image from British Council]

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Nigeria roundup, cont'd, 6/18

  • On Friday (6/16), the Nigerian Navy detained US photographer Ed Kashi of National Geographic while taking pictures of gas flares emanating from the Obama flow station in Bayelsa state. According to the Nigerian Navy, Kashi did "not obtain permission to take pictures of the facility and that the area is volatile and he could have been kidnapped." Apparently, the Navy has not yet acknowledged that he is in detention, yet everyday they say they will release him.
  • From Reuters (6/17):
    At least six people were killed in the southeast Nigerian city of Onitsha when a feud between a separatist group and a transport union degenerated into street battles, residents said on Saturday. [violence erupted in Onitsha in February; over 100 died]

    One witness said men armed with guns and machetes boarded a bus, forced out all the passengers and shot and beheaded one of them at the roadside.

    "He was killed in my presence and his head was cut off," said Charles Mbara, an estate agent who was a passenger on the bus.
    Read the entire story.
  • Disagreement exists over whether crude prices are currently driven by supply or demand concerns, but continued instability in the Middle East, increased demand from India and China, and unrest in the Niger Delta are expected to keep crude oil prices in the $68 to $72 per barrel range in the forseeable future (Forbes).

Nigeria roundup, 6/18

  • HUGE NEWS (sorry it took me so long to report on it): President Obasanjo may pardon the playright Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others (all from Ogoniland) who were convicted and executed under the late General Sani Abacha's regime for what amounted to trumped up murder charges. Royal Dutch Shell has been broadly criticized as having had a part in their execution.
  • An AP retrospective by Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on his last seven years in power. It's very favorable to the president -- Mr. Obasanjo blames all current problems on 45 years of military rule.
  • The Tide (Nigeria) published an "op-ed" by a Rivers State official backing common-sense economic development in the most impoverished, yet ironically wealthiest region in Nigeria: the Niger Delta (Rivers State is in the Delta region.) Obasanjo has taken the lead in meeting with Niger Delta officials toward this end, but his efforts will be in vain without the involvement and commitment of petroleum industry majors such as Royal Dutch Shell. Shell recently refused to obey a Nigerian court order to pay $1.5 billion in environmental cleanup fees to Niger Delta residents. Reinvigorating the Niger Delta is critical to Nigeria and to global oil markets. This Vanguard (Nigeria) "viewpoint" gets the gist. Quote [emphasis mine]:
    In a day and time when the multinational oil companies are applying 4D techniques in the exploration and production of oil, one would have expected that the Federal Government and the multinationals in all their wisdom and experience upgrade their techniques in human relations and profit sharing by getting the third partner involved who happens to be the host area. Instead a flood of words rather than deeds has inundated the dry desert of expectations.
  • The South African Broadcasting Corporation reports that President Obasanjo's PDP party has split over the party's attempt to institute a change to the Nigerian constitution that would have permitted Obasanjo to run for a third term. This Day (Lagos) reports that Obasanjo has set up reconciliation committees in response. There is no doubt the Third Term saga severely weakened the President. Yet last weekend, armed police shut down the headquarters of the breakaway PDP faction. The different factions are now suing each other over control of the party. The potential seriousness of this split for elections next year should not be underestimated. It could be that the PDP's efforts to change the constitution will be perceived as one of the greatest disasters in post-military Nigerian history.
  • AP Photo/George OsodiInventor of the Kalashnikov rifle regrets his invention.
  • Prolonged instability in the Middle East is making Africa, and especially Nigeria, the new "Mecca" of oil exploration (forgive the terrible pun).
  • A cogent risk analysis for foreign investors in Nigeria by the Economist's Intelligence Unit (via calls Nigeria one of the riskiest places in the world. Quote:
    It is estimated that at least 50,000 people have been killed in various incidents of ethnic, religious and communal violence since the return to civilian rule in May 1999. This gives Nigeria a casualty rate from internal conflict that is one of the highest in the world--and the country is not fighting a civil war.
  • Nigeria prepares to hand over the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon, following an agreement on Monday in New York that ironed out disagreements over an October 2002 ruling by the International Court of Justice.
  • A Nigerian television presenter, Mike Gbenga Arubela, was arrested Wednesday (6/14) after the day before hosting a program on next year's presidential elections in which "a guest criticised President Olusegun Obasanjo."
  • The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports on the US Navy's increasing involvement in African waters:
    "Where there are rich resources and a lack of governance and a lack of rule of law, people who are terrorists or wannabe terrorists or would wish to do bad things gravitate," Navy Adm. Harry Ulrich said after a speech to the Military Affairs Council of Western Pennsylvania in Moon. "And that area is defined by rich resources, lack of governance and the lack of rule of law."
  • Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka blames "the emergence of godfatherism and the havoc it has wreaked on the country" on President Obasanjo.
  • The Daily Trust (Abuja) reports that Nigerian marijuana growers are increasingly making "the best in the world."
[Gunboat/AP Photo/George Osodi and Ulrich/Tribune Review/Michael Henninger]

"Manufacturers" as critics of climate change

The lobbying group, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) -- which has a blog, believe it or not -- for some reason thinks it's in their best interest to poke holes in the arguments of those warning of the possible impacts of global warming. This, from an organization that lists among its priorities the development of satisfying employment opportunities, investments in the future, and the improvement of US competitiveness in international markets.

So, why they don't embrace climate change and work to realign US manufacturing toward the next green revolution? (See the ApolloAlliance for more.) Oh wait, I know! They represent entrenched US manufacturers, not the ones that take the risks that will keep the US competitive in a global market.

Note to self: whenever someone says that responding to climate change is "bad for business," make that "bad for established business interests."

An admission from a Nigerian cleric

In The Tide, Nigeria (today), Rev. Akuruse-Okike Omubo of Port Harcourt writes of his three-year stint as a Pastoral Theology student in Canada. He candidly discusses the theological and cultural differences between the Nigerian and western Anglican churches, and makes this important admission [emphasis mine]:
... my number one view about the gay issue is that our culture here in Africa does not permit it and anyone who is a gay in Africa will not come out openly to claim that he is a gay because he is going to be an outcast in the society.
I am currently working to establish a working account of the Church of Nigeria's response to Changing Attitude's presence in Nigeria, and the most important issue for me, as someone who has never visited Nigeria, is why Davis Mac-Iyalla, director of Changing Attitude Nigeria [see here and scroll down] and a professed Anglican, never visited the Church of Nigeria offices in Abuja to make his presence known. Such a step, early on, would have dispelled much of what made and continues to make the Church of Nigeria's response to Changing Attitude so difficult to judge.

Of course, Rev. Omubo's words come as no surprise. Africa is a notoriously difficult place to be openly gay or lesbian, and the Church makes it no easier. But would a visit to the Church of Nigeria have put Davis's life in danger? I welcome comments, especially from Nigerians who visit this blog.

Hello, irony! Bishop Duncan suddenly recognizes the need for minority protections

From an interview by Newsweek's Elise Soukop with Bishop Robert Duncan (Episcopal), of Pittsburgh, and Moderator of the Anglican Communion Network [emphasis mine, h/t D. C. at titusonenine]:
Q: Some say that the average lay person doesn't even care about consecrating gay priests. Is this all much ado about nothing?

Duncan: The average layperson may very well not care, but that doesn't make it right or true. The savior of our world stood alone against the whole world and, remarkably, within two centuries the entire empire submitted. A majority opinion doesn't make it right.
Here's Bishop Duncan in defense of Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola's decision to endorse legislation that would deny free speech, press, assembly, and exercise of religion to Nigeria's gay and lesbian citizens:
It is jarring, to say the least, to see church leaders [meaning Bishop Chane], 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.
Arghh!! It is not an "American understanding of individual rights" but a universal understanding that recognizes the need to protect minorities. Nigeria's own constitution (Sections 38-40) recognizes minority rights. And as Bishop Duncan said to Newsweek, the "majority opinion does not make it right."

If Bishop Duncan believes that minority protections are important, he should immediately write or call the Church of Nigeria office to ask Archbishop Akinola to withdraw his endorsement of legislation that silences an antagonistic minority. Contact info: the Rev. Canon Akintude Popoola, Communications Director, Church of Nigeria, +234 9 5236950, 5230987, 5230989, and email.

[My earlier comments on Duncan's note are found here]

Friday, June 16, 2006

Climate change roundup, 6/16

  • Richard Norton Taylor at the Guardian (UK) notes that climate change is a far greater long-term threat than global terrorism:
    The government's obsession with the "war on terror" is counterproductive and distracting politicians from more fundamental threats to global security, a leading UK thinktank warns today.

    The most likely causes of future conflict are climate change, competition for natural resources, social and economic marginalisation and militarisation, it says.

    The independent Oxford Research Group says in its report Global Responses to Global Threats that the effects of climate change - displacement of peoples, food shortages, social unrest - have long-term security implications far greater than those of terrorism, and notes that the Pentagon's office of net assessment takes the same view.

    To the extent that both climate change and terrorism are problems relating to oil and the petroleum industries intransigence in the face of mounting evidence that their policies create both conflict and climate change, I think it's pretty clear that they're closely related.

  • Schwarzenegger calls on western states' governors to fight climate change. He says:
    In California, we now have a booming economy and are taking care of the environment, so it can be done.
  • Canada's "unofficial weather guru", David Phillips, says the jury is still out. Sort of. The question for him, quite rightly, "isn't whether climate change is coming, but how much people have contributed to the problem." He went on to say that "Canadians can expect greater variability and more extremes of weather," and finished by saying that "with or without climate change, we need to take action now to make our communities more resistant. ... Those that are prepared for the possibility of climate change will be better off."

  • ABC News adds to the popular myth that the evidence for climate change is somehow anecdotal. Thanks for that, guys.

  • According to a Nationwide Opinion Survey of Hunters and Anglers commissioned by National Wildlife Federation, 76% of US sportsmen believe climate change is underway. 73% think it will affect hunting and fishing.

  • Gorbachev pleads for action on climate change -- warning UK think of Chernobyl and to "look before you leap" in building nuclear power stations.

  • Ice-free seas turning polar bears to cannibalism. The principal author of the study was Steven Amstrup of the U.S. Geological Survey Alaska Science Center.

  • The UK's Royal Society warned G8 leaders to ensure that consideration of the effects of climate change is properly integrated into policy over petroleum supply.

  • Reducing the number of night flights by commercial jets could significantly reduce the impact of jet fuel consumption on global warming, according to Dr Nicola Stuber of Reading University, UK. Nighttime jet emission at night produce streaks of condensation, or contrails, that are strong absorbers of ground-emitted infrared radiation. National Geographic, The Independent (UK), and the Voice of America also cover the story.

    [image US National Weather Service]

  • William Baldwin of Forbes suggests getting rid of most energy regulation and replacing it with a gradually imposed 30 cents per pound carbon tax. Grist Magazine has the story and comments. But I have to say, 30 cents per pound is an awful lot. I vote for a hybrid policy that imposes a tax on carbon consumption, but which takes seriously the specific concerns addressed by current (and past) regulation. Simplification is good, but to the point that it's ineffective in staring down the myriad problems associated with both climate change and local pollution.

  • A major story from the New York Times (6/15):

    Investors worried about the possible financial fallout from greenhouse gas emissions have asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to require that companies disclose their financial vulnerability to changes in climate.

    Yesterday, a group of 27 investors who collectively manage more than $1 trillion in assets sent a letter to the S.E.C. chairman, Christopher Cox, asking that financial risks linked to climate change issues be included as part of routine corporate financial reports.

    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer John Iwasaki has more.

  • South Africans are increasingly concerned about the economic impacts of climate change on their geography. They're taking pro-active steps.

  • Alan Farago for the Orlando Sentinel writes:
    Insurance companies cannot afford to fall behind the costs of more frequent and powerful natural disasters. They are not waiting to abandon coverage or raise rates. This vast industry is not sitting on its hands while business models based on the best available science show trouble ahead. In fact, global warming is the root of the insurance crisis in Florida. You can agree or disagree with this inconvenient truth, but you can't avoid the question: What to do? So far the response is business as usual: Solve the coastal insurance crisis by spreading the costs to taxpayers across the nation. This is wrong, and it is wrong for a further reason.
    Read the whole thing to find out why.

  • From a transcript of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's show Lateline. Maxine McKew interviews Alan DuPont of Sydney's The Lowy Institute (6/15) [emphasis mine]:
    MAXINE MCKEW: Let's start at the beginning with you. Would I be right in saying that you started down this investigative path as a one-time sceptic?

    ALAN DUPONT: I think it's more correct to say I was an agnostic - I had an open mind about it, I wasn't convinced either way and I felt I needed to bring myself up to speed on the scientific debates and understand better the scientific data, which I started to do about 10 years ago.

    MM: Having done that, what has persuaded you that this is one of the most significant challenges we now face?

    AD: When I first looked at this 10 years ago, the jury was still very much out on the scientific data. We didn't really know with much precision what was going to happen over the next 100 years. What's changed I think quite dramatically, certainly over the last three to five years is we know a lot more about what is likely to happen, what our climate future is likely to look like, a far greater degree level of certainty about that. As a consequence, we can now start to think through what the implications will be politically, socially and in security terms.
  • This is not news, but the boreal and arctic permafrost has already begun to melt, and it's expected to continue to do so. The great danger in permafrost thawing is the potential for the vast quantity of carbon stored in these soils to be released into the atmosphere, leading to a strong positive feedback in the climate loop. LiveScience has the story.

  • The Competitive Enterprise Institute (yes, they of the "some call it pollution; we call it life" ads) briefed Kuwaiti reporters on climate change today:
    World temperatures are not soaring as high and as fast as some fear and are not likely to bring on disaster anytime soon, two energy experts stressed.

    In remarks about global warming, two experts from the non-profit Competitive Enterprise Institute told a group of Arab journalists that some global warming warnings are unrealistic and exaggerated.
    The article finishes with this gem [emphasis mine]:
    The Competitive Enterprise Institute aims to increase awareness among decision makers on several energy and fuel issues with objectivity and away from political influence and personal interests.

    The institute is a non-profit body that does not accept finance or grants from the federal government and the budget is solely reliant on donations by individuals and charitable institutions. The institute's budget is around an annual USD 3.5 million.
    Not mentioned is the fact that these donations all come from conservative sources. $2 million since 1998 came from Exxon-Mobil.

Jim Naughton's thoughts on the General Convention

Naughton, the communications director for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, has some interesting thoughts (6/16) on what's happening at a very high level at the Episcopal General Convention [emphasis mine]:

John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, who seems like a smart and subtle fellow, is pressing our bishops to enact full moratoria on the consecration of non-celibate gay bishops and on the blessing of same-sex relationships. He is meeting with various bishops, in smallish groups, I think, to press his case.

Those of us who were in the second floor bar of the Hyatt last night along about midnight (that was ginger ale in my glass) saw him walk through in the company of Bishop Jon Bruno of Los Angeles, an interesting site because Bruno is built like a tight end, and Sentamu like a marathoner.

His argument, as I understand it, goes something like this:

(A caution here: I haven’t heard this directly from the Archbishop, and some of what people are portraying as his argument may be their own developments on his thinking).

If you don’t enact full moratoria, several things might happen, none of them good: either you will be marginalized within the Communion, or the Communion will have to cope with intra-provincial splinters as the Akinolians attempt to assemble an orthodox international fellowship.

On the other hand, if you vote for moratoria, you will be on the right side of Windsor [pdf] whereas Akinola of Nigeria, Orombi of Uganda and Venables of the Southern Cone, among others who have crossed your provincial boundaries to lay claim to parishes or start churches, will be on the wrong side, and then they will be the ones subject to whatever discipline it is that the Communion can muster.

In addition, if we accept the moratoria, we buy ourselves time, the argument goes. Akinola won’t be a primate forever, and Orombi’s has a weak hold on his bishops’ loyalty (north-south tensions in Uganda). If the Communion outlives their tenures, perhaps the storm will pass.

Looking at this argument strictly in tactical rather than moral terms, I don’t find it persuasive.

Read the whole thing to find out why.

Anglican roundup, 6/16

  • An extremely pithy review of the General Convention in Columbus, from the BBC.

  • Rev. Mark Harris, of Preludium, has these thoughts on the composition of the Episcopal Church [emphasis mine]:
    Included in this observation is the less obvious implication that until recently the catholic and evangelical emphasis and the revolutionary emphasis have in fact held. That is, the Episcopal Church has been in the past a mix of elements: catholic, evangelical and revolutionary. What is it that has held the church together that is now missing?

    Perhaps it is that until recently many of us could hope that being catholic and evangelical might indeed be possible while being as well progressive and revolutionary. As a church we have resisted condemnation of clergy who were snake belly low or spiky high, given to the excesses of the spirit and the dryness of academia, wildly contemporary or madly eccentric, prophetic and pastoral. We have in other words lived with the quirkiness of our fellow Episcopal and Anglican friends in the sure and certain hope that one day they would retire or die and life would go on.

    What was holding the church together was the tolerant middle, willing to live with the edges biting at them. The linch pins that string together this strange entourage of ecclesial wagons was primarily reflection on scripture and the saying of prayers, both set in the context of Common Prayer. And those prayers are profoundly about the incarnational presence of Christ in the world, and thus about mission and presence.
    Intransigence, from the left and the right, is what's tearing it apart.

  • Former Republican Senator from Missouri, and ordained Episcopal priest, had this to say at the General Convention (LA Times):
    ... Danforth said the denomination should turn away from the "inside baseball" of church politics and put its energy behind reconciling a world increasingly polarized by politics and religion. "For 99%-plus of people, they really couldn't care less who the bishop of diocese 'X' or 'Z' is," Danforth said, during the church's national legislative meeting. "Nor could they care less whether a liturgy for blessing same-sex unions is available in a prayer book or over the Internet."

    If the Episcopal Church breaks apart, "we'll be one more little splinter, one more tiny wedge in the world of wedges," he warned.
  • And the real reason Archbishop of Canterbury is not at the Convention himself.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Anglican roundup, 6/15

[Akinola rumor updated below]

If anyone out there wants to know what stories interest a non-Anglican about the Episcopal Church's General Convention going on right now in Columbus, Ohio, here goes:
  • At a press conference on June 14, Bishop V. Gene Robinson answered the following question from a reporter (emphasis mine):
    Q: You use the name of Jesus in connection with the gay and lesbian agenda in the Episcopal church. Are you convinced that those who oppose you on this issue are following a false Jesus?

    : First of all, let me say that Jesus is the agenda, the homosexual agenda in the Episcopal Church. I believe that with my whole heart. Second of all, I would in no way issue such a judgment against anyone who disagrees with me. Let me just use the Most Reverent Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria, as a name, a representative. I believe that Peter Akinola is following his journey back home to God as faithfully, as prayerfully and as thoughtfully as he can. I am, too.
  • There is a rumor that Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria is in Columbus. From BeliefNet [emphasis mine]:
    If the ACC divorces itself from the Episcopal Church, where will they go? Rumor hast it that Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria who has been particularly vehement in his opposition to the Episcopal Church’s approval of Robinson, is in the city awaiting a vote on the LGBT-related issues. If he is, he could lead the disappointed conservatives out of the convention hall and into his branch of the Anglican Communion.

    So far, this is only a rumor.
    Yes, it's only a rumor. And I didn't start it.

  • UDATE: Kendall Harmon at titusonenine says Archbishop Akinola is not in Columbus and that he will not be in Columbus. I believe him.

Bush's numbers and statistical nearsightedness

First, take a close look at this picture:

Then, tell me that it makes sense -- in the wake of al-Zarqawi's death and Bush's surprise 5-hr visit to Baghdad -- to pay any attention to:
  • A one-point rise (NBC/Wall Street Journal over a 6-week time span)
  • A two-point drop (CBS over a 3-week span)
  • Or a two-point rise (USA Today/Gallup over a 1-week span)
(Note, these are the only post-Zarqawi numbers.) When his approval jumps 10 points in as many days, as it did when Saddam Hussein was captured in December 2003, then we'll talk. Otherwise, we've gotta take the long-view. The short-term ups and downs of single polls by single polling firms mean next to nothing. So, Democrats and Republicans alike: stop yer yakkin'. A "bump" exists if all the polls agree, the bump is large, and it's sustained.

Joe in DC at AmericaBlog has comments, as does Tim Grieve at

See for the numbers.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bush Sees Oil as Key to Restoring Stability in Iraq

I did a double-take when I saw that headline from the New York Times' David Sanger, but nearly fell out of my chair when I read his first paragraph:
President Bush proposed today that Iraq create a national fund to use its oil revenues for national projects, as part of a strategy to build loyalty to the new government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
Really!? Sanger goes on [emphasis mine]:
This is not the first time that Mr. Bush and his aides have suggested that oil could be a solution to many of Iraq's problems: Before the war, Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense, suggested that oil revenues could pay for Iraqi reconstruction. So far, that has not happened.
I'm getting really frustrated. This plan could have been executed a long time ago, and Bush is fully to blame. See Naomi Klein's September 2004 Harper's piece for more.

Space Mirrors: AEI's solution to climate change

[updates below]

Yes, Steven Hayward of the American Enterprise Institute now appears to be willing to admit that climate change is a going concern.

But rather than tackle the intertwined problems of energy consumption, energy supply, global conflicts, and a fast-growing developing world, Steven Hayward offers this solution (and I'm not kidding):
... we should consider climate modification. If humanity is powerful enough to disrupt the climate negatively, we might also be able to change it for the better. On a theoretical level, doing so is relatively simple: we need to reduce the earth’s absorption of solar radiation. A few scientists have suggested we could accomplish this by using orbiting mirrors to rebalance the amounts of solar radiation different parts of the earth receive. Right now this idea sounds as fanciful as Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative seemed in 1983, but look what that led to. New York University physicist Martin Hoffert points out that the interval between the Wright brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk and Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon was a mere sixty-six years. It is entirely reasonable to expect vast changes in our technical capacity before the century is out.
OH ... MY ... GOD.

Let's see, to reduce insolent radiation by, say, 10%, would require that something on the order of 5-10% of the equatorial land area between 30 S and 30 N be covered by mirrors

... from space.

To minimize penumbras -- those half-shadows that surround the full shadows cast by objects due to the very large size of the Sun -- the mirrors would have to be solid sheets stretching over enormous areas. And at an orbital altitude of at least 400 miles, this massive, unbroken mirror would require an area of at least 6 million square miles (assuming a 3936 mile Earth radius, and 5% coverage of the area between 30 S and 30 N).

Light weight reflective mylar weighs about 50 tons per square mile. Forgetting for the moment that the Space Shuttle's maximum payload weight is only 25 tons, an effective mirror would require over 300 million tons of mylar, and therefore about 10 million space shuttle launches.

And don't forget space junk. The only reason the shuttle doesn't get hit is because it's small. A 6 million square mile mirror is another story.

Finally, Ronald Reagan's SDI? Please.

Hayward's piece just goes to show: AEI folks have no sense of scale.

UPDATE: I made a serious boo-boo. I calculated area as 4 pi R^3, rather than 4 pi R^2. All corrections are reflected above. Thanks to phillies at DailyKos for catching the math error. I used to work on global carbon cycling models and was familiar with things like the surface area of the Earth, but that was ten years ago -- yet, I knew something didn't add up.

The mylar would cost about $5 trillion dollars, assuming a 90% volume discount on 12 micron PET from commercial sources such as McMaster-Carr, and that's just to buy the film -- never mind the structural supports.

Ten million launches would use a lot of fuel. If each launch consumes the equivalent of 2 minutes worth of gas at current US gasoline consumption rates (equivalent to 445,000 gallons of gas), then 10 million launches would consume about 380 years worth of gas at current US gasoline consumption. This would cost global taxpayers on the order of $11 trillion at $2.50 a gallon.

So far, then, my conservative estimate suggests that production and deployment of the space mirrors would more than double our national debt.

And I thought the AEI was supposed to be fiscally conservative. So much for their stand against government entitlements.

UPDATE II (11:00 AM, 6/13/2006): Steven Hayward has contacted me with his source for the Space Mirror program. He is right to make clear to me that it was not his idea, but that it instead originated in an article in the journal Science. The article, entitled "Advancing technology paths to global climate change stability: energy for a greenhouse planet," was published in 2003 (Science 298: 981-987) with Martin I. Hoffert at NYU's Department of Physics as the lead author.

Hoffert et al.'s conception of the space mirrors is different from what I had conceived:
Perhaps most ambitious is a proposed 2000-km-diameter mirror of 10-micron glass fabricated from lunar materials at the L1 Lagrange point of the Sun-Earth system [i.e., stationary between the Earth and Sun, at about 1 million miles from the Earth and thus 4 times the distance between the Earth and Moon]. The mirror’s surface would look like a permanent sunspot, would deflect 2% of solar flux, and would roughly compensate for the radiative forcing of a CO2 doubling. Climate model runs indicate that the spatial pattern of climate would resemble that without fossil fuel CO2.
In an accompanying figure, the mirror is shown as a Fresnel mirror, which would diffract, not reflect, incoming solar radiation. Hoffert et al. go on [emphasis mine]:
It is only prudent to pursue geoengineering research as an insurance policy should global warming impacts prove worse than anticipated and other measures fail or prove too costly. Of course, large-scale geophysical interventions are inherently risky and need to be approached with caution.
In the interest of fairness to Hayward, let me just say that Hoffert et al.'s concept is looney. A 3 million square kilometer Fresnel mirror (i.e., carefully etched glass) would still require manned space flights until kingdom-come. I don't feel it's necessary for me to do the calculations needed to give a cost estimate (Hayward, or perhaps an enterprising National Review reader, should do it), but shame on Hoffert et al. for not even considering, let alone comparing, potential costs. If a Fresnel mirror at the L1 Lagrange point costs anything like the mirror I envisioned above, it would be far more cost effective to cut our fossil fuel consumption, or plant a trillion trees. We need to get over our all-to-eager embrace of "Star Trek" technology.

On the other hand, technological advances, like some of those proposed by Hoffert et al., are exactly what could make a new "green revolution" economically attractive for both business and labor. People at the ApolloAlliance are leading the way (hopefully), but they're keeping it simple. And their suggestions don't require a permanent base on the Moon.

(Image source NASA)

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Where things stand now - a resource for newbies and oldbies

[Constantly updated -- permalink here]

[UPDATE February 28, 2007 -- If you are reading this post for the latest news on the Nigerian gay marriage bill, then your information will be out of date. Please visit the top of the blog here for the latest information, as well as info on what you can do now to speak out against this terrible legislation. The bill could pass by the end of tomorrow, March 1, 2007 -- do something now!

However, everything you read below is still accurate and is a good introduction to the history and background to this legislation.]

In late February, 2006, John Bryson Chane, the Episcopal Bishop of Washington, DC, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post. In it, he revealed to the WaPo's readership one of the many awful consequences that decades of conflict have brought to the Anglican Communion over the issue of homosexuality. Just days before, one of Chane's fellow bishops in the Anglican Communion, the Primate of All Nigeria and leader of the Anglican Communion's largest Province, Archbishop Peter Akinola, endorsed legislation that would ban most basic civil rights for gay and lesbian Nigerians, and enforce that ban with a 5 year prison sentence.

The Global Anglican Communion is in crisis mode (events in Columbus, Ohio, suggest it may be about to implode), struggling to salvage a broad though loosely affiliated organization from self-destruction under the pull of two strong forces. On the one hand, northern Anglicans in the US, Canada, and the UK are committed to a liberal stand on homosexuality, and to a Gospel of Inclusion (i.e., "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You"). On the other hand, the Provinces of the Global South, along with splinter organizations in the North (see the American Anglican Council, or AAC, and the Anglican Communion Network, or Network) are "orthodox" on the issue of homosexuality, and consider their purpose to be far more evangelical than that of the Episcopal Church, USA (ECUSA), or of other Northern Anglicans. The Provinces of the Global South claim moral authority because of their great and increasing numbers, while parish registries in ECUSA and elsewhere are stable or in decline.

The "splinter organizations" that have organized the conservative movement within ECUSA, and in the process have forged deep alliances with their Global South brethren, have their roots deep within the Republican Party. Jim Naughton of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington expertly outlines that relationship in his series "Following the Money." The AAC -- an umbrella group for American conservative Anglicanism -- has historical and present ties with the Institute on Religion and Democracy (or IRD), a deeply conservative group devoted to supporting politically consonant forms of Christianity within mainline Protestant denominations. The historical relationship between the IRD and the AAC is clear -- at one point, their websites were identically formatted, and their offices were in adjacent suites in an I St. office building in northwest Washington, DC. (The AAC is now headquartered in Atlanta.) The IRD has received considerable support ($4,679,000 between 1985 and 2005) from The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Richard Mellon Scaife via the Carthage Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundaiton, and the Scaife Family Foundation, the Randolph Foundation, the Castle Rock Foundation (the Coors family), and others. The IRD board is populated by such conservative luminaries as Mary Ellen Bork, Fred Barnes, author of "Rebel in Chief", Richard J. Neuhaus, Michael Novak, and is advised by conservative radio talk-show host Michael Medved. A source in the AAC tells me that a still large share of the AAC's budget comes from Howard Ahmanson, Jr., a major funder of Intelligent Design "research" at the Discovery Institute.

Support from the IRD has helped the AAC and the Network (the "orthodox" wing of ECUSA) get their feet on the ground, and establish ties to Global South Provinces, where the Network's brand of Anglicanism has found a far more sympathetic audience.

The groundwork was laid, then, for a massive right-wing reaction to the elevation -- at the ECUSA 2003 General Convention -- of V. Gene Robinson, an open and partnered gay priest, to be Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. Since then, it has been open warfare against the "creeping influence" of Western liberalism, with Archbishop Akinola leading the charge, and conservative American Anglicans more than eager to follow.

It is in this context that we must interpret the significance of the Nigerian gay marriage bill that Archbishop Akinola endorsed and Bishop Chane discussed. As much as Archbishop Akinola and the Church of Nigeria would like us to think otherwise, the bill is a direct reaction to the conflict over homosexuality in the Anglican Communion, and specifically a reaction to the presence of a gay and lesbian Anglican advocacy group that formed in Nigeria last year.

It is also in this context that we must interpret the inability civil libertarians among conservative Anglicans in the US to take action against what I know many of them believe to be a bad piece of legislation. One highly-placed cleric associated with the Network has been quite clear with me that he is very uncomfortable with the legislation -- he believes it is no longer ministry when you put gay and lesbian parishioners in jail over a theological disagreement. Because of clergymen like him, and because of his continued silence, I have become convinced that only a schism in the Communion could rescue gay and lesbian Nigerians from prison. That is, only when conservatives are freed from having to fight their liberal brethren and defend their hero Peter Akinola will they able to see the forest for the trees.

While the bill would affect millions of Nigerians (assuming conservatively that the background "homosexuality" rate among Nigerians is 1-3% out of a population of 120 million), the legislation's story begins and ends with Changing Attitude, an Anglican group in the UK determined to achieve full acceptance for gay and lesbian Anglicans. The following timeline will help illustrate why Changing Attitude and its Nigerian branch Changing Attitude Nigeria (see CA website for sources) are so important, and why it was that their presence in Nigeria precipitated the legislation's introduction:
  • March 2005 -- The ECUSA House of Bishops adopts a "Covenant Statement," which says, in part:
    We express our own deep regret for the pain that others have experienced with respect to our actions at the General Convention of 2003 [the elevation of Bishop Robinson] and we offer our sincerest apology and repentance for having breached our bonds of affection by any failure to consult adequately with our Anglican partners before taking those actions.
  • April 2005 -- Archbishop Akinola responds to the "Covenant Statement," saying:
    While the statement issued by ECUSA's House of Bishops expressed a desire to remain in the life and mission of the Anglican Communion, I was disappointed that the only regret offered was for their failure to consult and the effect of their actions instead of an admission that what they have done has offended God and His Church. [emphasis mine]
    Two days later, Archbishop Akionola announces the planting of a Nigerian Anglican church in North America, called the Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America (or CANA). In doing this, the Archbishop crosses "Provincial" borders, signifying to the rest of the communion that, in his soon-to-be very ironic words:
    If ... the measures proposed ... to protect the legitimate needs of groups in serious theological disputes prove to be ineffectual, and if acts of oppression against those who seek to uphold our common faith persist, then we will have no choice but to offer safe harbour for those in distress.
  • 1 September 2005 -- Changing Attitude (CA) launches in Nigeria. Its director, Davis Mac-Iyalla writes of their first meeting:
    It was a big joy to start the group here with 35 persons in attendance on the day of our first meeting. More people keep showing interest and our numbers increased each time we met. I have called on friends from other Dioceses who are very active to help start the group in their respective churches. Most of the people I speak to on phone want me to reach them in person and to tell them what to do so that they can start the group in their parishes.
    CA's goal is to:
    make lesbian and gay Anglicans visible and heard in every Nigerian diocese. Groups are already meeting in Port Harcourt, Lagos and Abuja, where the headquarters of the Church are located.
  • 17 October 2005 -- Davis Mac-Iyalla, director of CA Nigeria, publishes an article in Nigeria's Daily Sun [no longer available online]. In it, he
    confronts the Primate of All Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, with the reality of gay and lesbian worshippers in Anglican churches across Nigeria. [He] reminds the church of the commitment made by the Primates, including Archbishop Akinola, to listen to the experience of homosexual persons in each province and reflect on these matters. [emphasis mine]
    It is this "listening" that Archbishop Akinola himself agreed to at the 1998 Lambeth Conference, under the I.10 Resolution (I.10c).

  • 22-24 October 2005 -- Director Davis Mac-Iyalla and eight fellow members of Changing Attitude Nigeria are arrested. Mac-Iyalla believes that the arrests were in response to his Daily Sun article. Davis is beaten twice, as are his companions, and they are kept without food or water for three days.

  • 25 November 2005 -- Undaunted, Changing Attitude Nigeria holds their first General Meeting in Abuja, as covered by the New York Times' Lydia Polgreen (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.''
    About the meeting, Davis says:
    I am full of joy at the end of the Meeting. God is great. About 360 people were at the opening on Friday afternoon. More than 800 people came for the second meeting later on Friday and the meeting lasted until 4am. We worshipped, ate and prayed together. The meeting was held openly so that we can now tell everyone that gay Nigerians met together and came out of their closets.
  • 28 December 2005 -- Clearly alarmed by the presence of Changing Attitude Nigera, and surely more than a little annoyed, Archbishop Akinola releases a statement to the Nigerian public, warning them of the "activities of a person who goes by the name of Davis Mac-Iyalla." The statement can be found here at the Church of Nigeria's website. An accompanying press release warns the public of "fraudsters."

  • 31 December 2005 through 16 January 2006 -- Changing Attitude responds to these charges vociferously, here, here and here.

  • 18 January 2006 -- Justice Minister Oyo presents the legislation in question to the Nigerian Federal Assembly (discussed in detail below). The bill goes out of its way to ban any sort of organization that advocates homosexuality within Nigeria. The bill's emphasis on "organizations" is suspiscious, and, of course, were the bill to pass, Changing Attitude Nigeria would be illegal, and members would be subject to 5 years' imprisonment were they to continue to meet.

  • 25 February 2006 -- Archbishop Peter Akinola explicitly endorses the legislation in his "Letter to the Nation" following their Standing Committee meeting, as found on the Church of Nigeria website.
Davis Mac-Iyalla believes the Church of Nigeria is behind the bill. Other human rights workers in Nigeria have confirmed this, saying that Archbishop Akinola has "spearheaded" the campaign to pass the legislation prior to the runup to next years' presidential elections.

Conversations between Church of Nigeria officials (notably Canon Akintude Popoola) and Changing Attitude occasionally pop up on the website Thinking Anglicans (for example here, here, and here; Canon Popoola goes by "Tunde"). Typically, Canon Popoola claims that homosexuals do not exist in Nigeria or that they exist in very small numbers (to which CA responded in the Church Times, posted here), and that Davis is defrauding his foreign supporters and attempting to trick them into sponsoring his asylum in the EU. The most recent defense of Davis by CA can be found here.

I will publish a compendium of Canon Popoola's comments (in context!) sometime in the near future.

Since the publication of Chane's op-ed -- which you must read if you haven't already -- the issue has only grown in strength. The US State Department has denounced the legislation. Nearly 20 human rights organizations have called for President Obasanjo -- historically a friend of Peter Akinola -- to drop the bill. Sixty members of the European Parliament have condemned the legislation. While currently in committee, the legislation is expected to go up for a vote in July, 2006.

When reading the bill, it is important to keep in mind that sodomy is already illegal in Nigeria. Chapter 24, Section 214 of Nigeria's criminal code penalizes consensual homosexual conduct between adults with fourteen years’ imprisonment (Human Rights Watch). Sharia, as practiced in northern Nigeria since 1999, calls for death by stoning for "sodomy" violations.

A copy of the "Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition)" bill can be found here. The bill has not yet passed. A summary of bill follows (I've emphasized those parts of the bill that, in my view, "cross the line"):
  • Sections 1 and 2 - Definitions
  • Section 3
    • Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in Nigeria.
  • Section 4
    • Same-sex marriage and adoption are prohibited.
    • Foreign same-sex marriages are void in Nigeria.
    • Same-sex marriages are not entitled to the benefits of valid marriages.
    • Contractural rights between same-sex married couples by virtue of those marriages are void in a court of law.
    • Nigerian courts will have no jurisdiction over such divorce, separation, and maintenance orders with respect to same-sex marriages.
  • Section 5
    • Again, same-sex marriages from outside Nigeria are not recognized within Nigeria.
    • No arm of the government, in its official capacity, will recognize same-sex marriages.
  • Section 6
    • The celebration of same-sex marriages is prohibited in any place of worship.
    • No marriage license can be issued to partners in a same-sex marriage.
  • Section 7
    • Registration of gay organizations by the Nigerian government is prohibited.
    • "Publicity, procession and public show of same sex amorous relationship" in the media is prohibited.
    • Gay organizations are prohibited, as is "procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private". Violators are subject to 5 years' imprisonment.
  • Section 8
    • Any participant in same-sex marriage is subject to a penalty of 5 years' imprisonment.
    • Any person who performs, witnesses, aids or abets a same-sex marriage is subject to the same penalty.
Sections 1-5 of the Nigerian bill would formalize restrictions on gay marriage that are similar to what are found in many states in the US. Twenty-one states still have sodomy laws on their books, and most ban gay marriage or civil unions either constitutionally or by statute. If the Nigerian bill had stopped here, it would have imposed a situation no different than that found throughout the US.

But this bill goes much further. Sections 6-8 above restrict the right to free speech, free press, free assembly, and the free exercise of religion, and enforces that restriction with a jail sentence.

This week, the Episcopal Church heads into its General Convention. I hope that anyone reading this will use it as a resource when speaking to the press, or working to convince our Conservative friends that abridging basic civil rights is not the way to minister to sinners.

Please send me any links to other resources you would like to have posted here. I don't have time to be exhaustive on my own -- I need help.

I recommend the following "talking point" when discussing the legislation with its supporters:
Don't let ministry turn to persecution.
Most conservatives I've spoken with either have nothing to say in response to this, or become quite willing to say all sorts of awful things in order to save face.

The following is a summary of Political Spaghetti posts in order of advancing date (I would be interested in linking to posts from other bloggers -- please send those links if you have them -- I will post them!):

March, 2006
  • My first post on the central role of Archbishop Peter Akinola in endorsing the gay marriage bill, and in doing worse than nothing to quell reprisal violence by Nigerian Christians against Muslims following the "cartoon riots" of February.
  • Comments on the "Absurdity of Same Sex Unions" by the Rt. Rev. David Onuoha.
  • A collection of quotes by Nigerian religious leaders of all persuasions on the same-sex marriage bill.
  • A call for Akinola's conservative colleagues within the Anglican Communion to denounce Akinola's endorsement of the legislation.
  • A letter by the Rev. Martyn Minns of Truro Parish, Fairfax, Virginia, defending Archbishop Akinola. Minns, incidentally, is a good friend of Akinola, has hosted Akinola's visits to the US, and is believed to be on the short list for the episcopacy should Akinola succeed in establishing an Anglican Province within the US.
  • Some clarification on our obligations to protect basic civil rights everywhere.
  • A summary of the relevant human rights documents, including sections of the Nigerian Constitution.
  • Comments on a letter by a local American Anglican Council (AAC) group in the Washington, DC, area to Bishop Chane in response to his op-ed. Their objections were easily dispelled, though we've heard nothing more from them on the subject.
  • A summary of a conversation I had with a commenter named "John" over at titusonenine, and my responses to his arguments, regarding Martyn Minns letter.
  • The US State Department denounces the legislation.
  • Archbishop Akinola formally endorses the legislation. I make suggestions for compromise changes to the bill.
  • Stephen Bates at the Guardian (UK) comments on conservative Anglicans' fear of crossing Archbishop Akinola.
  • Andrew Sullivan asks when Christian religious leaders will start using Islamists' calls of Western decadence to start calling for restrictions of our basic freedoms. I suggest that Martyn Minns already had.
  • I suggest that the Institution on Religion and Democracy might not deserve the word "Democracy" in their name if they are only willing to defend democratic institutions -- like the right to free exercise of religion -- when those institutions protect "orthodox" Christians.
  • Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, the moderator of the Anglican Communion Network in the US, responds to Bishop Chane's op-ed in the Washington Post. His letter is a weak response, and like most others fails to address the substance of Chane's op-ed (see here).
  • I note that by taking part in a schism of the Anglican Communion on the side of an Archbishop who endorses putting gay and lesbian Nigerians in prison for their speech, conservative American Anglicans are painting themselves as anti-civil libertarians.
  • Uganda and Nigeria among the ten worst places to live if you're gay.
  • An example of how the concept of a "civil society" has not yet reached poverty and war-ravaged Nigeria.
  • Human Rights Watch and 15 other human rights organizations call for Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to withdraw the legislation, in advance of Obasanjo's visit to the White House in late March.
  • A roundup of responses to the Human Rights Watch letter.
  • The Afghan Christian convert, sentenced to death by Muslim courts, set to be released. I discuss the implications for the IRD.
  • I muse over whether Schism in the Anglican Communion would be the best way to get conservative Anglicans in the US to look critically at the actions of their hero, Archbishop Akinola.
  • More reactions to the Human Rights Watch letter.
  • More on the "benefits" of Schism.
  • A missed opportunity by conservative Anglicans in the US to exercise the consciences.
  • Mark Harris responds to Bishop Duncan.
  • The Nigerian solar eclipse (late March)
  • My response to the Rev. Luke Mbefo's letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about Bishop Chane's op-ed to the Washington Post.
  • Nigerian President Obasanjo calls for the Federal Assembly to expedite the passage of the Gay Marriage ban.
April, 2006
  • Nigerian President Obasanjo makes it clear that he will run for a third term as president if the Federal Assembly is able to change the constitution to permit him to do so. This is widely considered to be an orchestrated move, originating from Obasanjo, though he denies that to this day. The subsequent furor over "Third Term," as it came to be known in Nigeria, put the gay marriage legislation on the back burner.
  • Archbishop Akinola makes a low profile visit to the US.
  • What 5 years in a Nigerian jail might look like.
  • More human rights organizations come out against Nigerian gay marriage bill.
  • I wonder aloud about how religious voices can be melded into civil society with minimal conflict. I choose the example of Paul at the Areopagus as found in the Book of Acts.
  • The New Yorker covers the crisis in the Anglican Communion.
  • The Muslim News incorrectly reports that the gay marriage legislation had already passed. This becomes a common misconception, especially among gay activist magazines, web pages, and journals in the West.
  • A brilliant op-ed by Gary Wills in the New York Times on liberal religious leaders working to develop a political movement of their own. I have problems with such movements, regardless of whether they come from the left or the right. So does Wills.
  • An Easter message from Akinola.
  • A long piece I wrote, called "Things Fall Apart" (clever, huh?), to fill in blanks left by Peter Boyer's otherwise fascinating piece in the New Yorker about the crisis in the Anglican Communion.
  • Being gay in Botswana.
  • A post on the long-term involvement of Archbishop Akinola's Communications Director, Akintunde Popoola, in discussions on the liberal Anglican website, Thinking Anglicans. I tried to get Canon Popoola to declare that he was OK with putting gay and lesbian Nigerians in jail for their advocacy of homosexuality. He declined to answer. And no one heard from him again. For the record, he has never explicitly answered that question. Neither has Archbishop Akinola.
  • The damage done by the abstinence-only program within President Bush's PEPFAR campaign to HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa.
  • Jim Naughton, at the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, posts a two-part article on how the right-leaning elements of the Episcopal Church is funded, called "Following the Money."
  • Archbishop Akinola named one of the world's top 100 most influential people by Time Magazine.
May, 2006
  • More on Jim Naughton's "Following the Money." I balk at making a comment.
  • I post briefly on the denouncement of Akinola's endorsement of the gay marriage ban by Canada's Anglican bishops.
  • Andrew Sullivan works hard to coin the word "christianism." Lucky him.
  • The IRD's Mark Tooley uses Ahmadinejad's letter to Bush to criticize liberals, showing us only that he's a tool of the Republican-controlled IRD.
  • The liberal blogosphere organizes against the IRD.
  • I predict that with the end of "Third Term", the gay marriage ban will shortly be re-introduced to the Nigerian Federal Assembly.
  • South African Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane comments on the influence of Western liberalism on his thinking, showing that not all of African Anglicanism has a totalitarian streak.
  • David Virtue posts randomly on Bishop Chane's op-ed, perhaps as a toss of red meat to his readers.
  • Why conservative Anglicans are wrong to support Akinola's endorsement.
  • The Guardian's Peter Tatchell puts pressure on the oddly silent Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, to speak up on the issue of the gay marriage legislation.
  • Northern Nigeria and sex education.
  • The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Nigeria, Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, has room in his head for democratic politics in the face of a third-term run by President Obasanjo, but no room for the most basic of civil rights for gay and lesbian Nigerians.
  • Africans, sex, and the internet.
June, 2006
  • A coalition of Nigerian human rights groups forms around defeating, or at least changing, the gay marriage ban prior to its passage.
  • Just to show that I don't think Akinola is all bad, this post covers his denouncement of corruption in various Nigerian government agencies. (Of course, talk is cheap when corruption is so rampant.)
  • News finally reaches me of the gay marriage legislation. IT IS NOT DEAD.
  • In an interview to Newsweek, Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, and the moderator of the ACN, lays out exactly the argument I have consistently advanced for why Archbishop Akinola should withdraw his endorsement of the "same sex marriage" legislation.
  • A Nigerian priest returning to Nigeria from a 3-yr stint as a theology student in Canada admits that "anyone who is a gay in Africa will not come out openly to claim that he is a gay because he is going to be an outcast in the society."
  • The Episcopal Church elects its first woman Presiding Bishop, signalling the beginning of the end of its involvement in the global Anglican Communion. In other words, schism is near. As I have argued here, an end to the standoff between liberal and conservative Episcopalians could be a good thing for getting conservative American Anglicans to push Archbishop Akinola to withdraw his endorsement of the anti-gay Nigerian bill.
Here is a list of relevant news on the gay marriage legislation, going back further than my time blogging on the subject.

[Image of Archbishop Peter Akinola, left, and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, right, from Jim Rosenthal/Anglican World]