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.

5 comments:

First Apostle said...

Very strong points.

John said...

Duncan is savvy enough to avoid political untenable positions. It is a mystery though whether he holds any real convictions, or whether his theological views are simply calculated to advance his political ambitions. The irony is that he was elected as bishop because he positioned himself as the most moderate of the candidates. From a progressive in Pittsburgh

Matt said...

John, I am very interested in how the next couple of weeks/month will unfold. If the "gay marriage" bill comes before the Nigerian Federal Assembly before the end of the summer, watch for fireworks. Of course, there's a chance that it won't, given the current state of political upheaval in Nigeria over the upcoming presidential elections.

Of course, regardless of where the bill is now, Bishop Duncan should take a stand against Archbishop Akinola's endorsement, take his lumps, but then move forward with whatever "political ambitions" he might have with a clear conscience.

Anonymous said...

I found the comments of Archbishop Jensen of Sydney interesting, here: http://www.abc.net.au/rn/religionreport/stories/2006/1679172.htm#

Jensen is anti gay and anti liberal. But he distances himself from Akinola and takes him to task, publicly, for homophobic bigotry in a way that the Archbishop of Canterbury's oblique (naming no names) comments have simply never done. He actually goes out of his way to stop the interview at one point and say: "...if Archbishop Akinola ever did say something like that, which he may or may not have, I would utterly repudiate it and next time I see him, not that I see him very often, perhaps twice I've met him, I would certainly tell him so in no uncertain terms. It is reprehensible that he should speak like that. And that's as clear as anything. I just want to make that clear, because sometimes it's felt that one might associate with such speech, and I certainly don't."

I was also encouraged by his clear indication that, although he sees homosexuality as a first order issue, he accepts the legitimacy of the other point of view - "what we're dealing with is strongly, strongly held, mutually inconsistent but legitimate opinions".

And he is also very clear in rejecting Akinola's vision of a church which excludes those with different views. He wants us to live together - although many would see him as at an evangelical extreme, he does not want schism, or splits, or property disputes, or expulsions. He doesn't even want a covenant and a two tier church. He wants communion.

Akinola is going. But he's not going to take even those who share his views on the gay bishop with him. I don't think he understands what Anglicanism is. Much as I disagree with Jensen on so many things, I agree with him on the nature of the Anglican communion and on its ability to accommodate difference.

Matt said...

Many, many thanks for the link to that interview -- I'll post on it as soon as I get this grant proposal finished.