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-- If you are reading this post for the latest news on the Nigerian gay marriage bill, then your information will be out of date.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:
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 1-5 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
April, 2006
May, 2006
June, 2006
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]


If you are looking wow power leveling, buy warcraft gold as well as WOW Power Leveling and World Of wow levelingWhen you need someone to listen,FFXI Gil, I'll be there. When you need a hug, cheap FFXI Gil,I'll be there. When you need someone to hold your hand, I'll be there. When you need someone to wipe your tears, guess what? I'll be there. William Shakespeare

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home