Thursday, March 08, 2007

Time Magazine calls for clarification from Akinola

[updated below]

David Van Biema writes (Thurs, March 8) [my emphasis]:
Awkward as it may be for an outsider to intrude in the doings of a country or a church that is not his own, I nonetheless believe that the Most Rev. Archbishop Peter Akinola has some explaining to do. The Anglican Primate of Nigeria, one of the most powerful churchmen in Africa, needs to clarify his stance on a Nigerian anti-homosexuality bill he initially supported, which assigns a five-year prison term not only for practicing gays, but also for those who support them. Akinola either needs to publicly renounce, in strong terms, his early support of the bill's punitive clauses and to amplify the rather tepid concern he later expressed about them, or else he needs to explain why he's not doing so to the dozen or so churches in Virginia whose congregants were largely ignorant of the legislation when they voted to join Akinola's archdiocese in December.
Please read the whole thing.

Van Biema concludes, significantly [again, my emphasis]:
A few months ago, Nigerian religion expert Abieyuwa Ogbemudia said to my colleague Gilbert daCosta, "It is incredible for any church to even tolerate homosexuality and survive in Nigeria. Your church would be dead in the water." Akinola, however, has proven himself in the past to be a brave man. He took a strong and important stance against Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo's bid for an extraconstitutional third term. He needs to be brave again and speak out against the penalties in the Nigerian bill. If he truly has concerns about human rights, he should express them with vigor. Failure to do so ought to prompt his new Virginian congregants to give a second thought to their choice of Akinola as their shepherd.
I would go beyond the question of Archbishop Akinola's personality and beliefs and argue that even if the legislation fails to pass, his "new Virginian congregants" may soon realize that even the best intentioned men are required by the pressures of Nigerian politics and cultural mores to do things that are demonstrably wrong, especially when that man is as important to Nigerian society as the Archbishop of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

If so, Nigeria is no safe haven from the storm. I think a great many parishes departing The Episcopal Church will soon come to this realization, if they haven't already.

UPDATE March 9, 09:22. Jim Naughton (and Simon Sarmiento of Thinking Anglicans) finds the tone of the Time piece to a bit off. I agree with him, especially on the factual matters.

However ... I don't think the Time piece is aimed so much at getting Archbishop Akinola to change his mind or offer an explanation as it is at getting the Virginian parishes to rethink their decision. He's making the Archbishop out to be "not such a bad guy after all" (while still in error), while making it perfectly clear that most Virginian parishioners didn't know what they were getting themselves into.

Jim, I think, may be stating too strongly how much these parishioners knew. I've gotten lots of emails in private, even from Virginian vestry members who are still deciding whether to leave the Episcopal Church for Nigerian oversight, wondering if what I have been saying on my blog is true. If I were a traditionalist parishioner reading only what had been written by Bishops Minns and Akinola on the subject (see here for links to their letters, etc.), and following their implicit suggestion that I ignore anything Bishop Chane had written in the Washington Post, then I would be in a pretty ignorant position, indeed!

Commenter C.B. on Jim's blog echoes this thought (just now!).

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