Monday, March 12, 2007

I really am taking a break for a bit

Following on a recent post, I just want to let people know that I'll be back shortly. I have some professional things I have to attend to.

No news regarding the Nigerian resolution (this is a GOOD SIGN), but there is a new UN report on your chances of getting tortured if you're in Nigerian police custody.

Thanks to all who have let me know about emails sent and phone calls made.

If you're a conservative and you want to add your name to a growing list of "reasserting" voices objecting to the Nigerian legislation, please email me. Believe me, YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ruth Gledhill chimes in

Read her thoughts here.

UPDATE: VOA has additional coverage, including an interview with Davis Mac-Iyalla. (h/t Jim Naughton)

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!).

The New York Times weighs in, big time

[updated below]

OK, not so fast, Matt. You're not going on vacation just yet.

The New York Times editorial page assaults the Nigerian gay marriage legislation, and drags the Anglican Communion along with it. If conservative American Anglicans think they can keep ignoring this, they're dangerously mistaken.

Time to speak up. Disassociate yourselves from this immediately, and do so clearly, explicitly, and without rationalization.

From the Times [my emphasis]:
A poisonous piece of legislation is quickly making its way through the Nigerian National Assembly. Billed as an anti-gay-marriage act, it is a far-reaching assault on basic rights of association, assembly and expression. Chillingly, the legislation — proposed last year by the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo — has the full and enthusiastic support of the leader of Nigeria’s powerful Anglican church. Unless the international community speaks out quickly and forcefully against the bill, it is almost certain to become law.
It's not long. Read it all.

This all makes me wonder -- are some of the Episcopal leaders who are leaving the Episcopal Church (or who have already left) really thinking hard enough about going under Nigeria's oversight? Are their parishioners?

UPDATE March 8, 10:21. Jim Naughton caught this, too. And well before I did.

Passage still imminent

Human rights workers are still fighting hard in Nigeria to defeat the "same-sex marriage legislation." The delay in a vote (it looked at one point as if the legislation would get a vote in the Nigerian Senate last Friday) is a good thing. But there has been no concrete news since before the weekend, so I have nothing to report. Further, I am disappearing for a short while to take care of some job-related issues. However, I will continue to monitor the news -- if anything comes up, I will post ASAP, if briefly.

And you conservative Anglicans out there -- I love you, but you gotta speak out! This is your last chance. Be sure to read Ephraim Radner's comment.

I expect to be blogging at full strength again on or after 18 March, but stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

News from Tanzania that interests me

Seriously, this is the only thing that I've read to have come out of Tanzania in the last several months that has peaked my interest.

(Photo credit Nils Hagar, World Wildlife Fund, via the NYT)

Evolutionary "hotspots," as they are called, arise in regions that have been geographically isolated and environmentally stable for very long stretches of time. Under these conditions, populations tend to evolve characteristics that set them far apart from neighboring populations outside the "hotspot," and with diversity not found elsewhere.

The Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania comprise one of these hotspots. For example:
In 2005, for example, scientists discovered a new species of monkey, a slender, tree-dwelling primate called the Kipunji. At first it appeared to belong to a group of monkeys called mangabeys. But last year scientists studying its DNA were surprised to discover that it was not a mangabey at all; its closest kin are actually baboons.
The New York Times' Carl Zimmer has the coverage. Read it all.

Fighting HIV/AIDS through Shar'iya

A fascinating and non-polemic article in This Day (Lagos) by Imam Imam on the challenges and triumphs of fighting HIV/AIDS in Zamfara State, Nigeria, a Shar'iya state.
One positive aspect of the battle against Aids in the state is how some people infected with the disease raised to ensure its spread is limited. Hajiya Asma'u Muhammed Ibrahim is HIV-positive and since last year, she has been the leading voice in the fight against discrimination. The virus infected her through her husband who "got it somewhere." Always in her Hijab (Islamic head wear), Asma'u moves from house to house in Gusau, the state capital and other towns and villages to sensitise the people.

She does not feel different from other people and expressed delight that ARVs are made available to them free of charge at designated government hospitals. She said as part of measures to alleviate the sufferings of those infected with HIV virus, the Federal Government has agreed to establish four additional anti-retroviral centres in Zamfara State so as make the drugs available to people living with the virus in the state.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Nigerian Senate VP Mantu

[updated significantly below. And I've heard word that calling or writing the Nigerian government directly is unlikely to do any good. So I've added contact info for the Church of Nigeria, and deleted the embassy numbers.]

Nigerian Deputy Senate President Ibrahim Mantu (see here) was in DC today. I have it on good authority that a letter of protest was delivered to him by Congressman Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo, California, 12th District) regarding the "gay marriage" legislation. No word on the text of Lantos' letter.

Letters to Nigeria by American legislators is nothing new. Another letter was sent to Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo by Congressman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts, 4th District) on May 2, 2006. The text can be found here. Frank's argument was that as ranking member (and now Chair, I should add) of the Financial Services Committee, he had the power to cut off aid to Nigeria should Obasanjo sign the legislation. I wonder if that threat is still intact.

Make calls of support to Congressmen Lantos and Frank, and encourage your friends to do the same:
Congressman Tom Lantos
2413 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-3531

Congressman Barney Frank
2252 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-5931
Email is good, but a phone call is way better. Tell them that you appreciate their concern for civil rights abroad, and their efforts to encourage Nigeria to avoid making a terrible mistake.

If you're a Republican, get over it and give these folks a call anyway. They're doing God's work with this legislation, and they're doing it right now.

Also, I should add, if and only if you're a member or incipient member of a CANA parish, contact Bishop Martyn Minns:
The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns
703.273.1300 x140
Truro Church
10520 Main Street
Fairfax, Virginia 22030
If and only if you're a member of a Network parish or diocese, contact Bishop Robert Duncan:
The Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan
Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh
900 Oliver Building
535 Smithfield Street
Pittsburgh, PA, 15222-2467
If you're an Anglican, contact Archbishop Rowan Williams and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori:
The Most Reverend Rowan Williams
The Press Office
Lambeth Palace
London SE1 7JU
Tel: 020 7898 1200
Fax: 020 7261 1765
Press Secretary's email:

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
815 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017
Phone: (800) 334-7626
If you're "nothing at all," and you don't know who to write, contact your US Representative or Senator, or the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) -- BE POLITE!:
Archbishop Peter Akinola (

Archbishop Akinola's Communications Director, Canon Akintude Popoola (
What to say:
Tell them all that the "same-sex marriage" legislation before the Nigerian Federal Assembly is undemocratic, it violates the UN's International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, it has been condemned by the US State Department and 16 human rights organizations, it is in violation of the Nigerian Constitution, and it is in violation of Christian and Muslim principles.

Most importantly, stress the urgency of action, and above all, be very, very polite.

From the comments: Ephraim Radner

I hope he won't mind my posting his comment to the front page of my blog, but his words are significant. The Nigerian legislation -- and Archbishop Akinola's explicit endorsement of it -- are serious issues that transcend the theological and ecclesiological crises that rend the Anglican Communion. Common ground must be found. To do so, liberals must be willing to grant, at least in this one instance, that Akinola's endorsement is grave enough to overlook their distaste of their opponents' "theological and evangelical" arguments against homosexuality, and grave enough to lead conservatives to understand that this is their problem to fix and their burden to bear.

I post Ephraim's comment here in its entirety, and I look forward to your thoughts.
Dear Matt,

Unlike some, I don’t have a problem with the single-minded way you have pursued this issue. It is an important one. While I don’t agree with everything you write on the topic, I believe that the credibility of Christian witness – and that obviously includes conservative Christians as much as anybody – demands some clear articulation of our duties to protect basic human rights and our willingness to fulfill these duties. In this case, as you know, I believe that these basic human rights, included in God’s own purposes for human life and understood communally within the larger society of nations, would be subverted by major parts of this proposed legislation (especially in sections 7 and 8). It needs to be said that the essay that Andrew Goddard and I wrote on this topic – and that we forwarded to the Nigerian Church via Martyn Minns – was posted on an evangelical Anglican website (Fulcrum) and certainly represents the views of many conservative Anglicans (as you suggest it probably does). It is quite possible to admire Abp. Akinola’s spiritual and missionary leadership – and I do, greatly – without agreeing with (and by in fact publicly disagreeing with) his support of this proposed legislation. You are right: this is an area where Anglican Christians across of the board ought to be able to be of one mind, even if they continue to stand far apart on basic theological principles dealing with sexuality. It is interesting, however, that there seem to be very few persons in the gay inclusionist wing of the church who are willing to accept this common ground: to argue for the theological and evangelical unacceptability of same-sex behavior, they claim, is already to have attacked the human rights of homosexuals. I have heard this claim made many times in response to my own views. In this kind of climate, it must be admitted, it is hard to make the kinds of distinctions necessary to bring conservatives and liberals together on this fundamental ground. I appreciate your more sensible – and to my mind, truthful -- approach.

Ephraim Radner
If it interests you to take part in finding this common ground -- and especially if you are a conservative -- please email me, and we'll see where it leads. Reaching out on this issue would work wonders to engender good will for the coming months, and could even save thousands of gay and lesbian Nigerians from harassment, gratuitous violence, and other forms of persecution.

Remember, the bill could pass presently, and if it does, and you've said nothing, then it's partly your fault.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


I recently posted two entries regarding comments made by Canon Kendall Harmon, the proprietor of Titusonenine, to Howard Lesser of the Voice of America. Reaction to these entries, both on his blog and on Thinking Anglicans, has disturbed me. Many engaged in the debate over homosexuality in the Anglican Communion wish to make the issue of Archbishop Akinola's endorsement of the Nigerian "gay marriage" legislation part of their own partisan polemics. This is a grave mistake, and it shows in the ugliness and personal nature of many of the comments on both sites.

The dangers associated with Archbishop Akinola's endorsement transcend the current crisis. Conservatives -- no matter how justified their position might be -- run the risk of looking like monsters, bent on jailing their opponents rather than hearing them out; gay and lesbian Nigerians lose by being put in prison for their speech. Until the implications of Akinola's endorsement are resolved, neither side can reasonably come to the table with an interest in honest discussion. Whatever we think of Peter Akinola as a person and as a spiritual leader, he was wrong to have endorsed legislation that would effectively put in prison those that disagree with him on the issue of homosexuality, and his actions must be admonished and corrected.

While the negative comments were not my own, I want to personally apologize to Canon Harmon for making him the target of vitriol from the left (such comments on Thinking Anglicans as "it's amazing how multiculti Harmon and the others can get when it furthers their plan to take over the church" were beyond the pale). He has been very gracious to me on his blog. I hope to return the favor continuously.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Clarification on the "Shar'iya" bomb

Canon Kendall Harmon, proprietor of Titusonenine, has now made it quite clear to me and to his readers that "I have not been able to find the text of the legislation, but there is no way I could support it based on the way it sounds like it will be worded."

This is, of course, really, really good to hear, but I'm not at all surprised. I never for an instant thought that Canon Harmon thought this legislation was a good idea -- I feel I've gotten to know him over the last year or so that I've been lurking on his blog, and I can say with certainty that he is a good and decent man.

That said, now that he has a copy of the most recent version of the legislation (see here), I wonder if he can join me and others in explicitly declaring exactly what it is about the legislation that he doesn't like, and explicitly calling for Archbishop Akinola to withdraw his support for those sections of the bill that offend him (and which should offend the Archbishop).

Canon Harmon took some umbrage at my characterization of his position on the bill, and he has since corrected the record, as have I. But it's important that he understand what it was that I found so troubling about his statement to the Voice of America's Howard Lesser.

Bishop Martyn Minns of CANA, and rector of Truro Church, said in a public statement (March 4, 2006) that "I do NOT believe that criminalization is an appropriate response to those who understand themselves to be homosexuals. Resolution 1.10 from the Lambeth Conference in 1998 is a good summary of my convictions on this contentious issue."

Bishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Communion Network said (March 15, 2006) that "the proposed law sounds harsh to American ears."

These quotes are from statements in defense of Archbishop Akinola following a Washington Post Op-Ed (February 26, 2006) by Bishop John Bryson Chane (Diocese of Washington, DC), in which Bishop Chane quite accurately said:
... the Nigerian law has crossed the line in several important respects. Its most outrageous provision deals not with marriage but with "same-sex relationships" and prohibits essentially any public or private activity in any way related to homosexuality. It reads in part: "Publicity, procession and public show of same sex amorous relationship through the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise are prohibited in Nigeria."

Any person involved in the "sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly" is subject to five years' imprisonment.

The archbishop's support for this law violates numerous Anglican Communion documents that call for a "listening process" involving gay Christians and their leaders. But his contempt for international agreements also extends to Articles 18-20 of the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which articulates the rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, association and assembly.

As far as I can tell, Bishop Chane, Bishop Duncan, Bishop Minns, and Canon Harmon would all agree in principle with these words. If I am mistaken, I would like very much to be corrected. But my point is that there are certain principles at stake here, principles of honesty and decency, that both sides of the broader debate within the Anglican Communion on the subject of homosexuality should be able to agree upon.

If Chane's words from the above quote represent the views of all of these men, then none of them should have any difficulty stating as much in public.

Canon Harmon should have been able to say to the Voice of America's Howard Lesser (perhaps he did) that while he opposes the consecration of gay priests and bishops and the blessing of same-sex marriages, he also opposes any legislation that would put gay and lesbian Nigerians in prison for advocating on their own behalf, and he furthermore believes that Archbishop Akinola made a mistake by endorsing the legislation without qualification.

Instead, what we have heard from Bishop Minns, Bishop Duncan, Archbishop Akinola, and lately Canon Harmon amounts to quiet acquiescence to the "background" noise of Shar'iya in Nigeria. This is not a particularly brave position, and it shows a willingness to rationalize rather than clarify, and a desire to protect an ally rather than correct his error. It is also a specious position, given that there are Nigerian Muslims in both Houses who oppose the legislation. Thus, I was surprised and disturbed enough by Canon Harmon's words to blog on the fact that he appeared to have been the latest to drop the "Shar'iya" bomb.

Canon Harmon now has a copy of the latest version of the legislation. He knows it will soon pass, and he knows enough of its history to know the score. What say he?

The legislation under debate

I've received a request to provide the latest version of the Nigerian "same-sex marriage" legislation under debate in the Nigerian Federal Assembly. The following was provided to me by Scott Long of Human Rights Watch. Scott tells me that it is the same version that was debated before the Nigerian Senate last week.

For the record, it is also the same version that was published as an appendix to the Andrew Goddard / Ephraim Radner article from Fulcrum, linked to on my banner above [I have made no edits other than to format it for the web]:

BE IT ENACTED by the National Assembly of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as follows-

1. Short Title

This Act may be cited as Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006.

2. Interpretation

In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires-

“Marriage” means a legally binding union between a man and a woman be it performed under the authority of the State, Islamic Law or Customary Law;

“Minister” means the Minister responsible for Internal Affairs”

“Same Sex Marriage” means the coming together of two persons of the same gender or sex in a civil union, marriage, domestic partnership or other form of same sex relationship for the purposes of cohabitation as husband and wife.

3. Validity and Recognition of Marriage.

For the avoidance of doubt only marriage entered into between a man and a woman under the marriage Act or under the Islamic and Customary Laws are valid and recognized in Nigeria.

4. Prohibition of Same Sex Marriage, etc.
  1. Marriage between persons of the same sex and adoption of children by them in or out of a same sex marriage or relationship is prohibited in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  2. Any marriage entered into by persons of same sex pursuant to a license issued by another state, country, foreign jurisdiction or otherwise shall be void in the Federal Republic of Nigeria,
  3. Marriages between persons of the same sex are invalid and shall not be recognized as entitled to the benefits of a valid marriage.
  4. Any contractual or other rights granted to persons involved in same sex marriage or accruing to such persons by virtue of a license shall be unenforceable in any Court of law in Nigeria.
  5. The Courts in Nigeria shall have no jurisdiction to grant a divorce, separation and maintenance orders with regard to such same sex marriage, consider or rule on any of their rights arising from or in connection with such marriage.
5. Non-Recognition of Same Sex Marriage
  1. Marriage between persons of same sex entered into in any jurisdiction whether within or outside Nigeria, any other state or country or otherwise or any other location or relationships between persons of the same sex which are treated as marriage in any jurisdiction, whether within or out side Nigeria are not recognized in Nigeria.
  2. All arms of government and agencies in the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall not give effect to any public act, record or judicial proceeding within or outside Nigeria, with regard to same sex marriage or relationship or a claim arising from such marriage or relationship.
6. Prohibition of celebration of same sex marriage in a place of worship
  1. Same sex marriage shall not be celebrated in any place of worship by any recognized cleric of a Mosque, Church, denomination or body to which such place of worship belongs.
  2. No marriage license shall be issued to parties of the same sex in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
7. Prohibition of Registration of Gay Clubs and Societies and Publicity of same sex sexual relationship.
  1. Registration of Gay Clubs, Societies and organizations by whatever name they are called in institutions from Secondary to the tertiary level or other institutions in particular and, in Nigeria generally, by government agencies is hereby prohibited.
  2. Publicity, procession and public show of same sex amorous relationship through the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise are prohibited in Nigeria.
  3. Any person who is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.
8. Offences and Penalties.
  1. Any person goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.
  2. Any person performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment.
9. Jurisdiction

The High Court in the States and the Federal Capital Territory shall have jurisdiction to entertain all matters, causes and proceedings arising from same sex marriages and relationships.


This Act shall prohibit in the Federal Republic of Nigeria the relationship between persons of the same sex, celebration of marriage by them and other matters connected therewith.
My objections are to Sections 6(1) (but not 6(2)), 7, and 8, but I am primarily worried about Sections 7 and 8, since they would effectively, and in the context of Nigeria's police and judicial systems, abridge all speech, assembly, press, and free exercise of religion rights for gay and lesbian Nigerians speaking out on their own behalf.

I can make no principled objection to Sections 1-5, or to 6(2), since these are provisions that are under debate in many states here in the US and it would be the weakest of arguments (if not rank hypocrisy) for me to call for gay marriage to be recognized by the Nigerian Federal Government if it is not so recognized in my own country.

Thus, I have only ever called for Archbishop Akinola to qualify his endorsement by explicitly denouncing Sections 6(1), 7, and 8. In addition, I believe that is only these changes to the legislation that Bishop Minns of CANA and Bishop Duncan of The Anglican Communion Network are morally obligated to pressure Archbishop Akinola to demand. Many will argue that failure to do so would be tantamount to organized and church-sponsored persecution of Nigeria's homosexual minority.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Canon Harmon drops the "Shar'iya" bomb

[updated below]

Canon Kendall Harmon, the proprietor of the right-leaning Anglican blog Titusonenine, was just interviewed by Voice of America's Howard Lesser about the meeting in Tanzania, and also about the legislation before the Nigerian Federal Assembly that would radically abridge basic civil rights (like speech, press, assembly, free exercise of religion) for gay and lesbian Nigerians.

In light of recent news developments (see here, here, and here), Canon Harmon's words, which echo the arguments made by other conservative American Anglicans, and by Archbishop Akinola himself -- that the legislation may be necessary given the threat of Shar'iya -- ring very, very hollow:

As for this week’s indications that Nigerian legislators plan to criminalize same sex relationships and all promotion of a homosexual lifestyle, Canon Harmon says he hopes the Nigerian diocese and its leaders will strike a balance that respects the region’s cultural history and the personal rights and freedoms of Nigerian citizens.

“Nigeria is closely divided between Islam and Christianity. So you have Sharia law in the minds of a lot of legislatures. From an American perspective, it looks very, very punitive relative to American legislation. So I think the hard part is the degree to which the Church can push back in a compassionate way and still try to uphold the teaching of the Church in a society where Islam and Christianity are competing strongly,” he said.

I have a great deal of respect for Kendall Harmon, and I don't want this come across as a personal attack.

But he "hopes that the Nigerian diocese and its leaders will strike a balance"? Too late! That ship has long since sailed. The very imminent passage of this legislation is rapidly turning into a serious PR disaster for anyone who continues to blame Shar'iya for this legislation, or who fails to recognize the implications this would have for potentially millions of Nigerians.

Here's an appropriate "balance" for Canon Harmon. Call for Archbishop Akinola to revise his endorsement to leave intact those parts of the legislation that state that gay marriage is not to be recognized by the Nigerian government, and strike those parts that would put a gay or lesbian Nigerian in prison for 5 years for disagreeing.


UPDATE March 2, 2007, 12:29. Canon Harmon, via email, has indicated that he did in fact condemn the legislation, but that it did not make the tape, and that the interview with Lesser was intended to be about Tanzania. I believe him. He also said he would never support legislation like this.

However, I don't believe that I should be the one clarifying his position. One shouldn't have to take it from me.

UPDATE: I'm currently engaging Canon Harmon's readers on this subject on Titusonenine. Come by and check it out.

The blinkered "right"

From an undated interview of Martin Barillas, conducted by Michael Westfall, from the conservative web page [my emphasis]:
Michael Westfall: On these vital matters, do governments and world authorities really care about Biblical values and faith issues relative to their behavior? Does world morality continue to slide downward in important areas and if so, what are your views on the moral decline?

Martin Barillas: Certainly, there is a perception that the observance of moral values is in decline. In the 20th Century, we saw the onset of industrialized warfare in the trenches of the Somme during the First World War, Nazi death camps and Soviet pogroms before and during the Second World War, the bombing of civilians and the use of the atomic bomb by the Allies, abortion and contraception, and then the advent of gay rights. All of these are manifestations of the culture of death. ...

... An area of hope is that Christians in Africa, Asia, and Latin America may have a great deal to tell us about the importance of clinging to the anchor of faith. It is truly significant that Anglican bishops of Africa, for example, are leading the Anglican Communion in rejecting proposals to dignify homosexual relationships with the moniker of “marriage”.
Of course, if Barillas had read the legislation, he would know that it does far more than simply ban gay marriage, and abridges the full set of what we in the US would call First Amendment rights (the right to free speech, assembly, press, and exercise of religion). But never mind -- just before this, Barillas impeached himself entirely by donning the mantel of "protector of human rights" [my emphasis]:
Michael Westfall: What do you see as the role of the Church in protecting human rights around the world, who are the major players and do you see the role of the Church increasing or decreasing? Could you explain for our readers some of the other major human rights violations, and what kind of obstacles the Church faces in addressing these issues?

Martin Barillas: Christians, of whatever stripe, are called to not only praise the Lord but to share his word. This can be in not only evangelising but also taking risks as some missionaries and others do when they challenge economic and legal systems. My thoughts run to the many Catholic nuns and priests who have given their lives in witness to the Gospel when they put the spotlight on the violence and inhuman practices of the powerful. Christians may at times be at odds with government, even if it is the government of the United States.

In Latin America, the Church has long been persecuted by governments that have cozied up to US corporations such as United Fruit, mining and railroad interests [i.e., the United States]. There have been times in places like Guatemala in the 1980s when there was a price on the head of missionaries there. In El Salvador, three US missionaries were murdered there during the Reagan administration.

The Church, broadly speaking, must address human rights violations honestly and courageously. It has to be a beacon of hope and truth to all people.

This is the same line we hear from the Institute on Religion and Democracy (a non-democratic Christianist organization) over and over again. Culture is in decline. We must abridge the rights of those who threaten our culture. At the same time, we must invoke the human rights of our co-believers to protect them from attack by those who would attack our culture.

This is a very, very cynical understanding of of human rights, and it represents the rankest hypocrisy.

I should probably have ignored this interview, but there has to be some defense against this kind of nonsense.

Thoughts from Archbishop Rowan on an impending Anglican Schism

Nothing new to the Angliscenti, but it's important to put as strong a spotlight as possible on the nominal head of the Anglican Communion in the midst of an Anglican Church-sponsored campaign of discrimination in Nigeria.

From General Synod:
"Whatever happened," the Archbishop lamented, "to persuasion? To the frustrating business of conducting recognisable arguments in a shared language? It is frustrating because people are so aware of the cost of a long, argumentative process. It is intolerable that injustice and bigotry are tolerated by the Church; it is intolerable that souls are put in peril by doubtful teaching and dishonest practice. Yet one of the distinctive things about the Christian Church as biblically defined is surely the presumption (Acts 15) that the default position when faced with conflict is reasoning in council and the search for a shared discernment."
As someone who has not picked sides in this grand Anglican crisis -- but who has simply found himself disturbed into action by one side of the debate -- I find Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan William's words to ring with truth, but to be hollow with impotence due to their inconsistent application.

He has on repeated occasions spoken out against what he sees as "doubtful teaching and dishonest practice." But when a concrete example of "toleration" (if not support) of "injustice and bigotry" is right before his nose (I am, of course, referring to the situation in Nigeria), he says absolutely nothing.

Perhaps the Archbishop is being poorly advised.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Passage Imminent 11

Human Rights Watch has put out another, highly informative press release that summarizes the situation in Nigeria eloquently. The release was published by Reuters AlertNet in its entirety, and in a summarized form by the BBC.

The latest news on the legislation, from the press release [my emphasis]:
The legislation was first introduced in January 2006 by Nigeria’s minister of justice, Bayo Ojo. It lay dormant for months in the National Assembly, as nationwide elections – scheduled for April 2007 – drew near. On February 12, 2007, however, a public hearing was called in the House of Representatives Women’s Affairs Committee with only two days’ notice. A coalition of Nigerian human rights organizations opposed to the bill was initially told it could not address the hearing, as it was by invitation only. Although the groups were later allowed to speak, the bill has apparently moved forward rapidly in both Nigeria’s House and Senate without further public debate. It is reportedly poised for a third reading in the Senate on March 1, after which it could become law.
In other words, still not law, but it's getting closer every day.

Here's a bit of history to add to Scott Long's account (in the HRW press release). Archbishop Akinola (Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion) pushed hard for this legislation. Twice he publicly and explicitly endorsed the legislation. The legislation was approved by the President's Executive Council a few weeks after the embarrassing (for Akinola) appearance of Changing Attitude Nigeria (a gay and lesbian Anglican organization) and its extensive coverage by the press, even by the New York Times. Since the legislation would ban Changing Attitude from operating in Nigeria, one wonders not only about the timing, but also about the rationalizations that Akinola has put forward to his American supporters that he does not endorse jailing gay people.

For God's sake, where are the conservative Anglicans? Why don't they see this for the public relations disaster that it is?

The "Christian Leaders" letter to Nigerian politicians was signed only by liberal Anglicans, but of all the members of the Anglican Communion, they are the least likely to sway the Nigerian legislature. Akinola's conservative supporters -- by failing to add their voices to the voices of their liberal co-religionists -- are betraying themselves, their followers, and all of us, but most of all the gay and lesbian Nigerians who will endure the worst of it. If conservative Anglicans (and Archbishop Rowan Williams) fail to condemn this sub-human bit of populist nonsense and if they fail to condemn Akinola's endorsement, they will bear the shame of it to their graves.

This could have been stopped a long time ago. Instead, conservative Anglicans saw it as just another cog in their battle with the liberal Episcopal Church.

Remember, it's not too late to do something about this. See here for whom to contact to speak your mind (especially if you're a conservative Anglican -- you, most of all).