Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Akinola’s position on homosexuality within the Anglican Communion

Looking at it from the Nigerian perspective

Background for Discussion

Archbishop Peter Akinola’s opposition to the consecration of homosexual bishops and the blessing of same sex marriages cannot be viewed from strictly scriptural or human rights perspectives. Although these are certainly relevant and powerful perspectives
within the dialogue (or dual monologues), they are not at the heart of what drives Akinola’s aggressive stance on the issue of homosexuality in the Anglican Communion and the US Episcopal Church’s progressive (and admittedly nontraditional) views.

Akinola’s words and actions must be considered first within the context of the historical and ongoing conflict between Christianity and Islam in Nigeria. While Akinola consistently argues the immorality of homosexuality and refers to scripture and the traditions of the Anglican Communion to advocate his position, he has also noted that the Anglican Church in Nigeria cannot politically or physically survive if it is seen (even vaguely) as accepting homosexuality.

Even if he were personally inclined to be more progressive in his views, Akinola believes that he cannot afford to associate with the US Episcopal Church now for fear that the “enemies” of the Anglican Church in Nigeria will use that relationship as proof of the moral depravity and thus illegitimacy of Anglicanism and Christianity in general.

The enemies, of course, are Muslims, which account for 50-55% of Nigeria’s population. The remaining 40-45% of Nigerians are Christians. It is this relative balance that creates a conflict situation between the two religions, as each competes for advantages, more dominance. Each religion feels threatened by the other. Christians live in fear of violent persecution by Muslims. Muslims have the same fear of Christians. Both fear the possibility of a religious war and possibly genocide instigated by the other. There is plenty of history between the two religions in Nigeria to justify this fear.

In such a delicate situation, Akinola sees little room to maneuver, particularly given that Muslims in Nigeria began applying and enforcing Sharia religious law during the 1990s. In extreme cases, non-Muslims can be subjected to Islamic civil, criminal, and family law. Christians could suffer a range of physical punishments ordained by Sharia tradition, including floggings, mutilations, and death.

Akinola and Christians in Nigeria fear Sharia and feel they do not have the “luxury” of being more accepting or tolerant of behaviors that are seen as immoral and insulting to God… even if they wanted to. On the contrary, they feel they must be inquestionably purer, more religiously orthodox than Muslims so as not to be at risk of the draconian Sharia punishments.

Questions for Discussion

Assuming that Akinola and the Anglican Church in Nigeria are responding to the US Episcopal Church’s positions on homosexuality more out of fear for their very survival than a theological disagreement over scriptural interpretation, anger over the seeming break with tradition, or a desire to judge and condemn what they see as sinful, do Akinola’s words and actions seem more reasonable… even if they feel offensive, unjust, and perhaps even evil?

If by moderating his position for the sake of unity within the Anglican Communion and for the sake of upholding the equal rights of gays and lesbians, Akinola created a political and religious environment in Nigeria that led to the persecution and death of millions of Christians in that country, would it be worth it?

To what extent should the US Episcopal Church’s position on issues like homosexuality (on which there is a wide theological and cultural divergence within the Anglican Communion) be sensitive to the impact it can have on fueling political instability and even war and genocide in other countries?

If there is such a wide religious and cultural divergence within the Anglican Communion, is it unreasonable (from a practical standpoint) to assume that US Episcopalians can remain within the Communion without causing a lot of trouble?

Can the US Episcopal Church do more good and be more effective by acknowledging irreconcilable differences and simply opting to leave the Anglican Communion rather than continuing to take on Akinola, African Anglicans, and conservative US Episcopalians that have decided to leave ECUSA?

What are the pros and cons of such a move? Is the eventual expulsion of the US Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion a given? And if so, would it be better for the US Episcopal Church to pre-empt this expulsion and leave on its own terms?


Monday, May 14, 2007

At axis of Episcopal split, an anti-gay Nigerian

Chris Greenberg/Associated Press

December 25, 2006

The way he tells the story, the first and only time Archbishop Peter J. Akinola knowingly shook a gay person’s hand, he sprang backward the moment he realized what he had done.

Archbishop Akinola, the conservative leader of Nigeria’s Anglican Church who has emerged at the center of a schism over homosexuality in the global Anglican Communion, re-enacted the scene from behind his desk Tuesday, shaking his head in wonder and horror.

“This man came up to me after a service, in New York I think, and said, ‘Oh, good to see you bishop, this is my partner of many years,’ ” he recalled. “I said, ‘Oh!’ I jumped back.”

Archbishop Akinola, a man whose international reputation has largely been built on his tough stance against homosexuality, has become the spiritual head of 21 conservative churches in the United States. They opted to leave the Episcopal Church over its decision to consecrate an openly gay bishop and allow churches to bless same-sex unions. Among the eight Virginia churches to announce they had joined the archbishop’s fold last week are The Falls Church and Truro Church, two large, historic and wealthy parishes.

In a move attacked by some church leaders as a violation of geographical boundaries, Archbishop Akinola has created an offshoot of his Nigerian church in North America for the discontented Americans. In doing so, he has made himself the kingpin of a remarkable alliance between theological conservatives in North America and the developing world that could tip the power to conservatives in the Anglican Communion, a 77-million member confederation of national churches that trace their roots to the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

“He sees himself as the spokesperson for a new Anglicanism, and thus is a direct challenge to the historic authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury,” said the Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass.

The 62-year-old son of an illiterate widow, Archbishop Akinola now heads not only Nigeria — the most populous province, or region, in the Anglican Communion, with at least 17 million members — but also the organizations representing the leaders of Anglican provinces in Africa and the developing world. He has also become the most visible advocate for a literal interpretation of Scripture, challenging the traditional Anglican approach of embracing diverse theological viewpoints.

“Why didn’t God make a lion to be a man’s companion?” Archbishop Akinola said at his office here in Abuja. “Why didn’t he make a tree to be a man’s companion? Or better still, why didn’t he make another man to be man’s companion? So even from the creation story, you can see that the mind of God, God’s intention, is for man and woman to be together.”

Archbishop Akinola’s views on homosexuality — that it is an abomination akin to bestiality and pedophilia — are fairly mainstream here. Nigeria is a deeply religious country, evenly divided between Christians and Muslims, and attitudes toward homosexuality, women’s rights and marriage are dictated largely by scripture and enforced by deep social taboos.

Archbishop Akinola spoke forcefully about his unswerving convictions against homosexuality, the ordination of women and the rise of what he called “the liberal agenda,” which he said had “infiltrated our seminaries” in the Anglican Communion.

This view emanating from the developing world is hardly unique to the Anglican church. More and more, churches of many denominations in what many Christian leaders call the “global south,” encompassing Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia, which share these views, are surging as church attendance lags in developed countries.

Bishop Martyn Minns, the rector of Truro Church in Fairfax, Va., who was consecrated by Archbishop Akinola this year to serve as his missionary bishop in North America, said Archbishop Akinola was motivated by a conviction that the Anglican Communion must change its colonial-era leadership structure and mentality.

“He doesn’t want to be the man; he just no longer wants to be the boy,” Bishop Minns said. “He wants to be treated as an equal leader, with equal respect.”

Even among Anglican conservatives, Archbishop Akinola is not universally beloved. In November 2005, he published a letter purporting to be from the leaders, known as primates, of provinces in the global south. It called Europe a “spiritual desert” and criticized the Church of England. Three of the bishops who supposedly signed it later denied adding their names. Some bishops in southern Africa have also challenged his fixation with homosexuality, when AIDS and poverty are a crisis for the continent.

He has been chastised more recently for creating a missionary branch of the Nigerian church in the United States, called the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, despite Anglican rules and traditions prohibiting bishops from taking control of churches or priests not in their territory.

“There are primates who are very, very concerned about it,” said Archbishop Drexel Gomez, the primate of the West Indies, because “it introduces more fragmentation.”

Other conservative American churches that have split from the Episcopal Church, the American branch of the Anglican Communion, have aligned themselves with other archbishops, in Rwanda, Uganda and several provinces in Latin America — often because they already had ties to these provinces through mission work.

Archbishop Gomez said he understood Archbishop Akinola’s actions because the American conservatives felt an urgent need to leave the Episcopal Church and were unwilling to wait for a new covenant being written for the Anglican Communion. The new covenant is a lengthy and uncertain process led by Archbishop Gomez that some conservatives hope will eventually end the impasse over homosexuality.

One of Archbishop Akinola’s principal arguments, often heard from other conservatives as well, is that Christianity in Nigeria, a country where religious violence has killed tens of thousands in the past decade, must guard its flank lest Islam overtake it. “The church is in the midst of Islam,” he said. “Should the church in this country begin to teach that it is appropriate, that it is right to have same sex unions and all that, the church will simply die.”

He supports a bill in Nigeria’s legislature that would make homosexual sex and any public expression of homosexual identity a crime punishable by five years in prison.

The bill ostensibly aims to ban gay marriage, but it includes measures so extreme that the State Department warned that they would violate basic human rights. Strictly interpreted, the bill would ban two gay people from going out to dinner or seeing a movie together.

It could also lead to the arrest and imprisonment of members of organizations providing all manner of services, particularly those helping people with AIDS.

“They are very loose, those provisions,” said Dorothy Aken ’Ova of the International Center for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, a charity that works with rape victims, AIDS patients and gay rights groups. “It could target just about anyone, based on any form of perception from anybody.”

Archbishop Akinola said he supported any law that limited marriage to heterosexuals, but declined to say whether he supported the specific provisions criminalizing gay associations. “No bishop in this church will go out and say, ‘This man is gay, put him in jail,’ ” the archbishop said. But, he added, Nigeria has the right to pass such a law if it reflects the country’s values.

“Does Nigeria tell America what laws to make?” he said. “Does Nigeria tell England what laws to make? This arrogance, this imperial tendency, should stop for God’s sake.”

Though he insisted that he was not seeking power or influence, he is clearly relishing the curious role reversal of African archbishops sending missionaries to a Western society he sees as increasingly godless.

Asked whether his installing a bishop in the United States violated the church’s longstanding rules, he responded heatedly that he was simply doing what Western churches had done for centuries, sending a bishop to serve Anglicans where there is no church to provide one.

Archbishop Akinola argues that the Convocation, his group in the United States, was established last year to serve Nigerian Anglicans unhappy with the direction of the Episcopal Church, and eventually began to attract non-Nigerians who shared their views. Other church officials and experts say Archbishop Akinola’s intention for the Convocation was to attract Americans and become a rival to the Episcopal Church.

“Self-seeking, self-glory, that is not me,” he said. “No. Many people say I embarrass them with my humility.”

Anyone who criticizes him as power-seeking is simply trying to undermine his message, he said. “The more they demonize, the stronger the works of God,” he said.

The Nigerian sodomy law

Drawing depicting life in Enugu prison, Nigeria, by former inmate Arthur Judah Angel. © AI

The Nigerian Federal government has introduced a legislation that, if passed, would introduce criminal penalties for relationships and marriage ceremonies between persons of the same sex as well as for public advocacy or associations supporting the rights of lesbian and gay people, in contravention of fundamental freedoms guaranteed under the Nigerian Constitution and Nigeria's obligations under international and regional human rights law.

The broad and sweeping provisions of this proposed legislation could lead to the imprisonment of individuals solely for their actual or imputed sexual orientation in a number of ways, including for consensual sexual relations in private, advocacy of lesbian and gay rights, or public expression of their sexual identity. Anyone imprisoned under this law would be a prisoner of conscience.

This proposed legislation is contrary to Nigeria's obligations to all people in Nigeria. Under international human rights law, the Federal Republic of Nigeria has the obligation to respect, promote and protect the human rights of its population, without distinction of any kind. The proposed legislation not only contravenes internationally recognized protections against discrimination, rights to freedom of expression, conscience, association, and assembly, but also undermines Nigeria's struggle to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The Proposed Legislation

On January 19,2006, Minister of Justice Bayo Ojo presented to the Federal Executive Council an "Act to Make Provisions for the Prohibition of Relationship Between Persons of the Same Sex, Celebration of Marriage by Them, and for Other Matters Connected Therewith." According to a draft of the bill, the law would provide five years imprisonment for any person who "goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex," "performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage," or "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." Anyone, including a priest or cleric, aiding or abetting such a union would be subject to the same prison term. The draft bill would also prohibit the registration of gay organizations, any public display of a "same sex amorous relationship," and adoption of children by lesbian or gay couples or individuals. In addition, the draft bill would invalidate same sex relationship formally entered into or recognized in foreign jurisdictions.

The bill received its first reading in the Senate on April 11, 2006 at which the provisions were widened further still. It is now proposed that any individual who witness, celebrates with or supports couples involved in same-sex relationships would also be subject to a prison term.

Consequences of the Proposed Legislation

Even before the bill has been passed or even submitted to the National Assembly for consideration, reports from human rights activists in Nigeria suggest that some individuals are already interpreting the draft legislation as a signal that the government will not prosecute people who assault or otherwise intimidate LGBT individuals. This may lead to a situation of impunity for attacks on LGBT individuals.

Laws criminalizing homosexuality may also act as a "licence" to torture and ill treatment. By institutionalizing discrimination, they can act as an official incitement to violence against lesbians and gay men in the community as a whole, whether in police custody or prison, on the street or in the home. By stripping a sector of the population of their full rights, laws which criminalize homosexuality also deprive lesbian and gay victims of human rights violations of access to redress. These laws also risk to allow those who have abused LGBT individuals to escape justice, and potentially to continue to abuse others with impunity.

This bill would also impede effective HIV/AIDS prevention efforts. While the prevailing pattern of HIV transmission in Nigeria, as elsewhere in the continent, is overwhelmingly heterosexual, the government will damage its own prevention efforts by driving populations already suffering stigma for their sexual conduct still further underground – not only making it more difficult for outreach and education efforts to reach them, but potentially criminalizing civil society groups engaged in that vital work. Nigeria's AIDS prevention programs have previously been criticized by their neglect of the particular risks facing men who have sex with men (MSM).

Existing Laws against LGBT People in Nigeria

Chapter 42, section 214 of Nigeria's criminal code penalizes consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults with fourteen years' imprisonment. Furthermore, Sharia penal codes, as introduced in northern Nigeria since 1999, continues to criminalize what is termed as "sodomy" .

Amnesty International considers the use of "sodomy" laws to imprison individuals for consensual same-sex relations in private is a grave violation of human rights, including the rights to privacy, to freedom from discrimination, to freedom of expression and association, which are protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

Reinforcing these existing provisions with new legislation displays an intent to codify and intensify prejudice based on sexual orientation. Moreover, by criminalizing acts of peaceful expression or association in defense of LGBT rights, the bill would strike at the fundamental freedoms enjoyed by all individuals in Nigeria's long-vigorous civil society.

Proposed Law Contravenes International and Regional Human Rights Law

The proposed law contradicts fundamental freedoms under the Nigerian Constitution and international and regional human rights law and standards.

The African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights affirms the equality of all people. Its article 2 states: "Every individual shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms recognized and guaranteed in the present Charter without distinction of any kind such as race, ethnic group, color, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or other status." Article 3 guarantees every individual equality before the law. Further, its article 26 prescribes that "Every individual shall have the duty to respect and consider his fellow beings without discrimination, and to maintain relations aimed at promoting, safeguarding and reinforcing mutual respect and tolerance."

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Nigeria acceded without reservations in 1993, protects the rights to freedom of expression (article 19), freedom of conscience (article 18), freedom of assembly (article 21) and freedom of association (article 22). It affirms the equality of all people before the law and the right to freedom from discrimination in articles 2 and 26. In the landmark 1994 case of Toonen v Australia, the United Nations Human Rights Committee, which monitors states' compliance with the ICCPR, held that sexual orientation should be understood to be a status protected from discrimination under these articles. States cannot curtail the enjoyment of human rights on the basis of sexual orientation. The UN Human Rights Committee has since urged states not only to repeal laws criminalizing homosexuality but also to enshrine the prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation into their constitutions or other fundamental laws. Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is also prohibited under other international human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party.

This law, if passed, would seriously restrict essential freedoms as well as the activities of human rights defenders and members of civil society. The United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders holds, in its article 5, that "everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: a) to meet or assemble peacefully; b) to form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations, associations or groups." Article 7 of the declaration affirms that "Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to develop and discuss new human rights ideas and principles and to advocate their acceptance." Indeed, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders has specifically called attention to the "greater risks... faced by defenders of the rights of certain groups as their work challenges social structures, traditional practices and interpretations of religious precepts that may have been used over long periods of time to condone and justify violation of the human rights of members of such groups. Of special importance will be... human rights groups and those who are active on issues of sexuality, especially sexual orientation."

-Amnesty International USA

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Response to ECUSA

May 2, 2007

My dear Presiding Bishop:

My attention has been drawn to your letter of April 30th ostensibly written to me but published on the Episcopal News Service website.

In light of the concerns that you raise it might be helpful to be reminded of the actions and decisions that have led to our current predicament.

At the emergency meeting of the Primates in October 2003 it was made clear that the proposed actions of the Episcopal Church would “tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues …” Sadly, this proved to be true as many provinces did proceed to declare broken or impaired communion with the Episcopal Church. Since that time the Primates have established task forces, held numerous meetings and issued a variety of statements and communiqués but the brokenness remains, our Provinces are divided, and so the usual protocol and permissions are no longer applicable.

You will also recall from our meeting in Dar es Salaam that there was specific discussion about CANA and recognition – expressed in the Communiqué itself – of the important role that it plays in the context of the present division within your Province. CANA was established as a Convocation of the Church of Nigeria, and therefore a constituent part of the Communion, to provide a safe place for those who wish to remain faithful Anglicans but can no longer do so within The Episcopal Church as it is currently being led. The response for your own House of Bishops to the carefully written and unanimously approved Pastoral Scheme in the Communiqué makes it clear that such pastoral protection is even more necessary.

It is my heartfelt desire – and indeed the expressed hope of all the Primates of the Communion – that The Episcopal Church will reconsider its actions – and make such special measures no longer necessary. This is the only way forward for full restoration into fellowship with the rest of the Communion. Further, I renew the pledge that I made to your predecessor, Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, that the Church of Nigeria will be the first to restore communion on the day that your Province abandons its current unbiblical agenda. Until then we have no other choice than to offer our assistance and oversight to our people and all those who will not compromise the “faith once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)

You speak in your letter of centuries old custom regarding diocesan boundaries. You are, of course, aware that the particular historical situation to which you make reference was intended to protect the church from false teaching not to prevent those who hold to the traditional teaching of the church from receiving faithful episcopal care. It was also a time when the Church had yet to face into the challenge of different denominational expressions of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I also find it curious that you are appealing to the ancient customs of the church when it is your own Province’s deliberate rejection of the biblical and historic teaching of the Church that has prompted our current crisis.

You mention the call to reconciliation. As you well know this is a call that I wholeheartedly embrace and indeed was a major theme of our time in Tanzania. You will also remember that one of the key elements of our discussion and the resulting Communiqué was the importance of resolving our current differences without resorting to civil law suits. You agreed to this. Yet it is my understanding that you are still continuing your own punitive legal actions against a number of CANA clergy and congregations. I fail to see how this is consistent with your own claim to be working towards reconciliation.

Once again please know that I look forward to the day when this current crisis is behind us and we can all be reunited around our One Lord and only Saviour Jesus the Christ. Until then be assured of my prayers for you and The Episcopal Church.

In Christ,


The Most Revd. Peter J Akinola, CON, DD
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of all Nigeria

Letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

May 6, 2007

My dear Rowan,

Grace and Peace to you from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus the Christ.

I have received your note expressing your reservations regarding my plans to install Bishop Martyn Minns as the first Missionary Bishop of CANA. Even though your spokesmen have publicized the letter and its general content I did not actually receive it until after the ceremony. I do, however, want to respond to your concerns and clarify the situation with regard to CANA. I am also enclosing a copy of my most recent letter to Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori.

We are a deeply divided Communion. As leaders of the Communion we have all spent enormous amounts of time, travelled huge distances - sometimes at great risk, and expended much needed financial resources in endless meetings, communiqués and reports – Lambeth Palace 2003, Dromantine 2005, Nottingham 2006 and Dar es Salaam 2007. We have developed numerous proposals, established various task forces and yet the division has only deepened. The decisions, actions, defiance and continuing intransigence of The Episcopal Church are at the heart of our crisis.

We have all sought ways to respond to the situation. As you well know the Church of Nigeria established CANA as a way for Nigerian congregations and other alienated Anglicans in North America to stay in the Communion. This is not something that brings any advantage to us – neither financial nor political. We have actually found it to be a very costly initiative and yet we believe that we have no other choice if we are to remain faithful to the gospel mandate. As I stated to you, and all of the primates in Dar es Salaam, although CANA is an initiative of the Church of Nigeria – and therefore a bonafide branch of the Communion - we have no desire to cling to it. CANA is for the Communion and we are more than happy to surrender it to the Communion once the conditions that prompted our division have been overturned.

We have sought to respond in a measured way. We delayed the election of our first CANA bishop until after General Convention 2006 to give The Episcopal Church every opportunity to embrace the recommendations of the Windsor report – to no avail. At the last meeting of the Church of Nigeria House of Bishops we deferred a decision regarding the election of additional suffragans for CANA out of respect for the Dar es Salaam process.

Sadly we have seen no such respect from the House of Bishops of The Episcopal Church. Their most recent statement was both insulting and condescending and makes very clear that they have no intention of listening to the voice of the rest of the Communion. They are determined to pursue their own unbiblical agenda and exacerbate our current divisions.

In the middle of all of this the Lord’s name has been dishonoured. If we fail to act many will be lost to the church and thousands of souls will be imperiled. This we cannot and will not allow to happen. It is imperative that we continue to protect those at most risk while we seek a way forward that will offer hope for the future of our beleaguered Communion. It is to this vision that we in the Church of Nigeria and CANA remain committed.

Be assured of my prayers.


+Peter Abuja

A reaction on religious fanaticism in Nigeria

Rev. Peter J. Akinola
President, Christian Association of Nigeria

February 20, 2006

Having watched with sadness and dismay the recent development in some States in the Northern part of this Country where many Christian Churches and other property have been wantonly destroyed by some Islamic fundamentalists, the Christian Association of Nigeria is compelled to issue the following statements:

From all indications, it is very clear now that the sacrifices of the Christians in this country for peaceful co-existence with people of other faiths has been sadly misunderstood to be weakness

We have for a long time now watched helplessly the killing, maiming and destruction of Christians and their property by Muslim fanatics and fundamentalists at the slightest or no provocation at all. We are not unaware of the fact that these religious extremists have the full backup and support of some influential Muslims who are yet to appreciate the value of peaceful co-existence.

That an incident in far away Denmark which does not claim to be representing Christianity could elicit such an unfortunate reaction here in Nigeria, leading to the destruction of Christian Churches, is not only embarrassing, but also disturbing and unfortunate.

It is no longer a hidden fact that a long standing agenda to make this Nigeria an Islamic nation is being surreptitiously pursued. The willingness of Muslim Youth to descend with violence on the innocent Christians from time to time is from all intents and purposes a design to actualize their dream.

It is sad to note that all acts of hostility meted against Christians by Muslims in the past have remained unaddressed with nobody paying compensations or the culprits brought to justice.

We do appreciate the fact that at this stage of our national development, peace is absolutely necessary for realizing our dreams and aspirations. It is in view of this that Christians in Nigeria agreed to participate in the forthcoming National Census as sacrifice for the peace and progress of this nation, in spite of our protest over the non-inclusion of Religion and Ethnicity as necessary demographic data.

May we at this stage remind our Muslim brothers that they do not have the monopoly of violence in this nation. Nigeria belongs to all of us – Christians, Muslims and members of other faiths. No amount of intimidation can Change this time-honoured arrangement in this nation. C.A.N. may no longer be able to contain our restive youths should this ugly trend continue.

We now demand that further destruction of Christian Churches and property in this nation be permanently put to an end.

All levels of Government in this country should take adequate steps to protect the lives and property of Christians everywhere in this land as no further destructions will be tolerated or ignored.

The Federal Government and those States where Christian Churches have been destroyed are hereby urged to take urgent steps at rebuilding those structures and paying adequate compensation while assuring Christians of adequate protection in this country. These governments should now show in practical terms that Nigeria belongs to all of us by going beyond mere promises of rebuilding destroyed Churches and property as in the past to actual reconstruction, which will help the victims to quickly put this unfortunate incident behind them. A stitch in time saves nine.

Why I object to homosexuality

By Rev. Peter Akinola
Archbishop of Nigeria

The Church of Nigeria is an Evangelical Church. It upholds the authority of scripture and is unreservedly committed to mission and evangelism that results in conversion of people to the Lord, church-planting and the caring ministry. In this Church, we teach about the total depravity of man and his absolute need for salvation through faith in Jesus the Christ. For us, therefore, adherence to scripture is not only paramount, it is also non-negotiable. In matters of faith and practice, scripture provides sufficient warrant for what is considered right and what is judged to be wrong.

In recent times, we have been told that the issue of homosexuality is relative. We believe it is not a relative matter. In the context of our part of the Church and society, we see it as a behaviour that is expressly forbidden and roundly condemned in scripture. For instance, Leviticus 18.22 commands: "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination." (See also Leviticus 20.13; Genesis 19.1-14, 13.13; Romans 1.26-28; cf. Leviticus 18.23.)

This is why it is such a crucial issue that it cannot be treated on relative terms, or accepted on the grounds of local pressure. Instead, it is identified in scripture for what it is — sin.

The point here is not of separating from sinners, with a holier-than-thou attitude, but objecting strongly to yielding to the permissive and satanic spirit, the worldly spirit of a materialistic, secularist and self-centered age, which seeks to mould everyone into its own tainted image.

Our argument is that, if homosexuals see themselves as deviants who have gone astray, the Christian spirit would plead for patience and prayers to make room for their repentance. When scripture says something is wrong and some people say that it is right, such people make God a liar. We argue that it is a blatant lie against Almighty God that homosexuality is their God-given urge and inclination. For us, it is better seen as an acquired aberration.

THE ISSUE is such an important one, such a defining one, with the potential of splitting the Communion, because it has become a chronic aberration, which is being defended and promoted in the Church of God. On the authority of the word of God, we see homosexuality as a rebellion against God, like that typified by Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. A rebellion cannot be relative.

Moreover, homosexuality is flagrant disobedience to God, which enables people to pervert God’s ordained sexual expression with the opposite sex. In this way, homosexuals have missed the mark; they have shown themselves to be trespassers of God’s divine laws.

Protagonists of homosexuality try to elevate this aberration, unknown even in animal relationships, beyond divine scrutiny, while church leaders, who are called to proclaim the undiluted word of God like the prophets of old, are unashamedly looking the other way.

The practice of homosexuality, in our understanding of scripture, is the enthronement of self-will and human weakness, and a rejection of God’s order and will. This cannot be treated with levity; otherwise the Church, and the God she preaches, will be badly deformed and diminished.

Homosexuality does violence to nature. As someone puts it: "It contradicts the very light and law of nature." Romans 1.26-27 says it this way: "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet."

THE ISSUE is such a defining one because two cannot go together except if they agree. To overlook this fundamental departure from scripture is not safe for faith or conscience; it means "walking in the counsel of the ungodly". The consequence is to risk the displeasure of God.

What we are talking about is an attack on the Church by some whose aim is to discredit the gospel, pollute the Church, neutralise its power and pull it down. Christ has forewarned: "He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad" (Matthew 12.30).

If those who are promoting this energy-sapping and unnecessary controversy were to be a little more spiritually sensitive; if they were to walk closely with the Lord and accept the authority of his word as revealed in scripture, they would not need to be persuaded about what is at stake. The acceptance of homosexuality and lesbianism as normal is the triumph of disobedience; the enthronement of human pride over the will of God. This lifestyle is a terrible violation of the harmony of the eco-system of which mankind is a part. As we are rightly concerned by the depletion of the ozone layer, so should we be concerned by the practice of homosexuality.

God instituted marriage between man and woman, among other reasons, for procreation. To set aside this divine arrangement in preference to self-centred perversion is an assault on the sovereignty of God. Homosexuality is an abuse of a man’s body just as much as lesbianism is. As in earlier time (Genesis 19), God shall judge — cf. Romans 1.27-28 (quoted above).

God created two persons — male and female. Now the world of homosexuals has created a third — a homosexual, neither male nor female, or both male and female — a strange two-in-one human.

With this tragic topic on the agenda of the Anglican Church worldwide, the Church has regrettably come to crossroads, but we hope that the Compass Rose will be able to give direction on the safest way home — to peace and communion. The majority of us still believe that communion is important, and it is cherished by us all. However, this is not at the expense of vital communion with God, and certainly not at the cost of shepherding more than 17 million Nigerian Anglicans into harm’s way by leading them into the wilderness of morally empty theologising.

Homosexuality or lesbianism or bestiality is to us a form of slavery, and redemption from it is readily available through repentance and faith in the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus the Christ.

Defender of the faith

Why all Anglican eyes in London are nervously fixed on a powerful African archbishop

By Philip Jenkins

The most important figure today in the Anglican Communion, a worldwide federation of churches with some 75 million adherents, is probably a man few people in the West know anything about: Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola, of Nigeria. An uncompromising traditionalist, Akinola presides over the most vibrant and almost certainly the largest Anglican community in the world—at a time when the Anglican world's true center of gravity has shifted to Africa.

It was no small matter, then, when Akinola went public this past summer with blistering denunciations of proposals to consecrate openly gay bishops and to sanctify gay marriage. Commenting on the decision of the Canadian diocese of New Westminster to approve the blessing of gay unions, Akinola declared that the diocese had in practice seceded from the Anglican world. Reacting to a proposal in the Church of England to ordain a gay bishop (a proposal ultimately withdrawn after intense pressure from African and Asian leaders), Akinola thundered, "This is an attack on the Church of God —a Satanic attack on God's Church." And during the buildup to the U.S. Episcopal Church's controversial ordination of Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire, he announced, "I cannot think of how a man in his senses would be having a sexual relationship with another man. Even in the world of animals, dogs, cows, lions, we don't hear of such things."

American and European readers may be inclined to dismiss such remarks as coming from a hidebound bigot, or perhaps from a demagogue seeking attention—but they would be wrong to do so. In his attitudes toward sexuality, and above all in his attitude toward religious authority, Akinola represents a deep-rooted conservative tradition in African Christianity that is flourishing and growing, and that is simply not going to vanish as levels of economic growth and education rise in Africa. The prospect of imminent global schism in the Anglican Communion is therefore real.

Matters may well have come to a head by the time this article goes to press: in October the Archbishop of Canterbury was scheduled to preside over an emergency session in London of the primates of his Church worldwide. Perhaps the session will turn out to avert open schism, but even the friendliest such meeting could not change the nature of the enduring conflict between the older and the younger Anglican churches, with those of Europe and North America set against those of Africa and Asia. Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians are watching these events with foreboding, because what is really at issue, of course, is competing conceptions of the nature of religious authority, of the relationship between the religious and secular spheres, and even of the possibility of coexisting peacefully with other faiths.

Peter Jasper Akinola is (not necessarily in this order) a Nigerian, a Christian, and an Anglican. He is an imposing figure, tall and graying, who has been married for thirty-four years and has six children. He was born in 1944 and spent his early life in the province of Ogun, the land of the Yoruba people, in the far west of Nigeria; he was sixteen when the country achieved its independence. Akinola thus came of age in an era of enormous optimism about a nation that had the potential, because of its vast oil reserves and its surging population, to be one of the most powerful countries in Africa—indeed, possibly a world power. From 1966 to 1970, however, Nigeria was torn apart by a civil war that killed perhaps two million people, and from 1983 to 1999 the country was ruled by a series of brutal and stunningly corrupt military dictatorships that set back development at home and blighted the nation's reputation overseas. In this disastrous secular environment many Nigerians began to see their future in the Christian churches, which offered a growing place of refuge.

When Nigeria's civil war began, Akinola was starting an entrepreneurial career in Lagos as a carpenter and a furniture maker, with a sideline in patent medicines. In 1968 he began training as a catechist, and after studying at Anglican theological colleges in northern Nigeria, he was ordained a deacon in 1978 and a priest in 1979. He traveled to the United States and in 1981 received a master's in theology at Virginia Theological Seminary. Later that year he returned to Nigeria, to Abuja, the city that was being developed as the nation's new federal capital. His return coincided with the start of a remarkable religious explosion. The Nigerian Church has never since known anything but boom years, and the specific nature of this boom is central to understanding Akinola's response to the debates over homosexuality.

The Anglican Church of Nigeria was founded by British missionaries in 1842. For well over a century it grew healthily but not remarkably. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, the Church began a furious period of evangelism, with growth statistics that sound like the goals of a Stalinist Five Year Plan. In the late 1970s Nigeria was home to five million or so Anglicans; that number has now grown to perhaps 18 million, and it may double by 2025 or so. (To put that in perspective, North America has about four million Anglicans, and the number is stagnant or shrinking.) In 1979 the Nigerian Church had sixteen dioceses, organized in a single province; today it has nearly eighty dioceses, organized in ten provinces. In 1979 Nigeria had a single archbishop; today it has ten, overseeing a whole national hierarchy.

When Akinola arrived in Abuja, he began a mission from next to nothing, with "not even one square inch of land," as he told the magazine Anglican World in 2001. "There was no church member, no organ, no choir, no money, nothing—and I mean practically nothing." Eight years later he was the first bishop of the see of Abuja; by 1998 he was the archbishop of a province of Abuja, with eight bishops under him. Since 2000 he has been the primate of the whole Nigerian Church. The expansion that fueled his rise is the kind of growth that he sees as normal and that he expects will continue. "In our country today," he told Anglican World, "there are many new churches springing up on a daily basis." It was a claim he meant literally.

But in Akinola's view, this growth depends entirely on loyalty to orthodox biblical faith. His experience in Nigeria has shown him that orthodox churches flourish, and heretical or schismatic churches fail. Nigerian Anglicanism is at its core intensely Bible-centered. "We in Nigeria believe very strongly in the priority of the Scripture," he has said. "We want to see ourselves as a church that seeks to live in obedience to the dictates of the Scripture, regardless of whether that is convenient or inconvenient."

Akinola and his church are also firmly committed to evangelism. "If a fire is not burning," he has observed, "then it is no longer fire. If the Church is not evangelizing, then it is like a dead fire." Evangelism means spreading the message of the Bible, of course, and although debate about biblical interpretation is possible in some cases, Akinola sees no room for it when the New Testament text speaks as clearly as it does on homosexuality. The worst feature of the North American debates, he felt, was that scriptural arguments were simply ignored. Reacting to the Episcopal approval of Robinson's election, Akinola declared himself "astonished that such a high-level convention ... should conspire to turn their back on the clear teaching of the Bible on the matter of human sexuality."

Although Akinola believes that American and British churches are in error, his Anglican roots condition how and when he feels he can intervene directly. This tradition gives him a strong sense of the global dimensions of Christianity. He heads not the Church of Nigeria but the "Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)," and that is a crucial difference. Anglicans everywhere fall within his area of concern. His communion is a family, and as he has put it, "That is where we belong." Yet Akinola is reluctant to speak out of turn. He venerates the Anglican idea of autonomous churches under their own primates and bishops, and feels that a primate has no right to interfere in another province, except in the direst circumstances. He has been remarkably moderate toward the North American churches—however difficult this may be to believe for those who know him only from his recent remarks. In interviews he has gone out of his way not to condemn the U.S. Episcopal Church, and he makes a point of praising Bishop Frank Griswold, its leader, and other American liberals. He refuses to ally himself with American conservatives who want to break away from their liberal bishops altogether. "You don't just jump from your diocese to begin to do whatever you like in another man's diocese," he told the Church of Nigeria News in 2001. "That is not done in our Anglican tradition."

That Akinola has now spoken out so strongly on issues being debated in other countries suggests his level of fury. This arises in part from his sense that the Northern churches are abandoning the Christian moral tradition. But another element further explains Akinola's—and, indeed, African Christianity's—desperate intervention in the Church's controversies over homosexuality: rivalry with Islam. At first sight the connection may seem tenuous: what does it matter to Christians in Lagos or Kampala whether an Anglican minister blesses two men in a civil ceremony of union in Vancouver? But the link is in fact an important one.

Nigeria is a land of intense interfaith conflict. Islamist authorities have imposed sharia law in a third of the country's thirty-six states, and Christians there face a very real danger of persecution and jihad. These sharia states include Kebbi and Kaduna, where Akinola lived during his years of theological training in the 1970s. He saw firsthand the growth of Muslim militancy, and his diploma is from the Theological College of Northern Nigeria, located in Jos, which for several years now has been a storm center of rioting and anti-Christian pogroms. Since 1990 the Anglican Church has responded to these threats by deliberately reinforcing its presence in the Muslim north, to show that Christians are not going to fade away without a fight.

This struggle provides the crucial context for African concerns about sexual morality. Across the continent Muslims have tried to make converts by arguing that the Christian West is decadent and sexually irresponsible—a belief that finds daily confirmation in Western films and television. If the Anglican Communion accepted gay bishops or approved gay unions, Muslims would gain an enormous propaganda victory in Nigeria—and in a dozen or so other African countries in which Christians and Muslims compete for converts, often violently. When Akinola speaks out, therefore, it is not because he wants to intrude on the affairs of other churches but, rather, because he feels that the very existence of Christianity in his own territory is under threat. At stake, he believes, is the religious map of much of Africa, and the global balance between Christianity and Islam.