Wednesday, 15 February 2006

Nigeria update

Changing Attitude has issued this press release:
Changing Attitude Nigeria responds to Government proposals to outlaw same-sex marriage

A recent comment on the Nigerian government’s proposals can be found in Vanguard (Lagos) via allAfrica.com Holy Nigeria ! or a direct link here. Another comment column from the same source is Homosexuality And Its Enemies.

Mark Harris writing on his blog The Silence Continues includes a portion of the wording of the proposed legislation. The full text can be downloaded in PDF format here from okrasoup.

Andrew Carey writing in the Church of England Newspaper recently said:

The fact of the matter is that evangelical Anglicans elsewhere in the Communion are badly compromised by the Nigerian Church’s attitude to the human rights of homosexuals….

Evangelicals in the west who claim to ‘love the sinner’ while ‘hating the sin’, must work to persuade Anglican leaders elsewhere that a truly pastoral approach to homosexual people must be as concerned about their human rights as it is about their all-too-human wrongs.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 3:44pm GMT
You can make a Permalink to this if you like
Categorised as: Anglican Communion
Comments

I agree with Andrew Carey. Everyone should be free from the fear of persecution, and governments need to protect all citizens from hate or agression. But official recognition of [sinful] homosexual partnerships is not something I would ever support.

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 5:47pm GMT

Then you are calling for inequality to be enshrined in law - that is not affording human rights, Dave. Your solution labels us second class citizens - and I do not believe that your religion, which I do not follow, should impose its rules on me by discriminating against me. I certainly don't think that the state - which doesn't follow your religion either- should discriminate against me.

After all, if you are prepared to say that you don't think my relationship should be recognised, have I not the right to say that your harmful and hateful religion should also not be recognised and its teachings outlawed?

I don't actually want to see that happen, and given that in this country, a civilised and progressive one, gay relationships are now recognised, as I warmly welcome - and will be celebrating my own civil partnership next month, without any involvement from the Church I hasten to add!

Posted by: Merseymike on Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 6:53pm GMT

The things that most bother me about the legislation is the denial of freedom of assembly and speech, and the restriction (as I read it) on religious bodies that might seek to "bless a same-sex partnership" (there are a few that officially do). Apparently the MCC could not function in Nigeria, at least not as it does in the US.

If this is the case, this legislation, seems to me to come up against the UN Declaration of Human Rights, particulalry Articles 18-20. I can well understand a government's right to oppose same-sex marriage (even though I disagree with that opposition) but to outlaw even talking about it or meeting to talk about it, or undertaking a religious ceremony concerning it, seems to go much too far.

Posted by: Tobias S Haller BSG on Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 8:43pm GMT

The problem with the new Nigerian proposals, which are being cheered by some leaders of the Anglican Church, is primarily that they ban right of free assembly and protest. A state has every right to define its own marriage law, therefore the proposals to ban homosexual marriage are unnecessary. It looks like sheer persecution to me to levy five years imprisonment on someone who undertakes a ceremony which is not even recognised by Nigerian law.

Posted by: Andrew Carey on Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 9:39pm GMT

The Nigerian laws are being supported with applause by the Church there, giving the lie to that leadership's claims to afford safe space for even its own members, many of whom it treats like they are subhuman. They actively exclude and even persecute.

An absolute disgrace to all of Christendom.

Posted by: RMF on Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 10:32pm GMT

The recent developments in Nigeria, with the Primate and Metropolitan of All Nigeria, applauding discriminatory laws against gays and lesbians, confirms my opinion that ++Peter Abuja is totally unfit for leadership in the Anglican Communion. ++Rowan Cantuar has not called him on it, nor has he had the backbone to stand by the Windsor Report which does not approve of border crossings by Global South episcopi vagantes. Both gentlemen ought to step down for the good of the Anglican Communion.

Posted by: John Henry on Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 11:27pm GMT

I remarked on this site when this legislation was first mentioned (BTW -- again kudos to TA for being at the cutting edge) that it was appalling & I was distressed that no Anglican leaders were speaking out on this issue -- time has passed -- it is still appalling & the silence is now deafening!

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Thursday, 16 February 2006 at 2:03am GMT

The further along we get on this, the more the leadership in Nigeria show their true colors, and their easy willingness to bend the Word to the service of oppression and persecution.

It is simply appalling to me that the relational nature of the Communion encourages me to be in some sort of relationship with those wicked men when it is the very last thing I would want, dream of, or in any way desire. Because their actions are certainly wicked and to my mind all the moreso because of their attempts to ground them in the transformative and liberating power of the Word.

Their attempts to justify their actions by labeling them more faithful, more true, and more like original Christianity, are not convincing, for there is nothing faithful, true, original, or Christian about persecution and oppression.

What part of the Lord's instruction do they not understand?

"They gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’"

"‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practised without neglecting the others. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean.

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous, and you say, “If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” Thus you testify against yourselves that you are descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You snakes, you brood of vipers! How can you escape being sentenced to hell? "

Posted by: RMF on Thursday, 16 February 2006 at 4:01am GMT

My prayers are with all the Nigerians at the moment. The attack on homosexuals is a symptom of deeper underlying problems, for both the Nigerian society and for those non-Nigerian church leaders who support the suppression of homosexuals. The latter group should have learnt from the failure of the prohibition laws in the US last century to resolve problems with alcohol consumption.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 16 February 2006 at 8:33am GMT

Andrew Carey and others very rightly call attention to a key problem with the proposed Nigerian legislation and the Church of Nigeria's enthusistic support of it. Barring freedom of speech and association which does not suit the ruling powers and authorities is a very dangerous thing for any religious body to support, especially a church founded by one who was tortured to death after a rigged trial.

All Christians - whatever their views on the homosexuality issue - ought to be able to join together to defend the right of all people to peacefully express their views. If we have so little confidence in the power of the Gospel that we think state thuggery is necessary to defend it, what is that saying about what we Christians believe?

The Nigerian state is also clearly breaking of the human rights agreements it has signed - as a member state of the UN, for example, it is committed to implementing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Do we Christians really want to support the breaking of such promises?

Finally, well done Andrew for drawing attention to the unbreakable link between love of neighbour and defending human rights. For example, it's incredibly sad that newly consecrated Ugandan Bishop Sandy Millar hasn't publicly strongly defended in Uganda the human rights he enjoys in Britain, but which are routinely violated in the country he's now a bishop of. (See eg. the Human Rights Watch site for details.) Such silence - even if unintentional - is deafening, and brings disrepute on the Gospel.

Posted by: Rob Hall on Thursday, 16 February 2006 at 10:05am GMT

Readers of TA might act on this matter of the new Bill and write/visit their local political reps to express their feelings. A letter to the Secretary General of the Commonwealth might help.
In Uganda the criminalisation of those in same-sex marriage came as an unannounced change to the constitution. The purpose of this, and perhaps the Nigerian legislation, is to allow courts to deal harshly with those who have contracted partnerships elsewhere. Two Canadian surgeons I know who spend a few months every year working in Uganda pro bono were advised by local lawyers to leave because they were in a same-sex marriage.
For some time now we have been trying to shift the focus towards a consideration of the plight of LGBT folk, we wrote to bishops supportive of the Global South http://www.lgcm.org.uk/html/importantNews.html and to the Archbishop of Canterbury
http://www.lgcm.org.uk/html/OpenLetter.html in an attempt to widen the process beyond who wears a purple shirt.
Sadly even serious journalists often have a block when it comes to perceiving this life-threatening struggle beyond the confines of the Anglican internecine battle, reducing everything to PR cock-ups.

We now stand in a terrible place. Many believe the acceptance and full inclusion of gay people equals a decline in evangelism and deterioration in faith, while the bitter and strident condemnation of homosexuality equals a burgeoning Church.
During the Windsor process lesbian and gay people were called to account for this “fact” as though, if we loved our faith and Church, we should see the truth and throw ourselves on the bonfires to “cleans” the Church and allow its Mission to proceed.
So powerful is this argument that many good people fear saying anything that could be interpreted as even mildly approving of gay people’s lives or feel able to question the evil done to them in case it hurts the Mission of the Church.
So powerful is this argument that it drives some Christian gay people who love their God, faith and Church to the most desperate of actions, including suicide.
Gay people it seems can choose to be “repaired” or “restored” by the power of God’s transforming love to live as he intended at creation. Those, like me, who choose relationship with a same-sex partner as the channel of God’s transforming love, to build an extended family of aged parents and children on the strength and to further that transforming love and to build that family on prayer, hospitality and worship have attacked the very basis of our society and God’s law and “inflicted violence” on the children we raise as well as impeded the Mission of the Church.

In this context and with these perceptions what Nigeria and others are doing, or have done, is hardly surprising and the fact bishops have not stood up and roundly condemned what has happened even less surprising. Indeed, I believe there is much worse to come.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 16 February 2006 at 10:49am GMT

Dear Rob, I'm sorry to have to pour cold water on so many liberals' feelings, but I would like to point out in the clearest terms possible that Human Rights are just the "rights" that governments have currently agreed to give their citizens. There is *nothing* magic or sacred about them! As far as Christians are concerned, "Human Rights" do not have canonical authority; they are just human-made laws, or maybe the ruling principles of this world, by another [prettier] name...

[stands back and waits for inevitable apoplexy (or however you spell it) from the liberal wing ;-) ...]

Posted by: Dave on Thursday, 16 February 2006 at 6:18pm GMT

Martin.

Thank you for providing the line to justify bringing in these two Nigerian articles from early January 2006.
http://www.thetidenews.com/article.aspx?qrDate=01/07/2006&qrTitle=Some%20churches%20are%20compromising%20standards%20-%20Apostle%20Numbere&qrColumn=RELIGION
and
http://www.thetidenews.com/article.aspx?qrDate=01/08/2006&qrTitle=Spirituality,%20not%20popularity&qrColumn=RELIGION

One of the articles commented that "...the Director of Greater Evangelism World Crusade and Father of Pentecostalism in Rivers State said, the alarming popularity of the church is a sign that all is not well. Quoting references of the Bible to support his assertion, “ye are not of the world, so the world hates you”, goes to show that the church is not mean to be loved and popular for the singular reason that it is not of this world.”"

The popularlist argument to justify homophobia, suppression of women and blind obedience to church authorities are often used. Yet such parties seem oblivious to the "turn offs" of being hypocritical, 'loose with the truth' or abusive.

It is a double whammy when there are those who insist that the only way they are going to recognise Jesus' return is if he comes down in a white cloud and kills lots of people (sub-text and they must be the enemy). At its worst this degenerates into "Jesus is coming, so repent and be pure, or Jesus will kill you".

It so reminds me of Saul in the books of Samuel who kept sending David on one military excursion after another. Having lost his "anointed" status to David, Saul then manipulated David into either being killed (because he wasn't really anointed) or gaining military victories on Saul's behalf. It could be argued that both the Orwellian suppressors and the blood-lusting extremists have parallels to Saul. Both camps thought they were anointed by God and that gave them the license to do whatever they wanted to whoever they wanted all "in the name of God".

I sincerely hope that when Jesus returns he remembers his phrase from John 5:41 “I do not accept praise from men..", so that he is not the play toy of either extremist camp.

In the meantime, defending homosexuals' human rights is front line stuff. They are being attacked because there are those who think that God doesn't care about homosexuals (and thus they make manifest their inner darkness which they would hide from those they thought were God's witnesses).

1John 2:9-11 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him.

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Thursday, 16 February 2006 at 8:26pm GMT

MerseyMike wrote: "have I not the right to say that your harmful and hateful religion should also not be recognised and its teachings outlawed?"

Dear Merseymike, I don't know what world you are living in, but in mine it is quite possible to love someone and not approve of what they do (or want to do). In fact, since in my world we are all sinners and only saved by God's loving gracious forgiveness, if I hated everyone who wasn't "good enough" I would hate everyone including myself... in fact particularly myeself since I know a lot more about how I sin than I do about everyone else ! But as it is I have learned to love the sinner whilst rejecting the sin ;-)

And as for "harm".. the rejection of traditional Christian values in Britain has been accompanied by huge increases in violent and sexual crime (30-50 times higher than 60 years ago), marital breakdown (half of all marriages - and the damage that does to children), and booming STDs - up to 1 million new infections each year with associated infertility and deaths.. Now *that* is real harm !

Posted by: Dave on Thursday, 16 February 2006 at 9:21pm GMT

As far as you are concerned, Dave.

Not 'Christians'. Your stance is that held by right wing conservatives, not all Christians.

Posted by: Merseymike on Thursday, 16 February 2006 at 11:13pm GMT

Weasel words Dave. I recognise hate and prejudice when I see it. Know your enemies.

Posted by: Merseymike on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 12:11am GMT

Dave --

Nigeria's violation of Human Rights is, as explained above, a violation of the U.N. Charter of which it is a signatory -- not the same as a canonical issue (as perhaps you already knew).

They will not, of course, be expelled from the U.N. (that is not the way the U.N. is supposed to work) but their open defiance of the principles they professed upon entry is now manifest.

Posted by: Prior Aelred on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 12:49am GMT

Dave wrote ""Human Rights" do not have canonical authority; they are just human-made laws". Yes, laws made by humans who were probably trying to embrace Jesus' fundamental teachings of "love thy neighbour" and handing judgment over to God. Again, refer 1 John 2:9-11.

On the question of rising STD etc. There have been recent articles from Australia and the UK that the sexual activity and marital stability is comparable between "Christians" and the general population. Further, data from the African continent, Asia and the US indicates that one demographic group that is having the highest rate of new HIV infections is monogamous faithful women who are being infected by their new marriage partners (and finding out about their infection as one of their first pregnancy presents).

And on harm, we again come back to abuse of women by their husbands, on which the conservative wings are mainly silent unless shamed into speaking. Then there is the hypocrisy of child protection. For example, at a child protection training course last year and the church trainer said that we needed to be more careful how we deported ourselves in public school scripture classes than we were in our own Sunday schools. When asked why, the trainer said that it was because people were more likely to observe offences at the school than they were on church grounds. (I was appalled that this trainer's awareness was so low that the concern was not on the child's risk (which is higher on church grounds) but more on being caught in the act and having a law suit against the church).

Jeremiah 8:8-9 “ ‘How can you say, “We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,” when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 2:39am GMT

In the column from The Vanguard of 9 Feb 2006, Moreni ke Taire finds cynical political motives to be behind the Nigerian government's action, far from any concern for the moral wellbeing of its people.

The crazy thing is that the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) should be so naive as to be caught up in support for such actions -- especially when the Church has been boldly critical of the government on other questions of probity and social justice. The church leadership, and Archbishop Akinola in particular, has deceived itself because of its visceral hatred of homosexuals.

As other commenters, above, have noted, far more serious than the prospective ban on same-sex marriage is clause 7 of the Nigerian government's bill, which will make it an offence for gays and lesbians to form clubs and associations or to gather together in an organised way for any purpose, including assertion of their civil rights. Among other things, this is a violation of fundamental right of assembly.

How can the Church support such a thing? Only, apparently, because it thinks that a gathering of homosexuals is on a par with a gathering of rapists or murderers.

Posted by: Brian on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 8:45am GMT

Dave

Is the issue the "rejection of Christian values", or is it that the bankruptcy of humanity without the grace of God continues across the millenium? Some of the issues you are citing against modern Britain would be the same charges laid against Sodom and Gomorrah; or by both Jesus and the apostle Pauls' on communities in their time.

Also, be careful, sometimes statistics reflect more an increase in the REPORTING of incidences (when the stigma of shame nor threat of death no longer intimidates victims into silence).

As an aside, in Australia the question of marital breakdown is also a reflection that women are no longer legally and financially entrapped in abusive relationships (e.g. in the 50s it was illegal for married women to work in government).

Like the churches, men (and women) are having to learn that if they want long-term constructive relationships then they need to be trustworthy. That means not presuming on their "loved ones'" goodwill, refraining from outright abuse, and treating them with a modicum of respect.

Further, when you write "[stands back and waits for inevitable apoplexy (or however you spell it) from the liberal wing ;-) ...]", that means you know you've been unloving. It's a bit like a child pulling its hand out of the cookie jar when mummy walks into the room. The mother is not harmed, but the child is now embarrassed and has lost their mother's trust (at least for a little while).

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 8:54am GMT

Dave,

Can I suggest that you stop and think very carefully before making claims? You claim that "Human Rights are just the 'rights' that governments have currently agreed to give their citizens." Many dictatorships make this sort of claim. The examples of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union spring to mind - note here that I am NOT accusing you of sympathy with those or similar regimes.

It was precisely bacause of the crimes against humanity committed by such regimes that many Christians and others became active in the steps that led to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) of 1948. They recognised that there was an urgent need to anchor in international law a clear definition of what human dignity concretely meant, in opposition to regimes that viewed their citizens as being mere tools to serve their ends. So the UDHR and similar texts in international law clearly and explicitly deny that "Human Rights are just the 'rights' that governments have currently agreed to give their citizens."

Many Christians - including myself - would see the Incarnation as the irrefutable argument for human dignity and defending such dignity in international law. If God chooses to become one of us, surely that invests each person - whether or not they are Christian - with immeasurable dignity and worth?

This is not something that any government has any rights over. Nor is this merely a matter of "liberals' feelings" as you put it (or for that matter conservatives' feelings). The Incarnation and its implications are profoundly sacred matters, as you may read, for example, in 1 John.

It is precisely for these reasons that, as I said in my previous post, all Christians - whatever their views on the homosexuality issue - ought to be able to join together to defend the right of all people to peacefully express their views.

Thankfully, there are very many conservatives, liberals, and other sorts of Christians who do strongly stand up for human rights, and do see the centrality of the Incarnation in this. It remains to be seen whether the Anglian Communion will do this in relation to Nigeria (and other places, eg. Zimbabwe).

Posted by: Rob Hall on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 10:24am GMT

Dave,

We shall remember your words about the prerogatives of government to trample human rights, when the right trampled is freedom of religious expression and the law is passed forbidding Christians to gather together or to say out loud the name of our Lord, or to in any way aid or abet someone in doing this.

Posted by: RMF on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 1:23pm GMT

Sadly, many governments do indeed attack freedom of religion as part of their general assault on human rights. Eg. Uzbekistan does exactly what RMF indicates. One specialist religious freedom agency I'd strongly recommend is Forum 18 News Service at
http://www.forum18.org
Their work is used by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch - and looking at their site this week, clearly by persecuted religious belivers within countries such as RMF points us too.

Posted by: Rob Hall on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 5:32pm GMT

Dave,

I don't know where you come from, but in my country (the US) we have a long tradition of recognizing certain human rights as divinely ordained, and that such rights are a matter of self-evident truth. These rights were held to be so self-evident and divinely ordered that our original Constitution did not even bother to enumerate them. (Wiser heads prevailed and the first amendments to said Constitution established the Bill of Rights.)

More importantly, and universally, it seems impossible to understand the ethical ane moral underpinning of the Law of Moses or the Law of Christ (as he summarized the same) without some basic understanding that the rights of human persons are not simply arbitrary but inherent and God-ordained.

Posted by: Tobias S Haller BSG on Friday, 17 February 2006 at 6:35pm GMT

Tobias: would you include the right to be born, the right to life as one of these rights - indeed, the most fundamental one? Ecusa, particularly the wing represented by Louie Crew, does not seem to think that unborn children are persons with rights.

Posted by: Peter Bergman on Saturday, 18 February 2006 at 8:00am GMT

Peter
We are getting rather far off the topic of Nigeria. Could we please stick a little more closely to that.
Thanks
Simon

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 18 February 2006 at 2:44pm GMT

Dear Tobias, Rob, Cheryl, RMF et al

As I said, there is *nothing* magic or sacred "human rights". The truly sacred issues are Love, Truth *and* Justice. And *all three* are important; you can't just pick out one issue and use that as *the* defining principle.

So, for instance, the Lord and St Paul both indicated very clearly that they think that divorce is sinful in all but the most extreme situations. However that does not mean that Christ would cease to *love* people who do divorce (or that we should), or that people who divorce should be punished legally. But I don't think that it should be quick and easy, or allowed without attempts to reestablish a healthy relationship. Nor did Christ shy away from expressing the *truth* that it is morally wrong...
However I think that when people divorce it should be done in a way that treats everyone affected *justly*.

Same for same-sex sexual partnerships, polyamory, polygamy, incest etc etc ... We should encourage all governments to protect all their citizens from the fear of persecution, violence or abuse, but I don't seen why a state should make provisions for morally sinful relationships - beyond those for any other people in mutually dependent relationships.

ps I do not think that I am being unloving or unjust to Liberals when I point out the truth to you that human rights are just human-made laws (or maybe the ruling principles of this world)... and do not have canonical authority for a Christian.

Posted by: Dave on Saturday, 18 February 2006 at 4:52pm GMT

Dave

"I don't seen why a state should make provisions for morally sinful relationships"

I think you are missing the point that most, though not all, nation states are not religion-based, and therefore make their judgements on a different moral basis to you and me.

Certainly the Nigerian state - which is what we are supposed to be discussing here - is not based upon any particular form of Christianity.

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 18 February 2006 at 5:02pm GMT

Dave,

Sometimes in your zeal to keep to a point, you make some wild claims that really, are a bit illogical if not ridiculous. Granted, there is no canonical authority for a law banning murder--but go right ahead and do it, and you will be amply and justly punished.

Now let us take our two nations, US and UK, and recognize that we are not theologies.

Also, your lumping together of same sex relationships between consenting committed adults, with "polygamy, incest etc etc" is quite beyond the pale.

I think you have gone over the edge there and henceforth must view your comments on this matter with incredulity and little benefit of the doubt.

Posted by: RMF on Saturday, 18 February 2006 at 6:57pm GMT

Dave,

Doesn't a state which allows for divorce and remarriage under any circumstance other than adultery "make provisions for morally sinful relationships"? You appear to be suggesting that the right to free speech, assembly, and religious ceremony being asked for by same-sex couples is "beyond those for any other people in mutually dependent relationships." That is, same-sex couples want exactly the same rights as mixed-sex couples. There is no prima facie moral case to be made that a faithful same-sex couple is _more_ sinful than a couple one or both of whom is divorced with a partner still living (which Jesus classifies as adultery). Or are you arguing that a faithful same-sex relationship is somehow morally worse than an adulterous mixed-sex one? Isn't it the case that "special rights" have been granted to such mixed-sex couples -- rights which at one time in the not too distant past were withheld (that is, the right to marry legally).

I must also observe in passing that polygamy is legal in Nigeria; so your slippery slope argument is going uphill.

Most importantly, however, the Nigerian legislation goes far beyond the question of marriage (adulterous, polygamous, or same-sex) itself -- it outlaws advocacy and apparently even consideration of the latter, while allowing the practice of the former. As Andrew Carey demonstrates, one need not argue in favor of same-sex marriage to recognize this as an egregious violation of several fundamental human rights, as articulated by the United Nations as a whole, and by many nations independently before that.

Peter, if you want consistency, abortion in southern Nigeria (the predominantly Christian region) is allowed in circumstances remarkably similar to those held to be appropriate in the offical position of the Episcopal Church.

Posted by: Tobias S Haller BSG on Saturday, 18 February 2006 at 8:21pm GMT

Tobias, I think it is increasingly unrealistic to expect anything like the UNDHR to be honored in Nigeria, given that there is creeping sharia in the northern states - a far cry from British colonial days, when English common law prevailed in Nigeria. This, along with 'traditional African beliefs', is why polygamy exists in the country. In most Islamic societies you won't see much that corresponds to western conceptions of huamn rights (freedom of speech, assembly, conscience, religion; gender equality). We might even wonder whether Nigeria can continue to subsist as one nation.
I don't know what the abortion law of southern Nigeria is, nor am I sure of its relevance here. I do know that Ecusa's membership of 'RCRC' is a scandal.

Posted by: Peter Bergman on Sunday, 19 February 2006 at 8:31pm GMT

Dave,

If the "truly sacred issues are Love, Truth *and* Justice", surely they need to be put into action? And how does this NOT lead to defending human rights? I note you don't address the discussion about this.

In the case of Nigeria, I hope that we can all agree that the Church of Nigeria has the right to make its own judgment on the qestion of same-sex blessings - even if some of us strongly disagreee with its judgement. And I hope we can also all agree that - to quote Andrew Carey - "a truly pastoral approach to homosexual people must be as concerned about their human rights as it is about their all-too-human wrongs."

That means that it is unacceptable for the Church of Nigeria to back the Nigerian state's denial of free speeech and freedom of association, as well as freedom to other religious bodies' to make their own judgment on the question - however strongly the Church of Nigeria disagrees with that judgment.

It seems clear that the Church of Nigeria has acted in direct opposition to the "truly sacred issues" of "Love, Truth *and* Justice" in the case of Davis Mac-Iyalla and Changing Attitude Nigeria.

We are - whatever we think on the homosexuality issue - entitled to expect that the Anglican Communion will hold the Church of Nigeria to account - both for its own un-Christian conduct and for its support of the state's human rights violations.

Posted by: Rob Hall on Monday, 20 February 2006 at 10:04am GMT

Dear Simon, OK what I meant is that, like polyamory, or incest, homosexuality is immoral because it is disordered with respect to the created order for sexuality. As a Christian I see that in terms of sinfulness, I think that most people in Nigeria see it in terms of sexual deviance.

Dear RMF, I wasn't meaning that I think every state is, or should be, a theocracy (though in fact Britian theoretically is!). As for Nigeria allowing polygamy; not all polygamy is non-consensual, it could be polyamory... but I don't think that either is within the ideal to which God calls us; they all deviate from the created order.

Dear Tobias and Rob, I'm not objecting to making general provisions for people in mutually dependent relationships that are not marriage - on practical grounds similar to those for making provisions for divorce. And I an against persecuting, oppressing or stirring up hate against anyone. What I object to is suggesting equality between marriage - which is within the created order for sexual relationships - and other forms of sexual partnerships. The true basis for such attitudes is the example and teachings of Christ the apostles etc in the Bible; claiming that something is a "human right" (or even governments agreeing that it is) doesn't mean that it is a God-given !

Posted by: Dave on Tuesday, 21 February 2006 at 7:02pm GMT

Dave ; you may not have noticed, but the State is under no obligation to reflect your restrictive religious prejudices, whilst allowing you to practice your religion.

But as I said before, any attempt to circumvent my rights and you will find your religious delusions very low on the priority list for protection.

Posted by: Merseymike on Tuesday, 21 February 2006 at 9:38pm GMT

Dave,

Thanks for the clarification. Would you then agree that life and liberty are God-given rights; that is, people should not be deprived of life or liberty arbitrarily? Is the right to marriage a "God-given right" (you appear to indicate as much)? In short, do you acknowledge that at least some "rights" are God-given, even if you do not share the enthusiasm of Thomas Jefferson when it comes to "the pursuit of happiness"?

Posted by: Tobias S Haller BSG on Wednesday, 22 February 2006 at 12:01am GMT

Dear Merseymike, Slightly ironic, isn't it, that the right to express one's sexuality one of the few things in the UK that overrides the freedom of people to say what they think... it's up there with blasphemy and glorifying terrorism !

ps. As you know, my "delusions" are those of Jesus Christ , His Apostles and the Church. There are plenty of other things that we believe that people find objectionable (try Christ as "The Way", revealed Truth, belief in evil, judgement and "heaven / hell")... You don't by any means need to feel that we are just objectionable on homosexuality!

Posted by: Dave on Wednesday, 22 February 2006 at 10:50pm GMT

Dear Tobias, Rights thinking is human-centred, I think it comes from the enlightenment and French revolution ("les droits d'homme"?), but the Bible talks primarily in terms not of rights but of duties (of leaders, subjects etc) - eg ruling with justice, ethical behaviour, moral rectitude.

We can't demand God's love and blessing, but He loves and blesses us because that is what He is like. Similarly those in authority have a duty to treat people with Love, Truth and Justice - because they should emulate God. And we have a duty to relate to everyone based on Love, Truth and Justice because we have to become Christ-like.

Human rights thinking is at best an up-side-down version of Biblical thinking. I think we should campaign for those in authority to take their duties seriously, rather than campaigning in terms of "rights".

Posted by: Dave on Friday, 24 February 2006 at 6:52pm GMT

Prior Aelred:

The Episcopal Bishop of Washington HAS spoken out strongly on this issue.

http://blog.edow.org/weblog

I hope that others will follow his example.

Posted by: Beryl on Thursday, 2 March 2006 at 3:12pm GMT
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