Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Fulcrum on Human Rights in Nigeria

Fulcrum has published an article entitled Human Rights, Homosexuality and the Anglican Communion: Reflections in Light of Nigeria by Ephraim Radner and Andrew Goddard.
(Dr Radner is an American colleague of Andrew’s in the Anglican Communion Institute).

The article is lengthy and needs to be read carefully. It contains, early on, this summary of its conclusion:

…It will seem repugnant to some, of course, that we might even raise a question about the conclusion regarding gay rights at this point in history. It needs, therefore, to be said here that the conclusion of this paper is that the Church ought to work to protect a range of civil liberties for gay people, and that the Nigerian Church’s support of its nation’s anti-gay legislation is wrong. However, the conclusion is not obvious in advance of a chain of arguments. These arguments have not been generally rehearsed in present debates and, even here, will be pursued only sketchily. Hence, the conclusion cannot be assumed at all, and does in fact need justification. Bishop Chane’s “line”, the “crossing” of which marks the passage from a legitimately contested approval of same-sex unions into the abuse of human rights is not at all well-defined and established.

Or is it?

Read the whole article.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Wednesday, 22 November 2006 at 6:37pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion

A thoughtful and well referenced article, which might, however, perhaps have referred to the Cambridge Accord, which can be seen, e.g., at

It is a remarkable fact that a number of those who supported Lambeth 1.10 refused to support the Cambridge Accord - George Carey, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, was one of those who expressly refused to do so.

An opportunity to draw the distinction suggested by these writers, between
(a) the ethical and moral standards and teaching of the church and
(b) the church's acceptance of the civil and human rights even of those whose behaviour it condemns,
was thereby explicitly rejected at the highest level.

However, the Private Members Resolution (No 700) being put to the General Synod by the Rev. Mary Gilbert of Lichfield Diocese (see will offer a similar opportunity again - i.e. an opportunity to make a positive statement about homosexuals in the church which is consistent even with the anti-gay elements of Lambeth 1.10.

Let's see how it gets on.

Posted by: badman on Wednesday, 22 November 2006 at 8:33pm GMT

This is a well-considered and well-written argument, provided one accounts for the biases of the writers. As the writers seem to admit, the arguments about the theological basis of natural or fundamental rights are not as developed as they should be. At one point, the writers appear to make some sort of theological critique of the Church of Nigeria. However, they only make a weak cultural relevance critique, so they may have the opportunity to criticize North American liberals. This is a cheap shot, though one which may earn them sympathy from some of their readers.

Posted by: Caelius Spinator on Wednesday, 22 November 2006 at 8:34pm GMT

Well these authors are welcome to join the rest of us in concluding that most of our legacy justifications for the most violent forms of physical gay bashing are no longer viable. Given the starting negative legacy definitions and assumptions for which these authors have still such great sympathy and respect, I suppose that is a big deal.

What the authors lack is any awareness or indeed critique of their own straight legacy privileges. By pledging this legacy blind spot from the start, they guarantee that they can repeat several straight privilege assumptions: (1) wondering if non-straight people actually exist in the same common sense or high dudgeon ontological sense that straight people are presumed by Christian legacy to actually exist; (2)repeating the silly canard that if non-straight people do in some sense exist, then some danger must accrue to straight people (especially straight children, and straight people in families) as a simple, brute effect of that existence; (3) valorizing yet again the exclusively privleged straight and/or Christian family, while ignoring the available evidence that all or most non-straight children have been raised in them; (4) casting doubt that leaves plenty of legacy room for discourses of dirt and danger upon the actuality and innate worth of non-straight people (personality? body? relationships? parenting?).

Oh well, I guess these things just have to be tried to be worked out while maintaining as much of the receive legacy straight privileges as institutionally and humanly possible. Thus, the masters now call one another to be merciful to their non-straight (and probably ungodly) inferiors.

Ho hum de dum.

Posted by: drdanfee on Thursday, 23 November 2006 at 2:17am GMT

AMEN to the Conclusion:

"It is a part of the tragedy of the current division among Anglican Christians, among others, that these two choices - unrestrained advocacy of ecclesial and social blessing of homosexual relationships or harsh legal sanctions against the human personhood of homosexual people - have been offered as the only practical alternatives within the current debate. Thus, if there is a charge to be made regarding moral complicity in the abuse of fundamental human rights, rights that include the protection of social cohesion, the family, and moral instruction, as well as the rights of respect for the persons of homosexuals, it is a charge to be laid upon the consciences of all of us."

Posted by: John Henry on Thursday, 23 November 2006 at 7:57am GMT

The article by Andrew and Ephraim is a really helpful piece of research and analysis. My one major objection is to two sentences in the concluding paragraph, written, I assume, by Ephraim Radner:

"There is, for instance, every reason why the Nigerian Church, based on its own theological and moral commitments, should fear the unconstrained permission of gay advocacy within the church itself and within the surrounding civic sphere. She has only to look at the way in which such lack of constraint has contributed to the destruction of the American Episcopal Church and, to a lesser extent, other Western churches."

It is extremely unfortunate to link lack of constraint and unconstrained permission of gay advocacy with the accusation that such lack of constraint has contributed to the destruction
of the American Episcopal Church (and to a lesser extent, other Western churches). That's way over the top and not true. This isn't true in America and it certainly isn't true in the UK. I would have thought an opposite and equally unfair claim could be made - that it is those obsessing about gay sexuality who are risking the destruction of the church.

It's a good piece of work, badly let down by this final unwarranted opinion.

Posted by: Colin Coward on Thursday, 23 November 2006 at 9:23am GMT

I agree with Colin Coward.

Just because there is a Church that advocates extreme repression to some people because of their sexuality, does not mean that the via media is somewhat to the right of toleration. It means that that Church is wrong and repressive, and should be challenged, and the principle of justice and inclusion to real human beings is as being found in the American Church (and even then rather late in the day, but at least it is coming along).

There are institutions and there are people, and institutions might matter, but people matter more.

Posted by: Pluralist on Thursday, 23 November 2006 at 2:01pm GMT

This grudging admittance of the legal tyranny facing the majority of queer folk is unlikely to move the stony hearts of those at whom it is aimed.
We wrote to the bishops of the west who support the bishops of the GS over two years ago and followed through with further pleas.
Only one bishop made any sort of response.

There seems to be no mention of the part religion has played in the existence and continued prosecution of these horrific laws.

But if they can change one soul and save one life it will be worth their effort

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 23 November 2006 at 2:47pm GMT

' ... unrestrained advocacy of ecclesial and social blessing of homosexual relationships... '

Why am I dissatisfied with the above words, and similar words ?

Submitting them to my ' equivalence equality test' will soon show the problem. As in : --

' ... unrestrained advocacy of ecclesial and social blessing of heterosexual relationships... '

No heterosexual would stand for this kind of stuff.

It's the attempt to portray lgbt equality as extreme, by juxtaposing the statement I object to, next to '.. or harsh legal sanctions against the human personhood of homosexual people'.

Posted by: laurence on Thursday, 23 November 2006 at 8:54pm GMT

I am concerned about the assumption that one particular church's issues can be attributed to tolerance to homosexuality.

It reminds me of the assumption that people got TB because they were poor. When finally, they worked out it was because they lived near the railway lines and inhaled the coat dust...

Is the decline of the communion unique to the US? Was it happening before the tolerance began? Why are people staying away from churches?

Scholars at networking conferences will hypothesise based on agreed academic paradigms (herd thinking here). Experts loved to be congratulated and quoted by their colleagues, even if they are one the wrong track. I am sure theologians are no less human and no less fallible than other specialisations.

It is worth asking questions outside of the mutual affirmation clubs. Is it that people don't believe in God, or that they don't trust the churches? God and church are not the same thing (much as wasteful shepherds would like to portray otherwise).

Posted by: Cheryl Clough on Friday, 24 November 2006 at 8:57am GMT

..."such lack of constraint has contributed to the destruction of the American Episcopal Church"

Oh, dear, I must have missed the destruction of the American Episcopal Church. (We were out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday.) I suppose this means my vestry meeting for next week is canceled and my wife needn't bother preparing her Sunday School lesson. Bit of a bother having to dispose of the church property, but there's a crew of developers quite keen on putting up a new shopping mall. Wait! You don't suppose the church has already been knocked down, do you?

I do wish a little more effort could be put into communicating these things in a timely manner.

Posted by: William on Friday, 24 November 2006 at 8:18pm GMT

William you should keep your eyes open !

Posted by: laurence on Friday, 24 November 2006 at 10:57pm GMT

I found the article to be well worth the read but in ths case seeing is believing.

The argument is for some sort of middle way.

The onus is actually on people who like to purport to be in some way moderate to develop concrete actions to go along with the kind of positioning people adopt to look moderate but (as in the proposed legislation in Nigeria) turn the other way.

Well its a big subject but the historical record is quite unambiguous in that the people who have advanced th civil rights and protections for gay people didn't do so by developing the middle ground.

What actually happened is that some groups of people thought that discrimination and human rights abuses (including criminalisation of same sex acts) campaigned for equality and in some countries of the world are in the process of progressivley achieving it.

At the same time the 'middle grounders' have been consistently against the progress being made.

If the middle grounders want to develop this area - and its really in their own interests that they do otherwise they will end up having to defend a persecutory faith which history will disown - then they need to get on and do it and also speak a little more loudly to their own respective audiences, for instance jamaica and Nigeria to give two examples.

I welcome very much this opportunity to develop this kind of analysis but ultimately fear its only a smokescreen to make the traditionalistic view that homosexuality should be socially constrained, discriminated against and ultimately penalised and that we won't see people actively challenging members of the conservative constituency (there are plenty, plenty of places to start if they wish, some of which are quite close to home).

In the end the article seeks to advocate a theological basis for the kind of position advocated by the UK a part of the 1967 partial decriominalisation which was itself consistent with a denial of partnership rights, widespread discrimination in different fields and an abscence of propoer legal protections.

That world is now thankfully passing away.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on Sunday, 26 November 2006 at 8:03pm GMT

Yesterday's new is OK.

Posted by: Göran Koch-Swahne on Monday, 27 November 2006 at 8:02am GMT
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