Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Anglican homophobia: two reports and one response

There are two news reports (so far) of the latest remarks by the Primate of Nigeria The Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh on the Nigerian anti-gay legislation:

Nigerian Tribune Those practising same-sex marriage are heading for destruction —Okoh

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), The Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, on Monday, warned those practising same sex marriage to desist from the act, saying they were heading for destruction…

…Okoh explained that the act was an attempt by people to question God’s authority.
He said: “The same thing is happening today in the issue of human sexuality. It is not about whether a man should marry a man or a woman should marry a woman, the question in the garden (of Eden) has come back again.

“And as in the former time, disaster followed when man dethroned God. So, again it shall happen that if man decided to stick to the principle of dethroning God, He will face nothing but disaster.

“Man will come to nothing but extinction. For this road leads to nowhere. It is a dead end and it is not in the interest of humanity.

“We want to thank God, the National Assembly and the President. He (Jonathan) has articulated the views of Nigerians.”

Channels God’s Punishment Awaits Those Against Anti-Gay Law- Okoh

…He however commended President Goodluck Jonathan for his courage in signing the anti-gay bill into law which has continued to generate reactions in some quarters in Nigeria and beyond.

According to him, those not in support of the bill are like the biblical duo, Adam and Eve who questioned God for asking them not to eat the fruits from the Garden of Eden.

His words: “Many people do not realise that what is referred to as the homosexual trouble is not the homosexual or lesbian trouble but people’s refusal to accept the scripture for what it is, authority for life and practice following God.

He added: “in the beginning, man questioned the authority of God in the garden by saying did God actually say that you should not eat the forbidden fruit. That challenge to God’s authority dethroned God’s power and enthroned man’s power.

“”So they concluded that God has no right to tell man what to do and that they were the people who knew what to do. So man set God aside and took over the command. Consequently, disaster followed”.

There has been one response to all this, from the President of the House of Deputies of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, The Reverend Gay Clark Jennings, writing at Religion News Service : COMMENTARY: The church’s role in, and against, homophobia across Africa

…The Anglican primates of Uganda and Nigeria enthusiastically support anti-gay legislation in their countries. I, like them, am a member of the Anglican Communion, a worldwide body of more than 80 million Christians. I am troubled and saddened that fellow Anglicans could support legislation that fails to recognize that every human being is created in the image of God.

Western Christians cannot ignore the homophobia of these church officials or the peril in which they place Ugandan and Nigerian LGBT people. The legacy of colonial-era Christian missionaries and infusions of cash from modern-day American conservatives have helped to create it.

Twice in the last three years, I have traveled to Africa to meet with biblical scholars, grass-roots activists and church officials at consultations about the Bible and sexuality. These brave leaders have taught me that there is no getting around the Bible when searching for the origins of the homophobia that is rampant in many African cultures. What’s more, Europeans and North Americans bear much of the historical responsibility for this sad state of affairs. As Zimbabwean biblical scholar Masiiwa Ragies Gunda has written, it is “far-fetched to look beyond the activities of Western missionaries” when considering the role of the Bible in Africa…

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 at 3:29pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | ECUSA

Still waiting to hear from Justin Welby on this and most especially, as their whole existence is predicated on an anti-gay stance supported by the Province of Nigeria, ... 'Archbishop' Robert Duncan of the schismatic Anglican Church of North America. Thus far the silence is deafening.

Posted by: Concerned Anglican on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 at 3:58pm GMT

Thank God that a wonderful church leader, Gay Jennings+ from TEC, finally spoke up!

Now I'd love to hear from TEC's PB and CoE's ABC.

As for the Nigerian Primate, clearly the problem is literalism. And the problem with literalism is that the Bible always seems to mean exactly what they want it to mean.

Posted by: Cynthia on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 at 4:07pm GMT

And our bishops just concluded that "the subject of sexuality, with its history of deeply entrenched views, would best be addressed by facilitated conversations, ecumenically, across the Anglican Communion and at national level.' Marvellous, let's talk with these folks and the Roman Catholic Church. That should keep us busy for what, two or three centuries?

Posted by: Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 at 5:41pm GMT

Well at least we now know that the public silence from Lambeth and Bishopthorpe so as to facilitate measured, constructive, behind the scenes conversations is really beginning to pay dividends. Or perhaps the conversations never even took place ?
In so far as silence was ever even remotely a viable stance, it must now be seen to have failed and failed badly. There can be no further embarrassing vacillation on the part of the Archbishops, and if they cannot bring themselves to say anything new , then they could start by restating Lambeth 1.10 which is supposed to reflect the mind of the Communion , or is even that now too liberal ?

Posted by: Salopian on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 at 6:10pm GMT

I do not think literalism is the key issue, though it does not help. After all, if Nicholas Okoh and church leaders with views similar to his took the Gospel call to love one's neighbour as oneself literally, the world would be a better place.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 at 6:46pm GMT

Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: 39 but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

Gamaliel knew a thing or two - possibly more than Okoh & Co? At any rate, GLBT folks don't seem to be going away...

Posted by: Nathaniel Brown on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 at 6:46pm GMT

So there you have it..a pastoral statement from that " great powerhouse" that Welby calls Nigerian Anglicanism.

I think that statements like this will further strengthen the liberal cause.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 at 7:16pm GMT

There is a wide ranging interview flagged up by Peter Ould where the subject is sort of picked up by Zeinab Badawi.
Worth watching.

I heard Robert Ian Williams' jaw hit the playground and smash into a thousand tiny fragments when the Archbishop states unequivocally that the Church has not changed its belief that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and a woman!

My only hope is that anyone who can say that with a completely straight face (as he does) will have no trouble blessing gay partnerships and claiming it has no effect on the teaching of the Church.

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 at 8:25pm GMT

Speaking as someone very hesitantly working his way back to church I find all of this as welcoming as a cup of cold sick.

Posted by: Allan Ronald on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 at 8:58pm GMT

Thank you, Simon, for these latest reports on the continuing problems of homophobia in the A.C.

The continuing homophobic rhetoric of Okoh, Head of GAFCON, renders his co-leadership in the world-wide Anglican Communion increasingly suspect.

However, the current statement by the Church of England College of Bishops, that Same-Sex Marriage will not be encouraged in the Church of England, could be seen to add further fuel to the fire of GAFCON's endemic homophobia.

Those of us in other Provinces of the Communion, who view homosexuality as a normal variant of the human biological make-up, are increasingly troubled at the accelerating rhetoric of Church Leaders like Abp. Okoh - the Head of the GAFCON Provinces. I wonder how long we can accept the very loud silence from the Archbishops of York and Canterbury and other Primates of the Communion - into which void these utterances of homophobes are increasingly hurled?

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 at 9:33pm GMT

All credit to the ECUSA.

To force myself to be fair, Nicholas Okoh is in-line with the Bible. From his perspective, what he says is justified. And since every single bishop in the Church of England has just subscribed to biblical authority, criticizing Okoh would be hard, even if they wanted to.

Posted by: James Byron on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 at 9:54pm GMT

I echo Cynthia, thank God for the Reverend Gay Clark Jennings.
As for Uganda and Nigeria, ...
Jesus weeps.
Japan, the Soviet Union, and Germany of the 20th Century, the USA of the 19th Century have taught us that when a determined majority is willing or silent about total subjugation of a despised minority, that minority is in deep trouble.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Tuesday, 28 January 2014 at 9:59pm GMT

"Nicholas Okoh is in-line with the Bible"

No, JamesB, he's not. Rather, Cynthia nailed it here: "the problem with literalism is that the Bible always seems to mean exactly what they want it to mean".

Okoh (et al Christianist homophobes, worldwide) WANT the Bible to ratify their prejudices, so Voila'! they resort to the ideological construct known (to us) as The Clobber Passages. ***The Clobber Passages are NOT "The Bible"***, they're just selected Scriptural texts intentionally translated, interpreted and applied to homophobic ends.

I'm not afraid when Gay Jennings says "there is no getting around the Bible". I am *deathly afraid*, being LGBT, when Scripture is malevolently turned into a weapon. God bless and protect Your LGBT children in Nigeria, and everywhere!

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 9:56am GMT

The Ugandan president has now withheld his signature from the jail-the-gays bill until such time as it is proven to him that gays are not born that way, like albinos! He is more enlightened than this Anglican Archbishop...

Posted by: Spirit of Vatican II on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 12:13pm GMT

JCF, the doctrine of biblical authority, to which every single bishop in the Church of England now subscribes, makes those "clobber verses" binding. In any case, it's not just those verses, as conservatives have built theology from Genesis down in favor of heterosexual marriage. It's weak on explaining away polygamy, but strong on condemning homosexuality.

You're right, the Bible has been turned into a weapon. It'll only be disarmed when the dogma of biblical authority is removed. Then it won't matter what the Bible says. We can simply disagree with the canon, say that it's wrong about LGBT people, and move on.

Posted by: James Byron on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 4:50pm GMT

the Bishop is not in line with the bible.
Objecting to gay relationships may, at a stretch, be in line with the bible.
But while Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality he did have something to say about how we are to treat those we believe to be sinners. Throwing them in prison and executing them and also jailing their friends is not it.

This is completely unbiblical and completely unChristian.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 5:35pm GMT

Biblical inerrancy is not the same as Biblical authority.

Posted by: FD Blanchard on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 6:23pm GMT

Thank God for the latest news of the Letter from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, aligning themselves with the Dromantine statement of the Bishops' commitment to 'care for and be-friend' homosexual people. This letter has been addressed to all the Primates of the Anglican Communion - including those of Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda, whose homophobic statements are thereby condemned!

All we have to do now is await the expected diatribes that will issue from the GAFCON leaders - but, please God, without abject fear!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 10:36pm GMT

Thank you, James, for your logical thinking.

Scripture and the long history of the church must be judged wrong, and you have the courage to do that.

The only progress that will be made will be when people acknowledge the vast difference between them on a very wide range of issues. Better say 'we know the Bible is opposed to our present position and we oppose it in turn.'

Tertullian gladly acknowledged that the Bible would be a favorite book of those he opposed, because they would bend it to purpose. Disagree with his conclusion but not his basic logic. No opponent of orthodoxy ever said the Bible was not a main plank in their arsenal. Arius was a literalist who claimed 'of one substance' was not biblical and therefore he was right and the Nicenes wrong. The Bible, he said, was on his side.

James has the courage of his convictions and his clarity is to be appreciated on all sides.

Posted by: cseitz on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 at 10:58pm GMT

"In any case, it's not just those verses, as conservatives have built theology from Genesis down in favor of heterosexual marriage."

To say that it is possible to build such a theology out of (judiciously edited!) scripture is not the same as being "in line" with scripture. In any case, the "clobber passages" may be binding but as they are also unintelligible it's rather a moot point. What kind of sins can they possibly refer to? There is, after all, no such thing as a "homosexual act" in itself.

No, to be "in line" with scripture would be to read it the way Our Lord read it - looking for the opportunity, the loophole in Scripture which allows to invite the sincere soul in. So long as they persist in defending their pet (interpretations of) texts against real live people - making men and women slaves to marriage and not the reverse - "reasserters" have no hope of an authentic biblical hermeneutic.

Posted by: Geoff on Thursday, 30 January 2014 at 5:34am GMT

Of course there is that little complication of David's more than friendly feelings for young Jonathan (and David's marriage to Bathsheba is hardly a ringing endorsement for heterosexual marriage as inherently superior).
And what about that business between Lot and his daughters? If Genesis were written today, I'm sure that one would not get past the censors.

Also, Our Lord referred to young John as his "beloved."

I'm afraid the Mormon fundamentalists are right. Truly Biblical marriage is polygamous. Just ask King Solomon, or Abraham for that matter.

I don't see any passages in the Scripture endorsing anything quite like the Victorian domestic ideal of the King in his Castle with his loyal obedient female Angel of the Household caring for their silent obedient offspring; an ideal which is still presented to us as an Eternal Verity once delivered by all the Saints. Like so many such Eternal Verities, it dates back to the 19th century.

Posted by: FD Blanchard on Thursday, 30 January 2014 at 1:54pm GMT
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