First AMiE, now a conservative Nigerian Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion. What a week it's turning out to be! The appointment is hardly surprising after all the mud-slinging from Africa about Ken Kearon's so-called liberalism (and there was me thinking he was a perfectly mainstream and orthodox Anglican). The Welby-Sentamu jigsaw is looking a little more complete.
Linda Woodhead was absolutely right in her prediction that both Archbishops are committed to making common cause with conservative factions. It also compounds the growing perception that Welby has little sense of his public, representative role and sees himself more as a 'National Chaplain' to the committed core and those that can key into his linguistic code.
It begs a fundamental question: what now constitutes the Anglican theological and ecclesial identity - and who has the authority to determine it?
Tom - I'm not sure this can be seen as the work of the Archbishop (let alone Archbishops) -these notes were at the bottom of the first link.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. This is an independent selection process.
2. The interview panel is made up of the sub-committee of the ACC Standing Committee.
3. The Archbishop of Canterbury is not involved in the interview process but receives the nominations for approval.
Bishop Josiah is far from a typical Nigerian Anglican. Please don't start stereotyping him, Tom, before finding out more about him. He has had a fairly difficult time in the Church of Nigeria - precisely because he is regarded there as too pro-western liberal. Among his 'sins' is his commitment to interreligious engagement - which is not popular among his fellow Nigerian Anglican bishops. He is - and has been for more than 15 years - a member of the Anglican Communion Interfaith Network. I don't know what his views are on a range of issues of the moment - they may well be more conservative than yours or mine. But he is somebody who genuinely thinks and wants to build relationships.
I am happy over the appointment of Most Revd Dr Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon as the next Secretary General of the Anglican Communion.
I know that Josiah, will be more open to serve the Anglican Communion without bias.
The Church of Nigeria will not be walking away if Bishops like Josiah are the Primate of All Nigeria.
What is it that makes this bishop "conservative"?
The fact that someone from Africa has been appointed to this job is surely a good thing to be celebrated. The fact that it is this person may or may not be.
Rather disappointingly, it is not difficult to find that Dr Idowu-Fearon was an active opponent of Gene Robinson's appointment.
At the Episcopal Church's 2003 General Convention where deputies and bishops voted to approve the election of openly gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, then Bishop of Kaduna, Nigeria, warned that departing from biblical teaching would hurt the churches' witness. Islamists had slaughtered thousands of Christians in Idowu-Fearon's diocese, and Christians in Nigeria are willing to die for their faith, he said. But to be undermined by Western abandonment of biblical authority is a crushing blow.
Idowu-Fearon tried gently to exhort the church to "put off the old self," and "put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." The Anglican Communion family takes the U.S. Episcopal Church very seriously, he said, quoting the old adage, "When America sneezes, the whole world catches a cold." But his words angered some convention attendees: "Why these thinly veiled words of intolerance and exclusion at the largest gathering of Convention?" said one."
There's something ugly about judging someone by the country they come from. Far better to look at their actual record.
"I'm not sure this can be seen as the work of the Archbishop (let alone Archbishops)" Charlie S
Some other articles by Bishop Josiah:
This recent one, about the long-standing relationship between his diocese and a congregation in the Episcopal Diocese of Connecticut: http://www.livingchurch.org/healing-hope-reconciliation
In 2010, when some primates were considering boycotting a primates' meeting, he wrote an op-ed in the Church Times under the title, "If you disagree, at least be there." I found it at this link in the Church Times archive, which might not be available to non-subscribers: http://www.ukpressonline.co.uk/ukpressonline/getDocument/ChTm_2010_12_24_012?fileType=pdf
A couple of quotations from that second article: "An archbishop may hold a strong position on a particular theological debate, but that should not be a reason to silence those of his colleagues who hold an alternative opinion as representatives of their dioceses." And: "It is the path of wisdom to marshal your theological positions, and to be prepared to argue your points clearly and without resorting to name-calling or abusive language. You missed an opportunity by not being at Lambeth 2008."
No doubt a further scour of the Internet will reveal more. Are there other links to material he has authored?
It seems to me to be a fine and a good thing to have someone in post who works for reconciliation between Christians and Muslims.
But there's no amount of articles on that topic that will make it acceptable for the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion to be someone who supports criminalizing those of us who are gay.
As I've been out all day, this is my first opportunity to respond to those who don't like my labelling of the new AC Secretary General. Fortunately, Kelvin Holdsworth has done it for me. It was the Bishop's record on gay issues which caused me to use the 'conservative' tag. As for his appointment, are you seriously suggesting Welby had no influence whatsoever in this 'independent' process? My difficulty is not that he is a Nigerian (and I think that is clear in my original posting); it is his record on a major theological/ecclesiological issue for the Anglican Communion. That bit I should have made clearer, and I apologise for my vagueness at the time.
Also, Cranmer Hall connections I see...!
I remember Bishop Josiah at the 1998 Lambeth Conference talking Christianity and Islam. I thought he was rather a good thing, certainly very able. That is probably why he has not become the Primate. I think in terms of views in the Nigerian church, he is relatively liberal. Perhaps not by C of E standards!
First, the ACO's release says nothing about who did the appointing. Note for Editors 3 at the end says that the Archbishop of Canterbury "receives the nominations for approval"--which suggests some degree of choice on his part. Yet everyone quoted in the release is referring to the event in the passive voice ("has been appointed"). Looks as though no one wants to claim responsibility.
Second, this appointment highlights the fact that the Anglican Communion has become an Instrument of Injustice.
I think that Josiah Idowu-Fearon's ability is not really the problem, Susan. The problem is that this man thinks that criminalising homosexuality is a good idea. This disgusting attitude is now going to be embodied in the leading representative of our Communion.
How are any of us to think that being part of this Communion is any longer a good idea? Who in the world is going to think these are people that we should deal with (except Putin, and the countries where punitive regimes against LGBT people still hold sway)? And do we want to be aligned with those people?
He can be as lovely as he likes about everything else. He could be the cleverest boy in the school (and in terms of the Nigerian HoB I think he is). But while he thinks homosexuality is to be responded to by locking us up, then he is not a fit person to be the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion, and those who appointed him should hang their heads in shame. Those who feel as I do have a duty to protest about this appointment - which I will be doing.
I note that J I-F preached when Justin Welby was put in at Durham and is a good friend of our Archbishop. Welby's ability to promote his friends and in this instance to show no regard for the concerns, the needs and the security of the most disregarded and vulnerable of Nigerian Anglicans is almost boundless. If it weren't so predictable I would be shocked.
Clearly Josiah Idowu-Fearon has pedigree in promoting reconciliation. So does Justin Welby. But both are compromised by their stance on homosexuality. It is completely untenable that anyone should bang the drum of reconciliation while also promoting discrimination against minorities on the basis of sexual orientation. This is an appointment to maintain the status quo in the Anglican Communion, sanctioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury, and those contributors to this thread which use the conservative label are hardly exaggerating or being mischievous. What, indeed (@Tom Marshall), does this mean for a pan-Anglican theological identity in the future?
I was prepared to overlook Bishop Idowu-Fearon's reaction to +Gene Robinson's consecration: that was over 10 years ago.
But his statement, "The government has criminalised homosexuality which is good", is from *one* year ago.
...at the same time, I take Davis Mac-Iyalla's endorsement of him very seriously. Davis, were you aware of Bishop Idowu-Fearon's 2014 statement supporting criminalization of homosexuality in Nigeria? If so, how are you still able to support him? Honestly curious.
May I point out that while the white western comments on this blog are getting shriller and shriller as they go along, Davis Mac-Iyalla, a Nigerian LGBT activist and thus one of those 'disregarded' and 'vulnerable' voices to which a later commentator refers... has made a comment on this blog specifically welcoming the appointment of Josiah Fearon as Secretary-General. Of course his views and comment have been totally ignored by later commentators... I guess that as a mere black Nigerian he cannot be taken seriously on Thinking Anglicans.
Another Nigerian Bishop in 'Head Office'. Let's hope he is as eirenic in his attitude to non-GAFCON provinces as his fellow African, Bishop James Tengatenga. Otherwise, this could seem like a GAFCON-Provincial take-over. Jesu, mercy; Mary, pray!
Perhaps the Archbishop of Canterbury had no direct hand in the appointment of another Nigerian to the leadership of the Anglican Communion. However, I'm sure he was involved in some way - if only to give final approval. The proof of this new official's attitude towards LGBT people will be in his activity as General Secretary of the Communion. It could prove to be the making or (further) breaking of ACC solidarity.
I think Susan Cooper's point about Josiah Idowu-Fearon being 'liberal' in Nigerian terms, but not in C of E terms, helpfully takes us to the nub of the issue (and amplifies a question already being asked about doctrinal and ethical consistency across the Anglican Communion). I assume (but I may be wrong, pace the Wonga debacle) that the Archbishop of Canterbury knew about Josiah I-F's views on homosexuality before his appointment? If he didn't, why are his staff not briefing him? Or was this another non-consultative favour for a friend? If the Archbishop did know, this tells us something profoundly significant about who is expected to bear the cost of 'reconciliation' and 'unity' in the future. Either way, it symbolises (at least) a two-tier theology across the Communion. That may be okay for an Archbishop who thinks theological rigour is an unnecessary distraction; but it will have implications for our ecumenical relationships and only serves to accentuate the divisions across the Communion. If this constitutes being 'shrill' (@Clara) then, it would seem, all white Western questions are off limits.
Andrea Minchiello-Williams is alleged to have added her vocal support to the idea of recriminalising homosexuality at a conference in Jamaica last year. She was publicly criticised not only on pages like this, where you would expect it, but in the diocese which she represents in General Synod. The criticism of the appointment of Josiah Idowu-Fearon is very much in the same mould. Why should he be excused for what he has said? In what way, knowing what he thinks, is he a proper representative of Anglicanism all over the world?
Criminalising homosexuality has been strenuously criticised in the United Nations. I quote from their factsheet:
"In 1994, in the case of Toonen vs. Australia, the United Nations Human Rights Committee confirmed that laws criminalizing homosexuality violate rights to privacy and non-discrimination in breach of States’ legal obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political
That was in 1994 - since then there have been multiple attempts by states which do criminalise homosexuality to demonstrate that this is a reasonable and proportionate response to claimed threats to health or public welfare. They have all failed. We know perfectly well that the whole debate in Nigeria, as elsewhere, has used post-colonial arguments to blame homosexuality on the West, and has reinforced this with some of the harshest religious interpretations of the condition imaginable. This position has no international moral credibility in terms of human rights. It is folly of the Communion to allow itself to be represented by a man who thinks it aceptable.
I don't think you or I have the first idea what it must be like to live where you fear attack and arrest every day simply for being yourself. I note that Davis now lives in this country, and his kind words about the bishop may or may not have been issued with knowledge of Josiah Idowu-Fearon's public opinion of what should be done to LGBT people. I have no doubt that, in Nigerian terms, Idowu-Fearon is less extreme than some. But that still does not excuse what he said and what he believes.
Your comment rather implies that you think in the "shrill" end of the pool that there a racism of disregard. I would suggest to you that down your end there is the risk of a racism of low expectations.
Clara, your comment is specious.
Just because Davis Mac-Iyalla is a black gay Nigerian does not mean that liberals the world over must agree with his support of someone who advocates criminalising homosexuality.
I hope that Mr. Mac-Iyalla will explain the paradox of his position.
In the meantime, the rest of us are free to draw our own conclusions and to advance our own arguments.
I am taking Bishop Idowu-Fearon perfectly seriously -- in taking him at his public word.
Josiah Idowu-Fearon has indicated that, despite media reports, he does not support the criminalisation of LGBT people. Julie Gittens contacted him and shared the following response with the Episcopal Women's Caucus (thanks, Jim Naughton, for passing on):
Julie Gittens Episcopal Women's Caucus
Yesterday, I emailed Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon. I congratulated him on his new appointment. I asked him to work on his LGBT relations. This was his reply.
I believe it is right for me to take up your offer and contact you.
Firstly, permit me to thank you for your mail and congratulatory message, I feel encouraged and hopeful. I have been very frightened of this opportunity to serve our Communion, your letter is a part of the Lord assuring me that He will provide for my enablement.
Julie, I do not support the law in my country that criminalises homosexuality as a Christian, that has been my position and it has not changed. The church must always critique any government policy that is discriminatory, that is why the church is there! When any government enacts or passes any law that is wrong, the church must and should provide an alternative.
I hope my clear and unapologetic position will make it possible for us of the same Anglican Family to talk with rather than at each other. I have spent over 40 years working on the culture of respect for differences among Christians and Muslims in Nigeria and Africa, this is what I believe the Lord has called me to spend the rest of my life and ministry doing now within our own Family: the Communion.
I look forward to our learning from each other and using our differences to work for the Lord.
I am assuming that the Secretary General will be based in the Anglican Communion office in London (unless the Archbishop of Canterbury has unilaterally moved it to Nigeria - like he moved the Diocese of Europe's office to Brussels when he appointed his old college buddy as Bishop of Europe last year)? I have just written to the Home Office to ask, given that Josiah I-F's calls for the criminalisation of homosexuality are in conflict with current British 'hate' legislation, whether his presence in the UK is in the public interest? Maybe other TA readers will feel moved to do the same.
"Julie, I do not support the law in my country that criminalises homosexuality"
is not the same as
"Julie, I do not support criminalising homosexuality"
"My clear and unapologetic position"--sounds pretty arrogant. He may now deny his former statements and vilify his critics, but that is not good enough. He needs to do a public act of conversion and vow to fight against the benighted and murderous attitudes with which he has allowed his name to be associated.
It seems to me that this isn't quite what we need to hear. We need to hear him either say that he didn't say the things he is reported to have said and give some explanation for how he came to be reported that way or alternatively to confirm that he did say them but has now changed his mind. It would be even better to have some evidence that the changing of his mind did not happen to coincide with an interview for a new job.
And if he really is the person with the diplomatic skills necessary for this job, I think he'll see that fairly clearly and fairly quickly.
""Julie, I do not support the law in my country that criminalises homosexuality"
"is not the same as
""Julie, I do not support criminalising homosexuality""
Oh no, he's not taking the Anglican Communion into doublespeak territory, I hope.
With friends like Anglican Down Under who needs enemies? Anglican Down Under does not see that It's just unacceptable that a christian church leader would call for the imprisonment of gays. Just as bishops guilty of covering up child abuse are unredeemable even if they have many other merits, this kind of homophobic posturing can annihilate all the admirable qualifications he brings to the post. ADU's heavy irony is not helping Idowu-Fearon at all, and seems rather to confirm the worst that is said of him.
Yet more evidence that Cranmer Hall is the new Cuddesdon.
Predictably most of the comments on this thread are concerned with Archbishop Josiah's attitude towards homosexuality, very few mention his work in seeking greater understanding and reconciliation between Christians and Muslims. It seems that the bishop, who has a Doctorate in Islamic studies, set up a kind of Nigerian Corrymeela but not for Catholics and Protestants to meet together but for Christians and Muslims. Considering the recent dreadful atrocity at the Kenyan university and the massacre of dozens of Christians, surely Bishop Josiah is to be commended for his work on inter-faith dialogue?
I remember when Jeffrey John's appointment as Bishop of Reading was first announced, a group of Evangelicals (note I say 'a group' - not all!) called on him to publicly repent of his past homosexual acts (this was after he had been hounded into revealing the intimacies of his relationship with his partner). Will Bishop Josiah now do the same, if he is 'clear and unapologetic' about the importance of valuing LGBT people as valued members of the body of Christ? If Justin Welby is as committed to reconciliation as he claims, he should surely see that this is as a necessary step if the Anglican Communion as a whole is to have any confidence in its new Secretary General. As for confidence in the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is surely time for him to stop engineering his friends in to high places if he is to be taken seriously by the Church of England as a whole and resist controlling the outcome of the CNC in particular.
Spirit of Vatican II, no doubt Josiah Idowu-Fearon can, and will, further clarify his views on criminalisation. But I do not share your apparent confidence that the Nigerian and other press would never misquote someone. Nor does it seem to me arrogant for him to be unapologetic if he does hold a position which is at odds with that of his primate and many other Christians in Nigeria, even if some think he should apologise for not being hardline enough with regard to interfaith relations and sexuality.
David Richards, I seem to remember that quite a few bishops of the Established Church took part in the hounding of Jeffrey John, including the current Acting Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham who promulgated the current ban on the licensing of Canon Pemberton, resulting in his forced withdrawal from accepting consecration to the Suffragan See of Reading. After all these years Jeffrey John has still not been given a Diocesan Bishopric, perhaps Jeffrey is not a Friend of Justin?
Seems to me we need more evidence. I do remember the remark about America sneezing but that's prudential not necessarily homophobic. On the other hand, the point about Welby's friends seems irrefutable. Howard Jacobsen's piece on the Israelis and Palestinians in today's Independent rightly emphasises the failures caused by lack of imagination. I have long thought that that's what wrong with Welby and Sentamu (and others of their ilk): they have no imagination and therefore little true moral sense. But, as someone said, Stand Firm! This lot will only last about five years before their failure will be apparent to most people, and then there will be changes.
I think that it is important that people remember that the primary concern is not Bishop Josiah's attitude to gay people. The primary concern is Bishop Josiah's attitude to the law.
How many current Diocesan Bishops are products of Cuddesdon, not as many as there were during Runcie's Archiepiscopate, I'll wager. It seems that Cranmer Hall is now the place to train at if there is to be any hope of being given a pointy hat. Can't think of any serving Diocesans from Staggers, although I am open, as always, to correction. As for the now defunct Lincoln Theological College, there remains the Bishop of London, who concluded his ministerial training there after having attended Cuddesdon in the first instance.
Father David, I'm really surprised that you don't list the Bishop of Chichester as a Staggers man.
Both Chelmsford and Truro are also alumni of Staggers.
Well, Simon, I did say that I am open to be corrected and corrected I have been. Thank you for doing so and reminding me what a first rate Diocesan Bishop Martin Warner actually is. Would that there were more in the Church of England like him serving as Diocesan Bishops. His address at the Chrism Mass in his cathedral church was inspirational likening the oils to "the cosmetics of holiness", the text can be found on the Chichester Diocesan Website.
The appointment of Nigeria, Most Revd Dr Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon as the next Secretary General of the Anglican Communion is making headlines among Anglican bloggers. Many are expressing concerns about comments attributed to him by the Nigeria media. I know Josiah will find time to clarify those comments attributed to him and I am not his defender but Jesus teaches us not to bear false witness that’s why I will say what I know that the man Most Revd Dr Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon is not a homophobic person and I believe that he does not support LGBT criminalization legislation in Nigeria. I am a gay Nigerian who has faced persecutions from the church and state in Nigeria. During those period of my persecutions, my friends and supporters living in Kaduna and who are also members of the church where reporting that the bishop of Kaduna is very sympathetic and don’t understand why human sexuality is getting the most attention of the church and media. I fully welcome and support his appointment, I hope that people will believe him and give him a chance to do the work he has been called to do.
Oh dear, I really should have consulted Crockford's before adding to this Blog! The Episcopate is changing so rapidly not only in terms of gender but also in terms of Churchmanship that it's hard to keep up with it all. So, we have at least three Staggers Diocesans, how many serving Diocesans were Cuddesdon men? I think I am on safer ground here in affirming that there are not as many now as there were in Robert Runcie's day.
Apart from the present, long-serving Bishop of London, do we have any other Lincoln trained Diocesans? Under Justin Welby the Bench of Bishops is most certainly heading in an Evangelical and more managerial direction.
While some of us are being diverted by trivialities like which theological college the Bishop of Truro attended (even though I'm told he doesn't much like to advertise where he went!) Davis Mac-Iyalla is hopeful that Josiah I-F will clarify his comments. He has been given an opportunity in a statement where 'quotation out of context' has been blamed for a misunderstanding. Are we going to see the full text spoken in context so we can make a balanced judgement on whether this is the case? This really is of vital importance if Anglicanism is to continue to claim that it is a generous, intelligent and rooted expression of the Christian faith, arising from scripture, tradition and reason. If the Secretary General of the ACC cannot subscribe to this, we're really sunk.
Michael, please see the newer article containing the two statements from the ACO issued earlier today.
Mr. Chancellor may consider the Churchmanship of the Bench of Bishops to be of trivial concern and of very little consequence but I beg to differ. The balance of the Episcopal Leadership is heading in a direction which is completely out of kilter. More and more Evangelicals are being appointed to senior positions within the National Church and Traditionalists are being increasingly marginalised. I hardly consider that to be a trivial matter but of very serious consequence.
From Downunder in NZ I am rather surprised at the willingness to believe media over common sense. I am not sure if the UK is the same as NZ but here the media often takes things out of context or puts their own spin of matters so you have to think twice before believing what is said.
Davis, who is a homosexual Nigerian and has first hand experience of the newly appointed stands witness of his character. This speaks more volume to me than any one article in a paper. Also he mentions something that is altogether the most valid point - why is sexuality taking the most prominent place in church discussions. For sure the Gospel - Christ is risen Today; we are the first country to see in Easter Sunday; will become lost to the public's mind when they think of the church if our main focus is continually diverted.
As for comments about Webly and the Archbishop of York regarding lack of imagination. What happened to encourage one another? Focus on what is good and holy? I recently admired their courage to follow through and speak up with a Christian viewpoint on issues over the English elections. Were our churches so organised it would be a good thing.
Entirely agree with you, Father David, except I'd add that 'liberals' (in very many respects in harmony with Traditionalists) are also being marginalised. 'Balance' and 'out of kilter' are exactly right.
Hope you have a wonderful Easter Vigil. Ours begins at 8.30. I should be utterly surprised if there weren't RCs (and maybe some 'Traditionalists') present, some of whom will take communion with us.
Happy Easter to all here.
@ Fr David - Tim Thornton may have gone to Staggers, but he's no traditionalist (he spoke out against +Rowan and +Sentamu's attempts to accommodate traditionalists at the July 2012 Synod). He's now one of Welby's chief acolytes on the commission which produced the Green Report. His theological college seems pretty irrelevant given his obedient commitment to the new 'orthodoxy' at Lambeth.
My point is precisely that Welby and Sentamu aren't 'encouraging one another'. They're encouraging themselves and people like themselves - only.
As for their letter about the election: it would have been good if they had said no Christian can vote for the Conservatives who have systematically lied about the nature of the economic crisis since 2008. But of course - OF COURSE - they didn't.
As for 'organisation': if their only concept of 'organisation' is filling it with people like themselves, then it is corrupt.
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