Comments: More about the new Secretary General at the ACO

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. Nigerian bishops can speak there minds and this bishop is already known as a liberal. 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.

Posted by Davis Mac-Iyalla at Saturday, 4 April 2015 at 1:41pm BST

Colin Coward has written about this matter on the Changing Attitude blog, here are the links:

Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon appointed next Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Office

And later
Bishop James Tengatenga issues Statement about new Secretary General of the Anglican Communion

Posted by Simon Sarmiento at Saturday, 4 April 2015 at 6:19pm BST

In his blog, Jesse Zink, part of whose ministry has been in bridge building over a number of these issues, makes some helpful points.
Thanks for yours too, Davis.

Posted by Alastair Cutting at Saturday, 4 April 2015 at 6:23pm BST

It does seem unfortunate that the subtleties of the sermon were not apparently recorded accurately in the newspaper report about which there has been much comment.

Another report on the sermon says that "the Most Reverend Josiah Idowu Fearon, called on Christians, especially the new knights to put on the amour of truth and righteousness in order to be able to fight the ills in the society.
He noted that in a world that was being ravaged by the threat of moral and spiritual decadence, especially the spreading evils of homosexuality, injustice and extreme wickedness, Christians were supposed to be extra vigilant to save their world, insisting that with their faith in God, they would overcome.

I would be interested to hear from others whether they believe these comments to be within the spirit of Lambeth 1.10, which included:
This conference:
recognises that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God's transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;

while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex;

Was the blogger reporting on this sermon at the time also mistaken in his recollection of what was said in the sermon? Or was that accurate?

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Saturday, 4 April 2015 at 6:42pm BST

I know it is some time ago, but is it actually true that Rowan Williams was so concerned about Bishop Josiah's homophobia that he wrote a pastoral letter connected to it?

That's what the Tablet is implying here, isn't it?

Was that misreporting?

Posted by Kelvin Holdsworth at Saturday, 4 April 2015 at 8:15pm BST

This Blog seems to be morphing into the Southern outpost of "What's in Kelvin's Head"
Easter Blessings to the Provost of Glasgow and to all who read and contribute to Thinking Anglicans.
Easter Gratitude to those who manage and maintain such an informative, controversial and lively Blog.

Posted by Father David at Sunday, 5 April 2015 at 6:09am BST

"The Communion is in need of leadership at the ACO from the majority world"

The majority world? The world has all sorts of majorities: any person, or group of persons, may be in the majority by one criteria, and in a minority by another. Some specificity of the "majority" here is necessary, to understand the point being made.

Posted by JCF at Sunday, 5 April 2015 at 8:22am BST

" I did say by way of explanation that the West brought the Christian Faith to us and our forefathers embraced the faith finding it corroborated our view on marriage. Today, the same West are telling us that the position has changed. To the African, that is confusing, hence the difficulty between the Western church and the African church." - Bishop Josiah -

In his explanation, here of the influence of the early English Christian missionaries, Bishop Josiah is saying that - although the Church of England may have changed its tune with regard to homosexuality, the African Churches are not willing to embrace such changes. This does not mean to say that the changes are wrong - just that the GAFCON Churches will not accept them.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 5 April 2015 at 12:38pm BST

The following extract from a report in 'The Tablet' on 04 December 2004, does sound pretty explicit, about the new Secretary-General of the A.C.C.'s views on homosexuality:

"A Nigerian archbishop, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has said that homosexuality is on a par with adultery, fornication and armed robbery, while Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria, has called it an “aberration unknown even in animal relationships”.

This cannot augur well for the Anglican Communion - unless, of course, Bishop Josiah now publicly dissociates himself from his former remarks.

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Sunday, 5 April 2015 at 12:47pm BST

Thank you, Kelvin. This is all very helpful, especially when the statement from the Chair of the ACC seems to be brushing Josiah I-F's previous statements under the carpet. True, he may have been quoted out of context in the Benin address last year. But this is not the only occasion in which he appears to have taken a line on homosexuality which is at odds with the Lambeth resolution you cite. I think it is going to take more than this statement from James Tengatenga to reassure many provinces of the Communion that this is a good appointment. I can't think that Scotland, Wales and Ireland (certainly South of the border) are too happy, for example?

Posted by Michael Chancellor at Sunday, 5 April 2015 at 4:28pm BST

Please remember the Gafcon Primates are coming to London in a week (with the purpose of embracing their schismatic pals at the Church of England, Ireland/etc)...this appears to me to be both good and bad thing.. only politics vs. honorability know for sure. (between us, I think I've seen enough C of E ¨rearranging of truth¨ to last a lifetime).

Posted by Leonardo Ricardo at Sunday, 5 April 2015 at 11:23pm BST

Thank you, Leonardo, for your reminder of the imminence of the GAFCON Meeting in London. Will this be the beginning of a takeover bid for the soul of the Anglican Communion? If so, count me out. I shall continue to be an Anglican in Aotearoa/ New Zealand.
Christ is risen, Alleluia! He is risen indeed!

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Monday, 6 April 2015 at 1:43am BST


Well I can clear up one thing. Majority world is the commonly used term for what was referred to as the third world. The rationale being that referring to a group of countries by the representation of the number of people in their grouping was a little more kind than referring to them as third class world citizens etc.

I think the Bishops viewpoint on homosexuality seems pretty clear, he classes the act itself as a sin, and states 'love the sinner, hate the sin' but doesn't deem it as worse than what he labels other sins such as corruption. It seems this frankness is hard for many to swallow but at least it is honest and he seems to follow through on the love part as it appears from comments within the gay community that he is respected by them, his view will also equally be the view of many others within the Anglican communion.

It would be pretty difficult I think to find a person, actually for any position, that meets with everyone's approval.

Posted by Cathy at Monday, 6 April 2015 at 5:58am BST

Χριστός Ανέστη! Αληθώς Ανέστη!

I was wondering what folks on TA had to say about this. Upon scrutiny, I am finding
A. A concern about human rights. Although Bishop Idowu-Fearon generically claims to have been misquoted, he hasn't specifically addressed the quote that the laws criminalizing LGBT people is "a good thing."
B. In interviews and articles, we find an extensive amount of homophobia that goes far, far beyond "hate the sin, love the sinner."
C. He viciously attacks TEC as arrogant and whatnot for elevating +Gene. And stated that dealing with our female PB was a problem.
D. He has ties with schismatics. And London, they are coming to you soon.
E. No where can I find compassionate words for the victims of hate crimes or state brutality against anyone. Nor can I find supportive statements for human rights. He may have opposed the laws, but not very publicly.

In an interview in Australia ( he explains a bit of the process of working with "Muslims."

I have to think that there is a fundamental flaw in a "peace and reconciliation" process that depends heavily on mutual hate for a class of God's Children. Just sayin'

Here in the melting pot of the US, we have Muslims and Nigerians of all stripes who are professionals and labors, who are absolutely thriving and they are perfectly free to practice their religion as they see fit. Somehow, it doesn't seem like repression and theological shunning of gays is a needed solution to the problems that beset Muslims and Christians in Nigeria!!! And yet Bishop Idowu-Fearon named homophobia as a threat to society, along with injustice. The absurdity.

The goofy thing about the anti-Americanism is that TEC elects its bishops locally and they are rarely rejected (as Mark Lawrence and Heather Cook should have been). So the toxicity that Bishop Idowu-Fearon kicks up isn’t readily healed. It can’t be solved amongst leaders. American Episcopalians are about the most educated people on the planet and we are most likely to take our theological inspiration from +Desmond Tutu and MLK, and regard Fearon’s theology as ignorant. And definitely not the “virtuoso reconciler” that he is billed as.

I am looking for leaders with a moral compass that is calibrated to the Living Christ, who resides with the poor and oppressed, gay/straight, etc.

Posted by Cynthia at Monday, 6 April 2015 at 4:57pm BST

Bishop Idowu-Fearon keeps casting his position in terms of opposing one particular Nigerian law. Which could easily be opposed (by some) simply for its remedy -- because it's too draconian, it goes too far in the punishment it would mete out.

So let's take it to the level of general principles.

Some enterprising journalist should ask Bishop Idowu-Fearon a very simple question: Do you, or do you not, support the criminalisation of homosexuality?

Posted by Jeremy at Monday, 6 April 2015 at 5:19pm BST

This appointment is a setback for the Anglican Communion which in its present weak and fragile state it cannot afford. The best thing the Bishop could do for the health of the institution would be to withdraw. Endorsing the infamous Lambeth Conference resolution 1.10 twenty years after it was passed, as the single most damaging act in the history of the Lambeth Conference, is not going to fix this. But short sighted obstinacy and fear of loss of face on the part of those responsible for this error of judgment will probably prevent them from taking a step back now. Those who have been suspicious of the Anglican Communion since George Carey ramped it up into an engine against liberalism and Rowan Williams tried and failed with the Anglican Covenant to make it a majoritarian worldwide church at the expense of progress for LGBT Christians may be glad, but the Church of England is not so strong that it can really afford to give up on the mutual support that a reformed Anglican Communion might have offered.

Posted by badman at Monday, 6 April 2015 at 9:33pm BST

For all of us who might still be chary about this appointment; it serves to remember that Bishop Josiah was once an Archbishop in the Nigerian Anglican Church. However, he was demoted by noted homophobe Archbishop Akinola. Was that because of some undisclosed sympathy - on the part of the new Secretary-General - for homosexual people?

Perhaps we will need to look again at this Bishop's true beliefs about homosexuality. Just sayin'

Posted by Father Ron Smith at Tuesday, 7 April 2015 at 2:07am BST

It may strike some as surprising, but despite everything, I don't want to think of Bishop Idowu-Fearon as irredeemable. It seemed like Bishop Tengatenga is good on human rights, he was endorsed by +Desmond Tutu as I recall. And Bishop Idowu-Fearon did respond seemingly positively to a request by the Episcopal Women's Caucus to "work on his LGBT relations."

It would be good to hear from his heart where he is now, and if he's willing to dialogue. However, if he continues to equate LGBT people with adultery, stealing, and lying, and continues to antagonize 2.1 million Episcopalians, then it should be game over. It'll likely be game over for us, which seemed to be what he wanted in one of his quotes "they can leave!"

Good night.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 7 April 2015 at 6:09am BST

Interesting to read the arguments and to observe the different ways people line up. But it seems sufficiently clear that the appointment of this bishop is part of an ongoing effort to maintain a 'hard' version of the Anglican Communion and that that process, linked as it is to some extent to the continuing imposition of a convervative view of homosexuality, puts the present leaders of the C of E at odds both with a majority of their own people and with an even greater majority of the population at large. At which point, the pieces by Michael Gove and Andrew Brown - which very much chime with my own life experience - again become very relevant. By continually pandering to their base, our archbishops are playing a very dangerous game.

Posted by John at Tuesday, 7 April 2015 at 10:01am BST

You raise a great point, John.

The way through is mutual respect for difference, because the West, South Africa, and much of Latin America are just not in the same place as these hardliners who are seeking a way to impose their hard line on others.

I can't imagine that TEC will leave the Anglican Communion. We move slowly and kick the can down the road. We haven't even voted on the Covenant yet! If we get tossed out, my guess is that all will come back together in God's time, because hate really isn't sustainable, no matter how well cloaked in cherry picked bits of Scripture.

One needs to question how well all this patriarchy is playing out for women and girls in Africa? Last I heard, not so great.

Posted by Cynthia at Tuesday, 7 April 2015 at 6:00pm BST

I share the concern that others have about any reference to Lambeth 1998 1.10. That said, if he will live up to the sections broadly ignored in much of the Communion -

"We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;"


"calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialization and commercialisation of sex;"

he will be a step forward in valuable ways.

Posted by Marshall Scott at Tuesday, 7 April 2015 at 6:06pm BST

@ Marshall Scott: The fact, Mr Scott, is that in large swaths of the Anglican Communion, leadership (and the laity, taking cues from their leaders) have show so much hostility toward gay people that they don't dare expose themselves so that they can be assured by fellow Christians that the are "all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, (and) are full members of the Body of Christ." Rather, they have ample reason NOT to believe that they will be "ministered (to) pastorally...irrespective of sexual orientation." In fact, leaders in those swaths of the communion seem not even to comprehend the phrase, "sexual orientation."

Posted by Daniel Berry, NYC at Tuesday, 7 April 2015 at 11:04pm BST
Post a comment

Remember personal info?

Please note that comments are limited to 400 words. Comments that are longer than 400 words will not be approved.

Cookies are used to remember your personal information between visits to the site. This information is stored on your computer and used to refill the text boxes on your next visit. Any cookie is deleted if you select 'No'. By ticking 'Yes' you agree to this use of a cookie by this site. No third-party cookies are used, and cookies are not used for analytical, advertising, or other purposes.