For some weeks, I have been meaning to post about a story that The Living Church magazine in the USA is reported to have published about a complaint from Peter Akinola concerning misrepresentation of his remarks: Archbishop Akinola Responds to Accusations which said:
Concerned that a remark he said he never made continues to be circulated, the Primate of Nigeria, the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, has denied accusations that his opposition to the episcopacy of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson is driven by revulsion of homosexual persons, saying his actions arise from the concern that false teachers are leading the Episcopal Church astray.
“It’s all about responsibility,” Archbishop Akinola told The Living Church. “Everyone has sinned. Everyone needs to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus. If people come to the church and do not hear the message of new life, then we have not fulfilled our responsibility.”
During the debate Oct. 15 at the Diocese of Dallas’s convention [TLC, Nov. 7] over affiliating with the Anglican Communion Network, accusations impugning the archbishop’s beliefs were leveled. “The primate of all Nigeria refers to homosexuals as animals and refuses to repent of that,” said the Rev. Mark Anschutz, rector of St. Michael and All Angels’ Church, Dallas. “I cannot be a party to that kind of network.” That quote was repeated again in the Jan. 23, 2005, issue in a letter to the editor written by Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent for The Guardian and author of “A Church At War.”
A number of other British and American newspapers have also repeated the remarks.
The July 13, 2003, issue of The Economist, relying upon an account of synod in the Diocese of Abuja by the Nigerian press, quotes Archbishop Akinola: “I cannot think of how a man in his senses would be having a sexual relationship with another man. Even in the world of animals, dogs, cows, lions, we don’t hear of such things.”
In response, Archbishop Akinola argues, “We are not being responsible or faithful if we say, ‘Let us bless your stealing. Let us bless your adultery.’ When the church in the West says, ‘We bless your homosexual union,’ they have failed people. We should love them better than that,” he said.
In an article he wrote for the Church Times around the same time as the Economist report of July 2003, entitled Why I object to homosexuality Peter Akinola set forth his views on homosexuality at length (it’s around 1000 words long and should be read in full by everyone concerned to understand him) concluding with this:
Homosexuality or lesbianism or bestiality is to us a form of slavery, and redemption from it is readily available through repentance and faith in the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus the Christ.
This last week, the archbishop made a further statement, this time about poverty. In the story from the East African Standard (Nairobi) that I linked to earlier in a different connection, and also in a later report via AllAfrica.com Homosexuality: Church in Africa Not United we learn that:
Some African church leaders, including Archbishop Ndungane and Nobel Peace prize winner, retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have questioned why the Anglican church is spending so much time on the issue of homosexuality, when there are pressing issues such as war, Aids and poverty to be addressed on the continent.
But annoyed at the prolonged questioning on this one issue, Archbishop Akinola, who has led the fight against acceptance of gays in the church and the ordination of gay clergy, said: “I didn’t create poverty. This church didn’t create poverty. Poverty is not an issue, human suffering is not an issue at all, they were there before the creation of mankind.”
Andrew Brown, writing in today’s Church Times comments:
“Human suffering is not an issue at all.” If I worked in the press department at the Episcopal Church in the United States, I would kit out every member of the delegation coming to England next week in a T-shirt with Akinola’s face and that slogan. Then I would offer one, in front of the cameras, to Dr Williams. How fortunate for everyone that I’m not.
In a spirit of perversity, it’s worth defending the idea that strict and homophobic Churches are effective at combating poverty. Archbishop Akinola is mistaken when he supposes that homosexuality is a choice, like adultery, against which one can guard by vigilance. But the idea of ceaseless moral vigilance is not a stupid one. In fact, it is essential for the kind of civil society in which poverty can be overcome because trustworthy institutions and professions exist, and corruption is squeezed out.
The trouble with this argument is simple. It seems to work quite well in Asia; but those African countries with the most bigoted Churches are also among the most corrupt. Maybe they just aren’t strict enough.