By John Gibson
Gene Robinson and Davis Mac-Iyalla appear together in New York
Last night at a weekly church service that routinely draws about 20, a crowd of over 200 filled the nave of New York’s Church of the Holy Apostles to hear the Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, exhort them to have “the audacity to believe the gospel.” Robinson noted that American slaves and, later, women were given the Gospels to pacify them, but, he said, “they had the audacity to believe them.” He concluded that the struggle of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for full inclusion is clearly in this same line.
Among those listening, was the openly gay founder of Changing Attitude Nigeria, Davis Mac-Iyalla. Later, after Bishop Robinson had celebrated the Eucharist, Mac-Iyalla held the crowd rapt as he described his journey from tentative activist to well-known symbol of LGBT Anglicans in the Global South. Both Bishop Robinson’s sermon and Davis Mac-Iyalla’s remarks are available in full at www.holyapostlesnyc.org/church.htm
Again and again, as Mac-Iyalla’s story would find him being beaten, jailed, threatened with death and/or fighting defamation by the Anglican Church of Nigeria, Mac-Iyalla would pause, take a deep breath, and then say, “But as God would have it….” From there he would go on to describe how, one way or another, his faith and that of his lesbian and gay brothers and sisters in West Africa led them out of their adversity.
Later, taking questions from the audience, Mac-Iyalla announced the plans of Changing Attitude Nigeria to attend next summer’s Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion in England. In a reference to Bishop Robinson’s being denied an invitation to Lambeth by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Mac-Iyalla said, “We are not waiting for the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite us. We will invite ourselves.”
Speaking to the threats of broken communion that many have made, Mac-Iyalla affirmed that “we are in communion and we will remain in communion until Christ comes.” Remarks like these drew sustained and loud applause throughout his appearance, which began and ended with standing ovations.
While the evening was being taped by reporters from the American public television program “In The Life,” the congregation included many notable Episcopalian faces, among them Executive Council members The Rev. Winnie Varghese and Mr. Kim Byham, a past president of Integrity. There were also brothers in brown albs and sisters in habits. A large group came from the evening’s hosts, the parish of Holy Apostles and the Episcopalian activist organization WAKE UP. Among those making a group date of the evening, a contingent showed up from St. Francis Xavier, a Roman Catholic church in Chelsea which has a sizable group of gay parishioners.
In closing the evening, Donn Mitchell from WAKEUP urged the audience to take action to fight the reintroduction of anti-gay legislation in Nigeria. The legislation has been universally condemned but continues to enjoy the public support of the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola. Mitchell urged his listeners to contact their own employers’ and government pension funds with investments in companies doing business in Nigeria, including the Episcopal Church Pension Fund. More information is available by writing firstname.lastname@example.org