An Update on The Church of Nigeria
by Louise Brooks
The Church of Nigeria has a new Archbishop. Nicholas Okoh. With a new Archbishop, however, does not come change. Here's a summary from Business Day by Opeyemi Agbaje of Okah's predeccesor, Archbishop Peter Akinola's tenure:
"Bishop Akinola was most known worldwide for his opposition to the ordination of homosexuals within the Anglican Communion. In 2003, he led a revolt against the planned ordination of Jeffrey John and Gene Robinson as Bishops of Reading and New Hampshire respectively precipitating a crisis in the Communion when the US Episcopals proceeded with Gene Robinson's ordination. He became leader of a newly formed Convocation of Anglicans in North America, Anglicans who preferred to join with Akinola and the African Bishops who were irrevocably opposed to the ordain these homosexuals in the face of the explicit condemnation of homosexuality in several parts of the Bible.
"Many true Christians in Nigeria, including non-Anglicans (and this columnist) were justifiably proud of, and encouraged by the leadership and principled position taken by Akinola. TIME Magazine was also impressed and nominated the Bishop as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2006, recognising him in the category of leaders and revolutionaries. Bishop Akinola chose fidelity to the scriptures rather than bending to the will of the western Anglican Church, which appears to have lost its way. I have however wished that Bishop Akinola would devote the same zeal he put to work against homosexuality towards issues which plague the church and society in Nigeria such as witchcraft and occultism, polygamy, election rigging, poor governance and most importantly corruption! "
We have only to look forward to more of the same. This is from Okah's inaugural sermon: "In the present crisis in the Anglican Communion, at the moment huge sums of money are being spent to undermine marriage.
"We are unable to accept this. The recent presidential address to his diocese by the Bishop of Liverpool is not acceptable to us. He argued that in the past people had to live side by side in the church, who held opposite views on war. In the same way he is saying, if some people say that same-sex relationships are okay, they can carry on, and if some say they are not okay, they can carry on too.
"The danger is of establishing two authorities in the Church, one of the Bible and the other the canon of a deviant subculture. We refuse to accept it. For whom does the Bishop of Liverpool speak? For himself and his diocese, but he does not speak for the Church of Nigeria. He also spoke of a direction for the Anglican Communion. We do not know if he has the authority to speak on that. If the Communion Covenant is intended to carry the spread of the homosexual lifestyle thoughout the communion, it is doomed to fail. The Bishop of Liverpool chose to speak at the wrong time.
"Do not be afraid of being called homophobic. It is a term designed to close down any expression of a contrary view. Respond by accusing them of gunaphobia – an inordinate fear of women and of relationships with women."
Integrity USA Immediate Past President, the Rev. Canon Susan Russell had this to say in response: “Is is deeply regrettable that Archbishop Nicholas Okoh chose to begin his tenure as Primate of Nigeria by attacking the Bishop of Liverpool in an inaugural sermon focused on the polemic rather than the pastoral. It is long past time for this Anglican Communion family to work through the differences that challenge us rather than continue to exploit them into divisions that separate us. While some -- like the Bishop of Liverpool -- have been working to build bridges across those differences, others -- like the Archbishop of Nigeria -- have been acting as spiritual terrorists and blowing up those bridges with incendiary language like, “Do not be afraid of being called homophobic.” To encourage the irrational fear of those who are “other” is antithetical to the Gospel call to love our neighbors as ourselves and to walk with them in love as Christ loved us and gave himself for us. It does nothing to build up the Body of Christ and everything to continue to sacrifice the lives, vocations and relationships of the gay and lesbian faithful on the altar of global Anglican politics."
Integrity USA is deeply saddened by the remarks made by the new primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, in his inaugural sermon. His remarks indicate that he not only accepts but is willing to promote homophobia. Such blatant promotion of the fear and hatred of homosexuals leads to only violence and death. It is not, as he suggests, a mantle to be worn with pride. Homophobia is wrong. It is simply not Christian to promote hatred of "the other". Homophobia is NOT accpetable anywhere in the communion. It is long overdue for our church leaders realize that the Anglican Communion is "coming out of the closet". Homosexuals are part of the African family. They are part of the human family. Homosexuality is a gift from God. And, it is time that all good people fo faith stop promoting hate and start promoting love.
Louise Brooks is a Media Consultant, Director of Communications for Integrity and a board member. She works with the Human Rights Campaign's Religion and Faith program and California faith for Equality.