Episcopal Café has a wonderful tribute today to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, written by Dr. Howard Anderson, warden of the Cathedral College at the National Cathedral in Washington, which recently presented him with a prize. Tutu stayed for a week and Anderson got to spend a lot of time with him. The article brings some good insight into Tutu’s spirituality and manner of life.
Anderson goes on to compare the Little Giant of South Africa with another African Archbishop, Peter Akinola:
When I read Archbishop Akinola, and for that matter, people like Bishop Duncan, I see a model of a God I do not recognize. A God who would ask God’s people not to emulate compassion, or combat injustice, oppression and evil, but rather, to judge those who fall outside of what can only be called a modern version of purity codes. It is an Old Testament God of wrath, of judgment, of tribe and clan that emerges.
Anderson also tells the truth about something most secessionist Episcopalians don’t know or try to deny: that Akinola’s claims of massive, exponential growth in the Nigerian Church are dubious at best.
While the intimidating presence of men of power like Archbishop Akinola thunder, Anglicans by the thousand in Nigeria leave the Church to find the “Good News” being lived out and preached in Pentecostal and other churches. Nigerian friends of mine tell of visits home in formerly Anglican areas that are now predominantly Pentecostal, for those churches are trying to meet the needs of the people, not to find new ways to condemn others.
But then Anderson goes off track, in my opinion. He makes a prediction about the future:
I think the Akinolas will soon give way to a less power hungry, more egalitarian leader, and with that, a polity which is more democratic, where clergy and laity, not just primates and bishops, discern God’s will for the Church. We must be patient. And even as men like Archbishop Akinola castigate us, reject our way of being Anglican Christian, we must pray for them. I must be patient like Archbishop Tutu told me to be.
It’s the “soon give way” that caught my eye. I posted this reply:
I wish I could share Dr. Anderson’s unabashed optimism about the post-Akinola generation of Church leaders. Nigeria is a kleptocracy. Corruption is rampant and institutionalized. Akinola serves this system, as do certain other very vocal African bishops. Gay-bashing also serves this system by providing scapegoats.
South Africa is a special case. Many people there, especially Mandela and Tutu, heard God’s call to serve justice and the people. God calls in Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe too, but fewer people seem to be listening, except for the Gay people.
The good news is there are LGBT voices being heard in Uganda, thanks in part to Integrity; and in Nigeria, in large part due to Changing Attitude (Davis Mac-Iyalla and Colin Coward). I have talked by phone with two or three other young Gay men in Francophone Africa, though I’m unaware of any LGBT voices raised in Zimbabwe, which is so far down the tubes it’s entirely lawless.
What seems important to me as a Gay American Episcopalian is that we take a few steps on behalf of our African sisters and brothers. First, pray for them, knowing that God hears their cries and weeps with them. Second, do what we can to publicize the voices of LGBT Africans and help to tell their stories about actual conditions in their countries. Third, we should continue to press government and Church officials to respond to abuses of power directed at LGBT Africans to further the kleptocracy. There is no excuse for the worldwide Anglican Communion to participate in demonizing our people.
Fourth, LGBT Americans need to take a much more international view of LGBT issues. People are being murdered all over the world for being Gay. Skinhead thugs beat LGBT people in Russia with the cooperation of Putin’s police. Saudi Arabia and Iran cheerfully execute our people.
In short we need our own foreign policy, independent of Washington, London and Brussels. We need our own diplomats, as well as armies of organizers. As human rights are slowly won here in the West, our focus must shift to organizations such as the International Lesbian and Gay Association.
We are citizens of the world, skeptics of our own rulers; it’s not like we don’t have kleptocrats here. When U.S. Rep. William Jefferson (D-New Orleans) wanted to make some cold hard cash (discovered in his freezer), where did he go? To Nigeria, the capital of kleptocracy.
So we know what’s happening here and elsewhere. As we extend our gains in the U.S. and Western Europe, it’s time to expand our movement to the whole world.
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”