Peter Akinola, Anglican Primate of Nigeria
From The Lead, part of Episcopal Café, an Episcopal Diocese of Washington website, posted by the Rev. Nick Knisely, Dean of Trinity Cathedral in Phoenix, this afternoon:
Last week the Church of Nigeria was accused of being involved in some way on a series of assaults upon the leadership of the Changing Attitudes Nigeria organization. While some have questioned whether or not the assaults took place, today the Nigerian Church has responded by deploring any possibility that they might have been connected in any way, calling for an investigation if evidence points their way.
From a statement by the Nigerian Church’s Archbishop of Jos which has appeared on the provincial website:
“We are saddened and worried that some Churches and Christians now find these teachings and standards unacceptable. However, we will never seek to bring any person or persons to our way of thinking and believing by using violence, force, slander or blackmail: to do so would be to contradict the gospel which we proclaim. Should anyone bring a case against us in this respect we will most certainly investigate it and deal with it. I would have hoped that the accusations made concerning the attack on Mr. Davis Mac-Iyalla could have been properly presented in this manner, with evidence: it would then have been dealt with swiftly. This was not done, and it would be helpful to consider that there may indeed be other reasons why certain individuals felt they had a score to settle with Mr. Mac-Iyalla. All my attempts so far to discover the place or the nature of these attacks and threats have proved unsuccessful.
Simply to accuse the Anglican Church of being the perpetrator of a physical attack on the streets of a large city, does not make sense. If a Nigerian Bishop or church leader were mugged in England, would the Archbishop of Canterbury, or even the Church of England in general, be blamed for this? That the Archbishop of Canterbury, backed by a group of English bishops should – without evidence being presented – choose to accuse any other person(s) of resorting to violent crime and illegal acts, is in fact to resort to the unchristian bullying and behaviour which they so abhor.”
The statement by the Archbishop continues:
May I note that I was invited to speak at a fringe meeting of the Church of England Synod last year. Mr. Mac-Iyalla was present at this public meeting, and at the end of my paper he made comments to which I responded. This all took place without there being any feeling of aggression, or any indication that the Church of Nigeria is homophobic or violent.
The full statement from the Church of Nigeria can be read here.
What follows is my comment, which also appears on The Lead:
It is significant that this comes in the name of the Archbishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi, who has been something of a centrist on these issues.
He is correct in noting his friendly and respectful encounter last year with Davis Mac-Iyalla during General Synod. Davis considered this to be of some significance, since shortly before this the Church of Nigeria had publicly questioned whether Davis even exists.
They labeled him a con man, denied that he was Anglican (“we can find no record of him on our rolls”) and various other claims that appeared to be part of a smear campaign – all because he has the audacity to say that he is Gay, Nigerian and Anglican.
Archbishop Kwashi knows full well why the Nigerian Church has been accused in this latest matter. Therefore the significance of his statement is not his defense of his church, which is to be expected, but his promise that evidence of Anglican involvement in anti-Gay violence will be investigated.
For that I thank him as a brother.
Finally, I note this description of Nigeria published in The Edge, an alternative newspaper in Boston, published April 17. I believe it to be accurate:
Nigeria’s current leader is Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, whose April, 2007 election to a four-year term was characterized by a U.S. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor report as “marred by massive fraud, vote rigging and political violence.”
That report also noted “government officials at all levels” committing abuses, including “politically motivated killings by security forces, arbitrary arrest and prolonged pretrial detention” as well as “restrictions on speech, press, assembly, religion and movement.” Homosexuality, illegal under federal law, is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
The Anglican Church, headed by Peter Akinola, is the leading religious power in southern Nigeria. Akinola was turned out as president of the Christian Association of Nigeria last year for being too close to the Government. Akinola, the leading proponent of schism in the worldwide Anglican Communion and The Episcopal Church, remains as Primate and Archbishop of Abuja.++