Nigerian calls on Anglican Communion to oppose Ugandan “Kill Gays” bill
November 11th, 2009
Before the current efforts to enact draconian punishment in Uganda for being gay, there was a similar effort in Nigeria. In that African nation, Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola led the charge for enhanced sanctions which, as does the Ugandan bill, criminalized speech and association. And some leaders in the Church of Nigeria even called for the death of gay men and women.
Although many conservative American Christians revere free speech and free association as being nearly a Christian tenet in their home country, few were outraged by this anti-freedom effort on the part of anti-gay African clerics. In fact, just as in Uganda, it was influential conservative American Christians who lent their credibility to those who called for the restriction on basic human rights. In the United States, Akinola became a hero and a rallying figure for anti-gay Anglicans. Some churches who left the Episcopal Church declared themselves to be under Akinola’s authority.
And gay Nigerians did suffer under the Church of Nigeria’s influence. Especially gay Nigerian Christians who dared speak against the church’s incivility. One gay Anglican in a leadership position, Davis Mac-Iyalla, fled for his life and has since been vocal in making Western Anglicans more aware of the blind hatred towards gay and lesbian Christians within some African churches that is driving the Anglican Communion towards a schism.
Now Mac-Iyalla is confronting the Anglican Church about its inaction in the face of church sanctioned evil in Uganda. He is unwilling to write this off as a “difference of opinion” or a local cultural peculiarity. Mac-Iyalla is directing his call to those most responsible for the Anglican Church’s inaction, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the primates of Anglican Churches around the world.
In an open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury and primates of the Anglican Communion published by The Guardian, Mac-Iyalla calls the Church out to follow its own commitments:
I would like to remind you that the Lambeth Resolution 10 in 1978 recognised the need for pastoral concern for those who are homosexual. Resolution I.10 from 1998 commits the communion “to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ.” It also condemned the “irrational fear” of homosexuality and called on the communion to assure homosexual people that “they are loved by God.”
Legislation of the kind proposed in Uganda is based on irrational hatred and a desire to entrench the stigmatisation of LGBT people. There is no place for love, understanding or acceptance in such laws. As such, the Church of England has a duty to condemn the anti-homosexuality legislation and put pressure on those MPs who support such laws. Whatever the divisions within the communion about homosexuality as a moral issue, Anglicans should unite in condemnation of violent persecution and discrimination of LGBT people whoever and wherever they are, particularly when it is carried out in the name of Jesus Christ.
With the publication of this letter in a major UK newspaper, Williams can no longer pretend that he is unaware of the situation in Uganda. Nor that he is ignorant of the part that the Church of Uganda, a member of the Anglican Communion, is playing there.
I do not envy Rowan Williams. It cannot be easy to preside over a body in which one segment seeks to treat gay people as they would like to be treated and the other seems intent on defining their identity by the extent to which they hate and abuse gay people. It must be frustrating and challenging to know that the largest, most vibrant, and growing segment of your communion is one which is charged by fear, animosity, and hostility towards a powerless minority.
But we are not judged by our administration of easy solutions. Rather, the measure of a man is his response to challenges in difficult times. And so far, Williams seems to have adopted a Chamberlainian model for administration. He appears to seek appeasement of evil and conciliation of haters out of fear that he would oversee a breakup of the world’s second largest church.
But Williams needs to recognize that history is not kind to those who choose the easy course over that which is right, who allow the bigotry of the majority to dictate the terms of life for the persecuted. Especially if you do so in the name of religion.