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Posts for December, 2011

This Anglican Bishop Wants You To Rot In Jail

Jim Burroway

December 10th, 2011

Archbishop Peter Akinola, retired Anglican Primate of the Church of Nigeria, has enthusiastically endorsed Nigeria’s anti-gay bill which would impose criminal penalties on same-sex unions and LGBT gatherings. Akinola told Nigeria’s Guardian that the Nigerian government should reject warnings from Britain and the United States that efforts to deny basic human rights to LGBT people would have international implications:

Since its passage by the Senate, Nigeria has received strong criticisms and warnings from the British, Canadian and the United States of America governments, which have individually threatened to withdraw aids and other forms of assistance to Nigeria, if the law is allowed to exist.

But Akinola, in an exclusive interview with The Guardian, urged President Jonathan not to succumb to such pressure, but rather tow the path of God by assenting to the bill.

Akinola, who described the bill as “a new orientation towards transformation and reformation of Nigeria from its moral decadence into a new platform of sound morality,” said President Jonathan would be going against God’s will for Nigeria if he refused to sign the controversial bill into law.

He stated that Nigeria needs such law to preserve the nation’s sacred moral heritage for national development.

Akinola has been the most visible leader of a worldwide revolt of conservative Anglicans against the elevation of the openly gay Rev. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. Akinola has actively courted dissident American Episcopal Churches to leave the Episcopal Church in America and organize themselves under his leadership In 2007, Akinola traveled to Virginia to install Martyn Minns as bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), an organization that Akinola established with conservative American Episcopalians. In doing so, he defied Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church.

The bill which Akinola endorses so enthusiastically would penalize anyone entering into a same-sex marriage or any other arrangement “for other purposes of same sexual relationship” with imprisonment for fourteen years. It also provides for ten years imprisonment for anyone showing displays of affection “directly or indirectly,” an incredibly vague and ambiguous phrase which could be interpreted in any number of unpredictable ways. In addition, anyone who “supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organisations, processions or meetings in Nigeria” will be subjected to a ten year term. By outlawing even ad hoc meetings in which topics concerning gay people are discussed, Nigeria proposes to obliterate the rights of free assembly and speech for all Nigerians and visitors, including health care workers and organizations. It would even effectively ban coordination of monitoring human rights violations from within Nigeria. The bill passed the Nigerian Senate in late November and has reportedly been introduced in the House of Representatives, where one lawmaker threatened to increase the penalties further.

Unsurprisingly, so-called “ex-gay” theories have also entered the debate in Nigeria. The Guardian quotes from Felix Jovi Ehwarieme, who is described as an adjunct professor of scientific theology and Biblical history at the United Bible University in Lagos. Ehwarieme has a rather odd theory about homosexuality, tracing it to “excessive masturbation”:

“An average male child has masturbated at one stage of his life or the other. If this behaviour were not controlled, it would lead to lack of interest in the opposite sex. This often happens in the subconscious mind, so that by the time one grows into it, one would not know why one hates the opposite sex. This is because when one masturbates, one may have practiced it with other male children,” he argued.

“So, by the time they are qualified to have sexual relations, they just discover that they have something that satisfies them more than natural sex.”

According to Ehwarieme, there is a role played by hormones in masturbation. “One cannot just masturbate without thinking of the opposite sex. When you masturbate, you have a picture in mind of someone you like, a woman, definitely,” he said.

“By the time you masturbate and ejaculate, you end it that way. After a period, if the woman you have in mind is given to you and you find that you do not enjoy her, you would still want to go back to masturbation, because something else has replaced original process.”

“The problem with homosexuals is that they do not know how they become what they are,” he surmised.

Statements from an Islamic professor, Dr. Ishaq Akintola, demonstrates that nothing can united Christians and Muslims in that deeply divided country more than their shared hatred for gay people. Akintola told the Guardian:

“We urge President Goodluck Jonathan to quickly sign the Bill into law once it is passed by the House of Representatives before these Western countries drag Nigeria down with them. He must not succumb to the intimidation of neo-imperialists.”

“We assure the President that Nigerians are united on this matter. We are solidly behind him and the National Assembly,” Akinola added. “There have always been hidden agenda in foreign aid. Once colonialist, always a colonialist!”

The Guardian also quotes from a Catholic chaplain and a Lagos criminology professor supporting the bill. Only at the very end of the article is there a paragraph devoted to criticism of the bill.

A review of the Manhattan Declaration

This commentary is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect that of other authors at Box Turtle Bulletin.

Timothy Kincaid

November 20th, 2009

A group of conservative Christians released today their manifesto of their agreement across lines of faith and tradition. Entitled Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience, this document lays out areas in which the signatories declare commonality of purpose.

Who they are

First, let us say what this document is not. It is not, as the NY Times described it, a situation in which “Christian Leaders Unite on Political Issues“. Indeed, this is but a segment of Christian thought, claiming the mantle of Christian history and tradition but excluding broad segments of the faith.

One need only glance at the signatories to know the nature of the alliance. Present are some who are well known names in the political culture wars who have long striven to impose their religious views by force of law on the unbelievers: Dr. James Dobson, Chuck Colson, Gary Bauer, and Tony Perkins. Some are religious leaders who have been recently shifting their realm of influence away from faith towards secular domination: Ravi Zacharias, Dr. Albert Mohler, and Jonathan Falwell.

But this is not just broadly social conservatives. There is, instead, a concentration of those who focus on “opposing the homosexual agenda”. There are a few religious activists who seem dedicated and committed (obsessed, one might think) to fighting equality for gay people: Ken Hutcherson, Bishop Harry Jackson, and Jim Garlow. And then, inexplicably, some who are not religious leaders at all but social activists whose primary occupation is in seeking the political institutionalizing of inequality to gay people: Maggie Gallagher, Frank Schubert, and William Donohue.

Perhaps the most difficult to explain, and by far the most troubling name present, is The Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola, Primate, Anglican Church of Nigeria.

There is no explanation provided as to what relevance Akinola has on what is a uniquely American collection. But his participation is not accidental. And, as I will discuss momentarily, his is perhaps the key that explains the true nature of this manifesto.

This could be seen as nothing more that “the usual suspects”, a rehashing of the Moral Majority or the Christian Coalition or any other of the loose groupings of religious authoritarians, were it not for one import inclusion. There are nine Catholic Archbishops who signed on to this document.

Ideologically as dissimilar as possible, these two Christian extremes – one whose doctrine is based in tradition, liturgy, and hierarchy, the other whose doctrine is based in reform, spirit-led worship, and direct divine revelation – have set aside ancient hostilities and theological beliefs that doubt the other’s right to be considered “Christian” and have now joined in a common purpose: denying your rights.

But as important as who is present, is who is absent.

Among the signatories I was unable to find any members of the United Church of Christ, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Friends (Quaker), Disciples of Christ, Unitarian Universalists or American Baptists. There was one United Methodist minister.

In short, a whole branch of Christianity, Mainline Christianity, was missing, including many who no doubt would agree with the goals of banning abortion and forbidding same-sex marriage. This exclusion is, I believe, integral to understanding the true purpose of this manifesto.

The agreed upon issues

While this alliance is one that does not reflect the face of Christianity, it also is not a declaration of a new-found position of agreement based on shared Christian teaching and ideology. There is no mention of shared faith in creeds or teachings, no virgin birth, no resurrection, no divine redemption.

Rather, this is a statement of political purpose by an alliance of socially conservative activist who oppose abortion and marriage equality. Indeed, although the document speaks in lofty terms of Christian tradition and religious freedom, the only commitments it makes are to oppose legal abortion (some day down the road) and the immediate attack on the ability of gay people to avail themselves of civil equality.

This is, in short a political alliance. It is a pact and a threat.

What it means

While on the face of it, this manifesto purports to be a rededication to fight two specific political issues, I think that this is but surface dressing for a deeper meaning.

This is not a war over civil marriage definition – nor, indeed, has that ever been the real motivation behind anti-gay marriage drives. Rather, this is a war over religious domination, a fight over who is “really a Christian” and an effort on the part of a long-suffering religious subset to spite those who have long had what they coveted.

Political power in the United States had long been in the hands of what is now called Mainline Christianity. Our presidents have included over a dozen Episcopalians (as is the National Cathedral), about ten Presbyterians, with most of the rest being Methodists, Unitarians, Disciples of Christ, and Quakers.

There has been exactly one Catholic. There have been four Baptists, of whom the two Southern Baptists were Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. There have been no Pentecostals and no members of mega-Churches. In fact, though some Republican presidents have been religious and conservative, there has never been a President of the United States that was both denominationally and ideologically within the fold represented by the signatories of this Manhattan Declaration.

And now they want theirs. And, not content at the rise of their own political power, they will not be happy unless they can diminish those denominations whom they seek to replace.

Note the presence of the second signatory, Peter Akinola? He is the Nigerian Anglican who has been missionizing the United States in an effort to hurt the Episcopal Church. His inclusion is a very clear message sent to the EC that they are a target for the Catholic Church and the evangelical churches who will use whatever political power they may wield in the future to thwart her position in the nation.

This manifesto is, I believe, less a declaration of war on gay people and those with unplanned pregnancies than it is a declaration of war on other Christian faiths.

One absence that seems to confirm this alliance is a denomination that one might have expected to be quick to affirm its commitment to the right to life and protection of the family. But there are no representatives from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons). The exclusion of this church, considered by most conservatives to be “NOT Christian”, suggest that this manifesto has less to do with social goals and more to do with Christian definition.

This manifesto says, in effect, “We are the Christians. We are the ‘heirs of a 2,000-year tradition of proclaiming God’s word’, and we alone will speak for the faith.”

What the manifesto reveals

In addition to highlighting the division in the Christian body, there are also some clues as to future items on the agenda of this newly affirmed political alliance. Here is how I translate some of their declarations.

we note with sadness that pro-abortion ideology prevails today in our governmenttruly Christian answer to problem pregnancies is for all of us to love and care for mother and child alike

Only lip service will be paid to the shared objection to abortion. Little time, money, or political capital will be spent on this already lost goal. However, should opportunity ever swing in their direction, they will stop at nothing short of a full ban on all abortions without any consideration of rape, quality of life, or the life of the mother.

But absent the abortion issue, these allies have but one other shared issue: attacking you and your life.

Around the globe … take steps necessary to halt the spread of preventable diseases like AIDS

The situations in Nigeria and Uganda are not accidental nor unrelated to the efforts of conservative Americans. Although virtually all of the spread of AIDS in Africa is related to heterosexuality, this will be an excuse to pass draconian laws seeking to repress, incarcerate, or execute gay men and women.

In addition to being a slam against the Episcopal Church, the inclusion of Akinola announces that pogroms against gay Africans will have the endorsement of both the Catholic Church and conservative evangelical churches.

We should not expect the calls for criminal prosecution of gay people to be limited to foreign soil. Should such a fervor be fostered internationally, it is unquestionable that this will lend support to efforts to reinstate or bolster oppression here.

It is no longer a matter of curiosity that the Catholic Church has not spoken out against the Kill Gays bill in Uganda. Nor had Dr. Mohler or Dr. Dobson. Nor, indeed, has any signatory of this document.

The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships … there are those who are disposed towards homosexual and polyamorous conduct and relationships … Some who enter into same-sex and polyamorous relationships no doubt regard their unions as truly marital … the assumption that the legal status of one set of marriage relationships affects no other would not only argue for same sex partnerships; it could be asserted with equal validity for polyamorous partnerships, polygamous households, even adult brothers, sisters, or brothers and sisters living in incestuous relationships

The Manhattan document does not in any place refer to same-sex relationships without simultaneously mentioning multiple-party relationships. This will no doubt translate to a new commitment on the part of the signatories to try and tie the two together in their political campaigns.

Frankly, I wish them godspeed in that decision. Americans have, I believe, moved beyond the point in which gay couples are viewed as identical to polygamists.

as Christ was willing, out of love, to give Himself up for the church in a complete sacrifice, we are willing, lovingly, to make whatever sacrifices are required of us for the sake of the inestimable treasure that is marriage.

This probably tells us nothing but the extent to which these people are self-righteous and truly deeply smarmy. They are willing, lovingly, to sacrifice your life and freedom and equality, not their own. Oh how loving. Oh how Christ-like.

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.

There are, as we all know, no requirements for any churches or ministers to act contrary to their faith. We have long since debunked their claims of oppression and shown them to be nothing more than a retraction of special privilege when the religious groups in question wanted to use taxpayer dollars to discriminate against gay taxpayers. There are no instances in their recitation in which religious groups were forced to compromise in any areas of faith in the administration of their own funds or time.

That is of no consequence. Liars lie. We expect the morally bankrupt to behave without integrity.

But what I think we can anticipate, based on their conclusion, is a concerted effort at political stuntery. A dedication to dishonesty. And an ongoing campaign of lies.

As a Christian, it distresses me to see the name of my faith and the mantle of its history usurped by those who have no respect for its greater principles but instead gleefully glom onto its darker bloody history. Rather than exalt in the liberties that have evolved from Christian thought, they seek to equate the faith with its most prejudicial, superstitious, exclusionary and dictatorial moments.

But perhaps something good may come of this.

It is possible that out of this declaration of war, the moderate and liberal branches of the faith may find common cause, if nothing else in defense of their own good name. Perhaps they will decide that they have a purpose and meaning in modern America and will let go of residual guilt and angst and take up the mantle of protector of the oppressed and champion of justice and mercy.

Let us hope and pray that they do.

Anglicans Close to Split

This article is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of others authors at Box Turtle Bulletin

Timothy Kincaid

June 19th, 2008

The worldwide Anglican Church has come close to a splitting point. Those branches that reside in industrialized nations are considered far to liberal to be seen as within communion by those who hold sway in the developing world. Led primarily by a handful of conservative bishops in Africa, as much as half of the Anglican communion may sever from the body headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and set out to become a new church.

Although it is quite likely that vastly different cultures play into the friction that may lead to scism, so too does a sharply divergent view of Scripture. Western Anglicans (Britain, Canada, and the Episcopal Church in the United States) view Christianity as a guide to know God and find kinship in social justice, humanitarian efforts, and guidance for living. The Global South are more inclined to see Christianity as the manifestation of God’s divine commandments for a sinful world.

And the issue over which this comes to a head is homosexuality.

Westerners find gay people to be valued children of God who are to be treated with love and equality. The Global South finds gay people to be sinners and to be denounced. Even accepting gay people as equal is considered to be a sinful act and requiring of repentance, not only from God but from those who are offended by equality.

Westerners are not likely to apologize for acting out of social justice. They may have been able to be convinced to slow efforts towards justice but they are not about to repudiate their compassion and love and apologize for it to those who find only judgment and condemnation in the faith.

So there’s a bit of an impasse.

Now it appears to be serious. Led by Peter Akinola, a man who has no use for civil liberties or social equality, the Global South is threatening to break away.

The Primate of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, states in one section: “There is no longer any hope, therefore, for a unified Communion.

“Now we confront a moment of decision.

“If we fail to act, we risk leading millions of people away from the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and also, even more seriously, we face the real possibility of denying Our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

“We want unity, but not at the cost of relegating Christ to the position of another ‘wise teacher’ who can be obeyed or disobeyed.

“We earnestly desire the healing of our beloved Communion, but not at the cost of re-writing the Bible to accommodate the latest cultural trend.

“We have arrived at a crossroads; it is, for us, the moment of truth.’’

He said schism could only be avoided in the unlikely event that churches which tolerate homosexual clergy and same-sex blessings change their ways.

“Repentance and reversal by these North American provinces may yet save our Communion,’’ the archbishop wrote.

He referred to the Lambeth Conference, the once-a-decade gathering of Anglican bishops which takes place next month, as effectively a lame duck event because he and other “orthodox” bishops will not attend.

I suspect that this schism is inevitable. The conservatives are meeting to plan their next steps.

And, though sadly, I believe that it is best in the long (very long) run.

It is my reading that the conservative nations will leave. And that there will be a corresponding split in the United States wherein a handful of churches will leave the Episcopal Church to join with the Global South.

And considering the political history of the Global South bishops, we can expect that this scism will result in rampant corruption and a likely scenario is one in which the power of the church will be used to prop up and support totalitarian or fascist regimes throughout Africa. I, of course, hope that I’m guessing incorrectly.

But once free of consideration for angry foreign Anglicans threatening division, I think that this will allow the Episcopal Church to follow their conscience and champion social justice causes, including the full equality of gay persons in society and the church. And I believe that a freer Anglican Church would change the language around the morality of discrimination.

This potential break is likely to be devastating to those in Christian Africa that are gay, democratically inclined, or theologically liberal. Further, considering the extent to which charity towards the continent is provided by Western Anglicans, this will also undoubtedly bring harm to the sick, poor, and hungry.

But I am hopeful that ultimately it will result in a freer society in the West and in the gradual recovery of lost brotherhood, but this time a brotherhood unhindered by demands of a return to legalism and dogmatism.

Nigeria’s Bishop Orama: Gays “Are Not Fit To Live”

Jim Burroway

September 8th, 2007

Ed Brayton, at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, passes on this report from UPI (a report that is no longer available at the UPI web site):

The Anglican Bishop of Uyo, Rt. Rev. Isaac Orama, has condemned the activities of homosexuals and lesbians, and described those engaged in them as “insane people”.

“It is scaring that any one should be involved in a thing like that and I want to say that they will not escape the wrath of God,” he said. Orama told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) today in Uyo, that the practice, which has worsened over the years, was “unbiblical and against God’s purpose for creating man”.

Homosexuality and lesbianism are inhuman. Those who practice them are insane, satanic and are not fit to live because they are rebels to God’s purpose for man,” the Bishop said. [Emphasis mine]

Changing Attitude Nigeria (CAN) responded to this statement, and notes that Bishop Orama “was recently ordained as a bishop. He is one of Archbishop Peter Akinola’s newly appointed bishops, carefully chosen to support the Archbishop‘s own agenda.” Davis Mac-Iyalla, director of CAN, knows well the dangers of being openly gay in Nigeria, and the particular hatred the Anglican Church in Nigeria harbors towards gays and lesbians:

In December 2005 following the first General Meeting held by Changing Attitude Nigeria in Abuja, the Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion) became aware of his presence, a gay Nigerian Anglican.

The Rev. Akintunde Popoola, Director of Communication for the Nigerian Church, published a disclaimer on the church web site designed to destroy Davis’s reputation. Canon Popoola denied that Davis exists, denied he is an Anglican, denied he is gay, accused him of theft, accused him of falsely planning to marry a bishop’s daughter, accused him of soliciting money from foreigners under false pretences, and then posted to numerous Anglican websites denouncing Davis.

… When Bishop Ugede died unexpectedly, Davis was dismissed as principal of the Diocesan School because he was gay. Since founding CAN he has been falsely arrested after printed materials were found in his car, beaten and held for some days in a police cell. He has received death threats, one delivered directly to his door last December, been forced to flee his home and become estranged from his family. Whatever Christians think about the morality of homosexual behaviour, no person should be treated in the way Davis has been treated by his own Church.

And yet these are exactly the sort of Christians whom American conservatives are rushing align themselves. And this sort of violence is officially sanctioned in Nigeria, where the criminal code penalizes consensual homosexual conduct between adults with 14 years’ imprisonment. Shari’a penal codes in northern Nigeria provides for the death penalty by stoning.

But as draconian as these laws are, they don’t satisfy Anglican Archbishop Peter J. Akinola. He is head of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which calls for speedy passage of a new bill that is before the Nigerian parliament. That bill, according to Human Rights Watch:

The bill is entitled “Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2006,” but goes much further: it would attack all lesbian and gay individuals, families and human rights. The bill would provide for five years’ imprisonment to anyone who “goes through the ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex,” “performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same sex marriage” or “is involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations, sustenance, procession or meetings, publicity and public show of same sex amorous relationship directly or indirectly in public and in private.” Any priest or cleric aiding or abetting such a union could be subject to the five-year prison term. The law would also prohibit adoption of children by lesbian or gay couples or individuals.

The ban on gay clubs, societies, organizations, as well as a ban on any display of affection “in public and in private” is particularly egregious. In a supposedly democratic Nigeria, gays and lesbians would be forbidden from advocating on their own behalves. By outlawing protests, the government hopes it will be able to suppress all future dialog or discussions affecting gays and lesbians in that country. Nigeria was expected to take up the bill last spring, but it appears to have stalled once again.

Archbishop Akinola has publicly endorsed this legislation for Nigeria. He has also lead a worldwide revolt of conservative Anglicans against the elevation of the openly gay Rev. Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire. On May 10th of this year, Akinola traveled to Virginia to install Martyn Minns as bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), an organization that Akinola established with conservative American Episcopalians. In doing so, he defied Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, leader of the U.S. Episcopal Church.

The idea that many extremist anti-gay activists in this country would publicly align themselves with someone who has suggested the execution of gays and lesbians isn’t new. It is however new and disturbing to see an entire mainstream church movement move in this direction. But those who are eager to place themselves under the spiritual guidance of bishops like Akinola and Orama need to take a hard look at these men and their public pronouncements.

Update: The Living Church Foundation reports that Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams denounced Orama’s comments and demanded an explanation. Akinola’s spokesman, Archdeacon Akintunde Popoola said the quote was false, and that the reporter apologized and promised a retraction.

I believe the Living Church’s headline, (“Reporter Apologizes for Misquoting Nigerian Bishop”) is misleading. We only have Popoola saying that the reporter apologized; we haven’t heard from the reporter himself. It’s important to keep in mind that Popoola also was the one who made numerous false allegations about Davis Mac-Iyalla, so a grain of salt is in order here absent further confirmation.

Meanwhile, UPI sent an email to the conservative Anglican website Standing Firm, saying that the report, which originated from the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), was pulled solely on Popoola’s statement, adding “You would have to contact NAN as to whether the information about the retraction is true.” Maybe they recognize the problems with Popoola’s credibility also. Like I said, we haven’t heard from the reporter or NAN. By the way, we also haven’t heard from Bishop Orama either. If anyone learns anything more, please include appropriate links in the comments or send them to me directly via e-mail.