Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Anglicanism's Wizard of Oz

A gay Nigerian Anglican activist has been granted political asylum. Why won't the bishops stand up to his persecutors?

From Steven Bates, Guardian UK

The news that Davis Mac-Iyalla, a Nigerian Anglican who is gay, has been granted political asylum in Britain ought to give the 670 bishops currently meeting in Canterbury pause for thought about the African church which has so often been held up as a shining example of growth and spiritual dynamism in the worldwide denomination.

Mac-Iyalla, whose offence has been to try and organise a movement for gay Christians in Nigeria, has been regularly smeared and denigrated by the church authorities there and has been threatened and physically assaulted sufficiently often for him to seek sanctuary, first in nearby Togo and now here. The fact that the immigration authorities in Britain believe his story sufficient to give him protection and allow him to stay ought to suggest to the Archbishop of Canterbury and his colleagues that all is not necessarily sweetness and light in the Nigerian Church, whose bishops are boycotting their conference because of their opposition to mingling with "apostate" gay-friendly bishops.

When Mac-Iyalla first surfaced three years ago, organising a local chapter of the
Changing Attitude pro-gay Anglican group, the Nigerian hierarchy refused to believe he existed - their line was that there were no homosexuals in Nigeria and, anyway, such people were worse than beasts. Then, when he produced proof that he was not only a practising church-goer but also had formerly been assistant to a Nigerian bishop, who had since died, the press officer of the Nigerian archbishop Peter Akinola shamelessly claimed that Mac-Iyalla had embezzled church funds - an allegation for which he provided no proof, which Mac-Iyalla denied and which the Nigerian police have never investigated. When Mac-Iyalla organised a meeting of gay Anglicans, the Nigerian church first denied it had taken place, then that it had been attended by only a few dissidents, in the face of a news story and photographic evidence from a New York Times correspondent that it had indeed occurred and had attracted quite a crowd.

Archbishop Akinola it was who enthusiastically endorsed an attempt by the Nigerian government to introduce laws criminalising the friends and relatives of gays with up to five years' imprisonment and who, when asked at a conference in Jerusalem last month to condemn violence against gay people, somehow could not find the words to do it. Incidentally, for those English bishops, wracked with post-colonial guilt, who defend Akinola as having to stand strong against militant Islam in Nigeria, it has to be said that some of his statements have come very close to inciting violence against Muslims. All this and yet he still has an honoured position in conservative Anglican circles.

The smears against Mac-Iyalla continue to surface, without evidence being produced, by supporters of the Nigerian church elsewhere. You only have to look at
Ruth Gledhill's blog about the story on the Times website today to see the bile directed, not against the Nigerian church authorities, but against Mac-Iyalla himself. It is vicious stuff and, at the most basic level, unChristian, visceral and homophobic.

The article continues with more gruesome details of the arch homophobe, Peter Akinola.

Just today the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a speech that we must consider the perspective of people like Akinola who make the claim that inclusive Christians in countries like Nigeria are in danger of being harmed. I am going to quote that section of his speech, but before you read it, I must issue an ABJECT STUPIDITY WARNING. Apparently the solution for this is to join up with the non-Christians and go gay bashing together. And we're supposed to give this serious consideration!! How convenient for the homophobes!

‘But please remember also that - while you may say that what you do needn’t affect us - your decisions make a vast difference to us. In this world of instant communication, our neighbours know what you do, and they see us as sharing the responsibility. Imagine what that means where those neighbours are passionately traditional Christians - and what it means for our own members, who will be drawn to leave us for a “safer”, more orthodox church. Imagine what it means when those neighbours are non-Christians, delighted to find a stick to beat us with. Imagine what it is to be known as the ‘gay church’ in a context where that spells real contempt and danger.

We can only hope that the Queen will offer a nice golden parachute to the poor deluded Archbishop of Canterbury.