Monday, July 16, 2007

The Nigerian Connection

Peter Akinola. The Most Reverend Peter Akinola, Archbishop of Nigeria. Would-be Pope of the Anglican Church.

Of course, there is no Anglican Church; we are the Anglican Communion made up of autonomous churches who choose to be together.

And of course, Peter Akinola is not the only person responsible for the crisis within this communion. He is, however, the loudest, most virulent, and most hypocritical of the bunch. And dare I say, least Christian? Just my opinion. But others – the smart ones I talked about when I started this blog – have brilliantly documented the archbishop's crusade against gays and against the Episcopal Church in the United States. They speak much more eloquently and insightfully than I can. So if you want better information, try Thinking Anglicans – I've added it to my links.

So what do we make of a man who threatens violence against his enemies (Muslims with whom Nigerian Christians had clashed), proposes and supports laws that punish homosexuality (and supporting gays) with five years in prison, and criticizes other African bishops who wondered why the church was spending so much time on homosexuality rather than poverty and human suffering. In that criticism he said, "Poverty is not an issue, human suffering is not an issue at all, they were

there before the creation of mankind." (East African Standard (Nairobi), and

I'm just a simply country parson, as they say, and I don't normally meddle with international affairs. But I can tell you this: I don't believe for a minute that the "gay issue" has anything to do with following Christ. Archbishop Akinola says all it takes to be cured of homosexuality is "repentance and faith in the

saving grace of our Lord, Jesus the Christ." But wait. If that were the case, then all who have faith would be straight. There would be no Bishop Robinson or any of the countless gay priests who have graced the church over the years, either closeted or out in the open.

No, this isn't about faith or even morality. It's about power. The man wants to rule the church, and one thing that frustrates him is that the Episcopal Church is democratic. We elect bishops. We vote on our laws. We do things together as the Body of Christ, glorying in the power of the priesthood of all believers. That riles him because he can't tell us what to do (the way he can at home).

My study of history (studied German culture and history in grad school under a special fellowship) screams out to beware every time someone in power starts picking on a relatively defenseless group, making them the scapegoat for the evils of the world. That's how I see the witch hunt on gays. It's a convenient way for those who scream the loudest to draw attention away from their own sins – like encouraging violence and ignoring poverty. Those who habitually and gleefully point out the motes in the eyes of others are not to be trusted.

It is my belief that Archbishop Akinola wants to get rid of the democratic and inconvenient Episcopal Church because we pose problems for him. We are small – very small -- but financially powerful. We do things that we think right even if no one else does (and we are not alone in our inclusion of gays in the full life of the church. Canada performs same sex marriages, as does New Zealand. Though Canada has gotten some anger aimed at it, it is nothing like what he has shot at the U.S. – and he hasn't said anything I know of about New Zealand at all.). Once he's rid of the pesky folks, once he's achieved full schism, I suspect he intends to work very hard at becoming the head of that church.

I could be wrong; only time will tell. But this much I'll say. There isn't much of what I have seen in Peter Akinola that resembles Christ or his teachings. I'm sure it's there, but he's not letting folks here see it.