Archbishop Akinola’s open letter to his fellow primates – a challenge from Changing Attitude Nigeria
Peter Akinola likens the present situation in the Anglican Communion to the occasion when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Cathedral in Wittenburg. Archbishop Akinola helpfully reminds us that, among other things, Luther was asserting that the TRUTH of the gospel must always take precedence over the structures of the church.
For once, how much Changing Attitude Nigeria is in agreement with Archbishop Akinola! In particular we are sure Archbishop Akinola will rejoice at us reminding him of No. 90 of the 95, where Martin Luther asserted that,
“To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy”.
Let us remember that in 1998 at the last Lambeth conference, all the bishops including those representing the Anglican Church in Nigeria committed to Lambeth resolution 1.10. Among other things, this included The Listening Process to listen to the experiences as well as the spiritual and theological arguments of gay and lesbian Anglicans. Instead Archbishop Akinola encouraged the government to introduce legislation to oppress us further. Can Archbishop Akinola please explain how that is compliant with Lambeth Resolution 1.10, and how his behaviour is so different from Martin Luther’s 90th thesis?
It is not just the pastoral and spiritual well-being of gay and lesbian Nigerians that are being totally neglected by the Anglican church of Nigeria, despite his responsibilities in that area. Both gay and straight Nigerians were astonished during the historic recent elections in Nigeria – the first time in Nigeria’s turbulent history when one democratically elected civil government elected by the whole of the Nigerian people, was going to be replaced by another. Instead of making his presence felt with his guiding hand in that tense and difficult period, when Nigerians were often greatly in need of spiritual guidance, Archbishop Akinola had left the country to install Bishop Martyn Minns. Now, this could have waited. It may have been important in the long run, but – really, was it that urgent, that Archbishop Akinola’s own constituency had to be abandoned at the time of great need in favour of something that could easily have waited a few weeks? Are souls in America more important than souls in Nigeria?
Among our well-researched arguments, that many Anglicans are coming to realise, are that historically, the powers of the church itself distorted the truth of the gospel from its original meaning and both interpreted and translated it to oppress gay people and women instead of including us as equals. It is Archbishop Akinola who wants to maintain that corruption rather than seek to establish the genuine truth in its original meaning. Therefore he is himself guilty of the accusations that Martin Luther aimed at the church so long ago.
Archbishop Akinola disingenuously uses the phrase ‘other Godly bishops’, as if those who disagree with his point of view are necessarily ungodly. This is an insulting and arrogant way to refer to bishops who are genuinely seeking biblical truth through prayer, listening to the experiences of those who the church currently condemns, and close re-examination of scripture in the original languages. He seems to imply that no change to the current doctrine is possible, yet a mortal community such as the Anglican Communion can and does make grave mistakes. It is an honourable organisation that is willing to question itself and acknowledge its errors. If the Anglican Communion had followed Archbishop Akinola’s approach, it would never have relented on its endorsement of slavery that was previously based on an overly-simplistic interpretation of scripture and disregard of other people’s experiences.
Changing Attitude Nigeria insists that the same approach to re-examination of the church’s attitude to slavery – that we are sure Akinola would have approved of – must be applied to the debate around the acceptance of committed Christians, who are faithful and committed members of the Anglican Church, who were born destined to be attracted to the same sex. Therefore there is no justifiable reason for the Lambeth conference not to go ahead as planned, and for all the bishops all over the world including those from the global south group to attend.
Changing Attitude Nigeria calls on all committed Anglicans, including primates and bishops, to prayerfully seek ways to resolve the present dispute in the Anglican Communion, recognising that we are all striving to achieve the same objective – to understand God’s will and how to apply it in Christian faith.
Director, Changing Attitude Nigeria