Monday, December 25, 2006

NY Times on Akinola

The New York Times today published a profile on Nigerian Archbishop Akinola and his role in the schismatic actions within the Episcopal Church and Anglican Communion. A few excerpts are posted here, with ellipses indicating where text or entire paragraphs have been omitted. The entire article appears at the Times website.

At Axis of Episcopal Split, an Anti-Gay Nigerian

ABUJA, Nigeria, Dec. 20 — The way he tells the story, the first and only time Archbishop Peter J. Akinola knowingly shook a gay person’s hand, he sprang backward the moment he realized what he had done.

Archbishop Akinola, the conservative leader of Nigeria’s Anglican Church who has emerged at the center of a schism over homosexuality in the global Anglican Communion, re-enacted the scene from behind his desk Tuesday, shaking his head in wonder and horror.

“This man came up to me after a service, in New York I think, and said, ‘Oh, good to see you bishop, this is my partner of many years,’ ” he recalled. “I said, ‘Oh!’ I jumped back.”

. . . .

“He sees himself as the spokesperson for a new Anglicanism, and thus is a direct challenge to the historic authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury,” said the Rev. Dr. Ian T. Douglas of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass.

. . . .

He has also become the most visible advocate for a literal interpretation of Scripture, challenging the traditional Anglican approach of embracing diverse theological viewpoints.

“Why didn’t God make a lion to be a man’s companion?” Archbishop Akinola said at his office here in Abuja. “Why didn’t he make a tree to be a man’s companion? Or better still, why didn’t he make another man to be man’s companion? So even from the creation story, you can see that the mind of God, God’s intention, is for man and woman to be together.”

. . . .

Even among Anglican conservatives, Archbishop Akinola is not universally beloved. . . .

He has been chastised more recently for creating a missionary branch of the Nigerian church in the United States, called the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, despite Anglican rules and traditions prohibiting bishops from taking control of churches or priests not in their territory.

“There are primates who are very, very concerned about it,” said Archbishop Drexel Gomez, the primate of the West Indies, because “it introduces more fragmentation.”

. . . .

He [Akinola] supports a bill in Nigeria’s legislature that would make homosexual sex and any public expression of homosexual identity a crime punishable by five years in prison.

The bill ostensibly aims to ban gay marriage, but it includes measures so extreme that the State Department warned that they would violate basic human rights. Strictly interpreted, the bill would ban two gay people from going out to dinner or seeing a movie together.

It could also lead to the arrest and imprisonment of members of organizations providing all manner of services, particularly those helping people with AIDS.

“They are very loose, those provisions,” said Dorothy Aken ’Ova of the International Center for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, a charity that works with rape victims, AIDS patients and gay rights groups. “It could target just about anyone, based on any form of perception from anybody.”

Archbishop Akinola said he supported any law that limited marriage to heterosexuals, but declined to say whether he supported the specific provisions criminalizing gay associations. “No bishop in this church will go out and say, ‘This man is gay, put him in jail,’ ” the archbishop said. But, he added, Nigeria has the right to pass such a law if it reflects the country’s values.

. . . .

Though he insisted that he was not seeking power or influence, he is clearly relishing the curious role reversal of African archbishops sending missionaries to a Western society he sees as increasingly godless.

. . . .

“Self-seeking, self-glory, that is not me,” he said. “No. Many people say I embarrass them with my humility.”

Anyone who criticizes him as power-seeking is simply trying to undermine his message, he said. "The more they demonize, the stronger the works of God,"he said.

Read the entire article at the Times website.

Lisa Fox, a member of The Episcopal Majority's steering committee, has published a few comments on her personal blog.

Update 12/26: Mark Harris offers his typically fine analysis, and observes that the reporters "have given us a remarkable and devastating view of the Archbishop."


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home