Friday, March 23, 2007

Small Ways in a Big Matter - UPDATED

Updated March 24th, 2007

Jim Naughton has received word suggesting that legislation in Nigeria, making any organizing for or by gay or lesbian people a crime with a penalty of imprisonment, has once again been delayed. Archbishop Peter Akinola of the Church of Nigeria has publicly supported this legislation, and was reportedly lobbying Anglicans in the Nigerian government now for its passage. Still no public response has been offered that I know of by our Anglican Communion Primates. A wide range of national and international groups oppose the legislation, from Human Rights Watch to the U. S. State Department, on the grounds that it violates essential human rights and undermines Nigeria's own constitution.

Canon AkinTunde Popoola, Director of Communications for the Church of Nigeria, in a comment at Thinking Anglicans writes simply this in response to criticism for the church's support:

"I do not think speaking publicly against the bill will do the Gospel any good in our context."

My question: Whose Gospel are we talking about here?

David Mac-Iyalla, long in hiding for threats on his life for standing up for LGBT Christians in Nigeria, also released a statement yesterday. (Hat tip to Jim Naughton)

For more background:

Matt Thompson is watching at Political Spaghetti. Mark Harris reflects on the discussion of the Episcopal Church's Executive Council on the matter, and the New York Times published an editorial on the legislation. Also read the an editorial in Time, following up on an article on Archbishop Akinola several issues prior. Our House of Bishops only obliquely referenced the matter in their statement from Camp Allen on March 20th, but Bishop Catherine Roskam addressed it directly in the media conference immediately after, condemning any acts that inflict violence -- legal or otherwise -- on LGBT people.

Still asking what you might do?

Matt offers recommendations. I called my representative and senators asking for their attention to this matter, with the hopes that they might help bring appropriate pressure to bear.

Please continue to pray for Archbishop Peter Akinola, for Davis Mac-Iyalla, and for all LGBT people in Nigeria. Please also continue pray for the countless in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, who suffer from the degradation of hunger, disease, inter-religious violence, governmental corruption, and the pollution caused by international drilling for oil along the Nigerian delta. Would that the focus of the Anglican Communion turn wholeheartedly to these pressing needs rather than get caught up in the scapegoating of some of our sisters and brothers.

It strikes me that none of us, regardless of where we stand on the question of human sexuality, can stand in favor of draconian legislation and death threats that undermine essential human dignity. The Gospel witness is that Jesus stood for and with all who were considered sinners in their own place and day when their lives and dignity were threatened. As Christians, we can do no less.


Matt Thompson said...

Thanks, Richard, for posting the link. Phone calls and emails on this issue will be surprising to those that receive them, and effective.

Jane R said...

Matt and Richard, I posted info, and action alert, and links to you (Matt -- but Richard, you're also up there on the blogroll) on my (new-ish) blog also. (I also wrote a letter a few days ago, right up against the then March 1 deadline.) Hope it helps... Thank you so much for your work of information and advocacy.


Anonymous said...

You write of people who were "considered sinners." Were they not actual sinners? Did Jesus have to die for perfectly innocent people just because they were misunderstood? Sin is real and people sin. Sin is bad. Sin does not become good just because we accept it learn to live with it and celebrate it. Using that logic, why pray for the hungry or the sick? Surely, we can love them just the way they are. Why ask for or encourage change? Wouldn't that intolerance just be hateful?

R said...


Thanks for the visit. I ask you not to read too much into "considered sinners." I only meant they were perceived as notoriously sinful (tax collectors, prostitutes, etc.), and shunned for it. Likewise, LGBT people in many places in the world are treated the same way.

I agree with you, I believe, in principle. All have sinned and all are in need of redemption. That's not under dispute here.

We may agree or disagree whether gay or lesbian relationships are inherently sinful. But that is not under dispute here, either.

The dispute here is whether or not anyone who is otherwise innocent of harming another human being or breaking a sensible secular law, should be singled out and thrown into an abusive prison system for simply gathering peacefully in public.

I simply cannot imagine Jesus sanctioning such action.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your respectful response and your struggle to find solutions to our broken world. Sometimes it's easier to be more critical than helpful. I hope the light of Christ continues to guide your way.

R said...


Likewise to you, and God's peace.