Church turmoil: U.S. supports, Nigeria hates same-sex vows

Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury. (Photo courtesy of The Guardian)
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. (Photo courtesy of The Guardian)

The anti-gay Church of Nigeria has distanced itself from a Nigerian archbishop because he opposes a Nigerian law that provides a 14-year prison sentence for anyone entering into a same-sex marriage.

In response, Nigerian activist Davis Mac-Iyalla called on the head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Justin Welby, to protest the Nigerian church’s support for the repressive law.

Instead, Welby today had cautioned the U.S.-based Episcopal Church against widening its definition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

The church currently allows same-sex weddings on a trial basis.  The church’s House of Bishops yesterday passed a resolution to remove references to marriage as between a man and a woman.  Days after the U.S. Supreme Court approved same-sex marriages nationwide, the bishops are currently meeting in Salt Lake City as half of the church’s bicameral legislature, along with House of Deputies, which consists of priests and lay people.

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon (center) with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (left) and Bishop James Tengatenga, chair of the Anglican Consultative Council. (Photo courtesy of ACNS via Episcopal News Service)
Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon (center) with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (left) and Bishop James Tengatenga, chair of the Anglican Consultative Council. (Photo courtesy of ACNS via Episcopal News Service)

The Episcopal Church is one of the more progressive churches in the Anglican Communion, a loose affiliation that includes the conservative Church of Nigeria and Church of Uganda, along with the original Church of England, and other progressive churches such as those in Canada and New Zealand.

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon of the Anglican Diocese of Kaduna, Nigeria,  in April took a high-ranking position in the Anglican Communion.

At the time, he stated:

“I have never supported the law in Nigeria that criminalizes the gay community and I will never support it. The church is called to love and protect everyone without discrimination, ‘love the person but hate the sin’ whatever the sin may be, corruption, sexual sins of all kinds, misuse of power or anything else.”

The law prohibits same-sex marriages, denies the right of association and advocacy to gay Nigerians, and provides for 10 years in prison for “public show of same-sex amorous relationship.”

In response to the appointment of Idowu-Fearon, the Church of Nigeria stated:

“[The statement] clearly indicates that he is not in accord with the theological and doctrinal posture of the Church of Nigeria. His acceptance of the post of ACC General Secretary neither received the approval of the Church of Nigeria, nor does it in any way affect the Church of Nigeria’s theological posture on the issues of homosexuality and gay movement. Thus, the Most Rev’d Josiah Idowu-Fearon represents himself at the ACC, and not the Church of Nigeria.”

Mac-Iyalla wrote to Welby today:

Davis Mac-Iyalla (Photo courtesy of LGBT Asylum News)
Davis Mac-Iyalla (Photo courtesy of LGBT Asylum News)

“Time has come for the Archbishop of Canterbury to start expressing deep concerns over the Church of Nigeria support for persecutions and violence of LGBT people. How can Canterbury continue to comfortably befriend Nigeria after their public show of supporting anti gay laws?

“Same-sex marriage in the church and society of all America is the hope for Nigeria LGBT’s. We thank the Bishops of the Episcopal Church for their bold steps in opening the definition of marriage to accommodate all the faithful.”

Welby posted this statement on his website today:

“The Archbishop of Canterbury today expressed deep concern about the stress for the Anglican Communion following the US Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops’ resolution to change the definition of marriage in the canons so that any reference to marriage as between a man and a woman is removed.

“While recognising the prerogative of The Episcopal Church to address issues appropriate to its own context, Archbishop Justin Welby said that its decision will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships.

“At a time of such suffering around the world, he stated that this was a moment for the church to be looking outwards. We continue to mourn with all those who are grieving loved ones and caring for the injured from the terrorist attacks in Sousse, Kuwait and Lyons, and from the racist attacks in Charleston.

“He urges prayer for the life of the Anglican Communion; for a space for the strengthening of the interdependent relationships between provinces, so that in the face of diversity and disagreement, Anglicans may be a force for peace and seek to respond to the Lord Jesus’ prayer that “they may be one so that the world may believe” (John 17: 21).”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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