Archbishop Peter J. Akinola's unprecedented visit to the Washington, D.C. area this week to install an American bishop in a renegade branch of the Episcopal Church of North America is both a contradiction and an insult to freedom-loving men and women of peace and love who believe in human dignity, self-determination, and the humanity of Jesus Christ.
The visit is also theologically strategic in the church-sense; certainly not in the Christian-sense. That is, Akinola who hails from Nigeria, a nation stubbornly committed to human rights abuses, plans to install Martyn Minns as Bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America: an illegitimate, break-away group associated with the Nigerian Anglican communion.
Akinola hopes that Minns will provide leadership and direction to radical conservative Anglicans at odds with the Episcopal Church's welcoming stance on homosexuality, diversity, inclusiveness, and tolerance.
In the Sunday (April 29, 2007) edition of The New York Times, Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori is quoted as stating that Akinola's unofficial visit "...would only serve to heighten current tensions" and would be "regettable."
Akinola presides over the largest region in the worldwide Anglican communion. He leads an arch-conservative movement that has actively sought to ally Anglicans in developing regions with religious rightists in North America whose singular message, as servants of Christ, is to exclude those at variance with heterosexuality and to condemn lesbians, gay men and other sexual minorities from the beneficence of the light and liberation of Jesus Christ.
It is remarkable that an African archbishop would cross the Atlantic Ocean to preside over the installation of a bishop whose ascendency rests solely on the exclusion of an entire class of persons simply for loving in accordance with their nature.
Moreover, it is ironic that Akinola, a Nigerian, ought to be directing the inner-machinations of a church long associated with the national identity of sovereign democracies around the world. Nigeria has wrestled with sectarian divisions, including violent altercations, between its Muslim north and the largely Christian southeast.
From a political standpoint the Nigerian human rights record is even more grim: in February, 2007 the National Assembly held public discussions on a bill aimed at banning homosexuality. Life---presumably an essential human and Christian value---is already harsh for gay Nigerians without additional legal prohibitions: it is punishable by imprisonment in the south and by death in the north.
Indeed, Archbishop Akinola and Anglicans in Nigeria might be better served if the bishop stayed home and reflected on the fundamental nature of Christianity, rather than flying to Washington to fan the flames of hatred and division among American fundamentalists.
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