Report from the Primates meeting – Day 3

Davis Mac-Iyalla and Njongonkulu Ndungane

Davis Mac-Iyalla and Njongonkulu Ndungane

There is a curious dynamic developing in the relationship between myself and Bishop Martyn Minns, Canon David Anderson and Canon Chris Sugden. This morning when Davis and I arrived for breakfast, Martyn rose and introduced myself, Davis and Caro to everyone at his breakfast table, and most especially (as if for the first time) those I already know moderately well. I appreciated the introductions, but felt that I was being sent up for my previous post about their failure to introduce me to Archbishop Henry Orombi. Fair enough.

In the realm of the Primates meeting, everyone is still waiting for something to happen. As a result, Davis became the main focus of interest for the media for most of yesterday, continuing this morning. He has been interviewed by Reuters, Associated Press, local Tanzanian newspapers, BBC African service and the BBC have started recording their interviews for the Sunday Programme and the Heaven and Earth Show. The headline in this morning’s The Citizen, Dar Es Salaam, was “Gay activists lobby for ’rights’ at church meet”. The article focussed on Davis and the interview he gave them yesterday.

I have been told that I have been very clever in bringing Davis to Tanzania and setting up the story around him, as if I knew there would be a news vacuum on Valentine’s Day. If only it were so easy! I had a suspicion (and a hope) that Davis’s presence would attract attention. I had no idea he would become the focus of interest. I shouldn’t be so surprised. The Anglican Communion is in crisis because of the desire of lesbian and gay Anglicans to be welcomed as full members of our Church. This is the agenda of Inclusive Church – to work for a church in which no group is diminished because of their gender, race or sexual identity.

Another result of the lack of news from the Primates is that events peripheral to the Primates meeting assume a greater significance than they deserve, such as my breakfast encounters with Bishop Martyn and his colleagues. What I am reflecting on is the experience of relating to Martyn, David and Chris both in the real world, here in the White Sands Hotel, Dar Es Salaam where we meet each other at breakfast, and in the online world where we are not having to engage face to face. I am writing about them again today knowing they are reading my posts, and that at breakfast tomorrow, I will have to deal with any new reaction I may have provoked. There is a curious dance going on between us, who are praying for very different outcomes from the Primates meeting, and believe each in our own integrity, that God will best be served, either by excluding the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada from the Anglican Communion, or by fully including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people.

My experience of being here might be somewhat different from theirs. I am enjoying a series of encounters and conversations which are full of energy and confidence. Whatever is happening in the Primates meeting and in the hotel up the road, here in the public area of White Sands, people are communicating across their differences, with generosity and understanding. There is pleasure in being with friends old and new, and especially being with colleagues Scott Gunn, Caro Hall and Davis Mac-Iyalla.

In the virtual world of Thinking Anglicans, Canon Tunde Popoola has posted a comment about Davis’s meeting with Archbishop Peter Akinola. Canon Tunde has asked me for an apology (following on mine to Martyn, David and Chris, I assume). Tunde believes I have claimed somewhere previously that on meeting Archbishop Akinola, Davis would be stoned or that the Archbishop would turn away rather than shake hands.

If I have written anywhere that Archbishop Peter Akinola would set about stoning Davis, of course I will apologise immediately to Archbishop Peter. I have never written or said any such thing. Yesterday Archbishop Peter greeted me warmly and openly, and Bishop Martyn Minns will confirm.

As Canon Tunde well knows, Davis is still waiting for an apology from him for the deliberate lies he published about Davis in his disclaimer in December 2005. He has never produced evidence to substantiate the allegations. He has never acknowledged that we have published evidence proving that Davis told the truth. Davis has been interviewed here in Dar Es Salaam many times. His honesty about being a gay Nigerian Anglican has never been questioned. Archbishop Peter Akinola remembered the times they had met when Davis was serving Bishop Ugede in Otukpo.

Canon Tunde has put Davis’s life at risk as a result of his allegations. Davis has received several death threats which come from members of the Church of Nigeria. Murder is the most serious offence against the commandments of God than any sexual sin. I am waiting for all those who speak for the Church of Nigeria and CANA to issue a categorical, united statement that they utterly condemn any act of violence against lesbian and gay people and affirm that we too are loved and blessed by God.

Changing Attitude and Inclusive Church are working for a church where people can live together in honesty and truth. Our presence here seems to be causing real problems for those who would like the church to be more exclusive and, in their interpretation of scripture, more obedient to the Word of God. We also believe we are being obedient to the Word of God, who is calling us into truth and love. We have to stay together in the one Church to work out our differences in trust and love.

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