Open Letter to:
The Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
The Most Revd Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
The Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary General Anglican Consultative Council
The Rt Revd John Patterson, Bishop of Auckland, Chair Anglican Consultative Council
The Revd Canon Phil Groves, Facilitator of the Listening Process
Changing Attitude England and Nigeria
In August 2005, with approval and support from Changing Attitude (England), a new Changing Attitude network was formed in Nigeria. Davis MacIyalla became the co-ordinator of the new group and through lesbian and gay Anglican friends began to develop groups in Abuja, Jos, Lagos and Port Harcourt. A committee organised a first General Meeting for the group in Abuja from 25 to 27 November. The Daily Sun and Vanguard newspapers in Nigeria carried reports, as did the New York Times on 18 December.
The Revd Canon AkinTunde Popoola, Director of Communications for the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) subsequently began to send me emails. He claimed variously that Davis was not a real person, was not gay, was not a member of the Anglican Church, and was defrauding CA (England) of money. With information and evidence provided by Davis, I was able to satisfy myself that Davis was who he claimed to be and that the facts of his life were as presented to us.
On 29 December 2005 Canon Popoola published a press release on behalf of Archbishop Peter Akinola. It alleged that Davis had defrauded his bishop in Otukpo of large sums of money, documents and church salaries and that he was a fraudulent personality, defrauding foreigners of money. Davis denied each allegation and provided further evidence of the truth about himself. We have been provided with independent verification from a number of sources.
We have asked Canon Popoola to provide the evidence on which his allegations are based. He has been unable to do this. His tactic has been to repeatedly question the evidence provided by Davis and demand additional proof. We believe the burden of proof lies upon him to substantiate his allegations.
Having assessed the documents provided by Davis Mac-Iyalla and in the absence of evidence from Canon Popoola, our understanding of the press releases is that they were deliberately published to undermine Davis’s reputation and the work of Changing Attitude (Nigeria). The releases have partly achieved this aim because they were accepted as true in many reports. They have put Davis’s life at serious risk, made people doubt his integrity and credibility and caused great anxiety among the CAN members in Nigeria.
We suspect the press release was also intended to undermine the work and reputation of Changing Attitude (England) and poison the atmosphere in which the Communion-wide process of reception of the Windsor Report and monitoring of the listening process is taking place. We bring this to your attention because we believe it is a deliberate assault on the work of Changing Attitude Nigeria to support lesbian and gay Anglicans, develop a response to the Windsor Report and contribute to the listening process.
On Wednesday 18 January 2006 the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria approved a bill for an Act prohibiting marriages between people of the same sex. The Bill also prohibits the public show of same sex amorous relationships. Any person involved in the registration of gay clubs, societies and organizations in private is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a term of 5 years imprisonment. The bill received the support of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).
We understand that the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council is meeting in London in March 2006. We ask that you bring this matter to the attention of the Standing Committee and the Councils of the Anglican Communion. In particular:
We ask that attention be paid to those members of the Councils who are failing to honour the documents and statements agreed by those Councils to listen to the experience of lesbian and gay people.
We ask that the Primates of the Anglican Communion respect the dignity and integrity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Anglicans and oppose legislation designed to curtail our essential right to protection and freedom of association.
We are committed to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are committed to engage with the Church in dialogue in a spirit of mutual respect, honouring difference.
The Reverend Colin Coward
Director of Changing Attitude