Anglicans meeting in Africa still in denial about the reality of lesbian and gay people in their churches

Canon Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream is reporting from the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) Divine Commonwealth Conference being held in the National Christian Centre in Abuja, attended by 5000 members of the Church.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh says that the conference is neither an Episcopal Synod, Clergy Conference, nor a gathering only of Anglicans or Nigerians – “it is the Body of Christ, the new humanity, the ecclesia of God, which is the divine commonwealth of God. It is a call apart for our spiritual rejuvenation and mutual edification, in an atmosphere of deep spirituality and learning.”

It is also, inevitably, an anti-gay event. This is sad for the Anglican Communion in general and for the hundreds of thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the Church of Nigeria, whose existence the Church is determined to deny and whose humanity and safety the Church is determined to threaten. Based on the Church of Nigeria’s own membership figures, Changing Attitude estimate that there are over 700,000 LGB&T members worshipping in Anglican churches every week across Nigeria.

Questions about the issues of sexuality in the western churches were asked at one session, as if profound questions about sexuality are not also to be asked of African churches. Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, Archbishop of Kenya, and chair of the Primates Council of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans referred to the statement by the Global South Primates in China in September.

The Archbishop said: “We have discussed this long enough. It is no longer at the centre of our struggle. We know where we stand. We have listened long enough.” There is no respect here for the Listening Process to which the Archbishop and his Church is committed. I wish I could ask the Archbishop to tell me what the Kenyan Church has done to conform with Lambeth Resolution 1.10 in its entirety. The Revd Michael Kimindu, Changing Attitude’s representative in Kenya, has so far failed in his attempts to make an appointment with the Archbishop to enable a conversation about listening to at least begin.

Canon Sugden says that other senior Nigerian leaders echoed this response and said “We should face our mission and evangelism without allowing human sexuality to become an issue. It is not an issue here – the only people campaigning on this issue are coming from outside and sending our own young people trained abroad here to promote it”.

The Nigerian leaders deny the reality of their own Church and are being shockingly dishonest. Chris Sugden may well have taken the opportunity to correct the Nigerian’s misapprehension, of course.

Changing Attitude Nigeria, rooted in Nigerian, composed of and led by Uche Sam and Anglican Nigerians who have never left the country, is living proof that the leaders are wrong. Some expatriate Nigerians such as Davis Mac-Iyalla, founder of CA Nigeria, provide support and encouragement for the work of the organisation, but I know of not a single Nigerian who has been trained abroad to promote homosexuality in the homeland.

Changing Attitude is an organisation with deep spiritual and prophetic Christian roots. We are here to speak truth to the wider Church, to campaign for justice and to educate the Church into the reality of human sexual diversity. Sadly, and in the case of LGB&T Africans, tragically, we are dealing with Church leaders who insist on burying their heads in the sand and denying the reality that is all around them.

Reality will not change. God does not change in love and truth and goodness and in the awesome variety of creation. The only thing that will change is the ignorance and denial of Anglicans who think that God doesn’t create and love and bless and draw into relationship lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

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