The Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, Primate of all Nigeria, issued a statement yesterday about the resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is a bitter, hostile statement, blaming Dr Williams for all the problems endured by him and the Communion since 2003.
Bishop Okoh, as he then was, accompanied Archbishop Peter Akinola to the Primates’ meeting at Dar Es Salaam. Both were cowardly men. David Mac-Iyalla and myself were there, seeking an opportunity to speak with them on record about their attitude to homosexuality. On more than one occasion, spotting cameras, they fled from the public part of the hotel into the safety of the section where the Primates’ meeting was being held, ringed by security guards. Even Anglican Mainstream hadn’t managed to penetrate the security and establish an anti-gay campaign centre within on the inside.
Archbishop Okoh is following Archbishop Akinola in threatening the Anglican Communion with total destruction if it fails to accede to their demands. They are obsessed by homosexuality and want to eradicate from the Church gay bishops and priests in partnerships and ordinary people who love their partners.
Global South forces whipped up by Archbishop Akinola and others in Africa against Bishop Gene Robinson’s election in New Hampshire and Anglican Mainstream in the UK against the appointment of Canon Jeffrey John to Reading were responsible for the fractious conflict which followed. Both Gene’s election and Jeffrey’s appointment were perfectly reasonable developments in countries where society has faced up to the evil of homophobia.
Nicholas Okoh says one of the lowest ebbs of degeneration “came in 2008, when there were, so to say, two “Lambeth” Conferences one in the UK, and an alternative one, GAFCON in Jerusalem.” GAFCON was not a Lambeth Conference, however, but an event deliberately designed to undermine the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the unity of the Anglican Communion. In that, GAFCON failed. Kenyan bishops I have spoken with now regret attending GAFCON and not Lambeth. They see GAFCON has having continuing value as a spiritual force, but not as a rival Communion. The Nigerians failed to achieve the power-grab they had intended.
Having created this mess, the Church of Nigeria in the person of Nicholas Okoh now expects Dr. Rowan Williams to stay on in office, and work assiduously to ‘mend the net’ or repair the breach, before bowing out. It’s a bit of a cheek, Nicholas, to expect the +Rowan to stay on to clear up the mess which you and your predecessor so thoughtlessly and almost ruthlessly created.
The Global South schismatic movement is a spent force. The Communion is not going to fragment. The Covenant is indeed doomed now that the Church of England is failing to ratify it. Other, wiser, more deeply Christian, more truly Anglican councils are going to prevail. The Church of Kenya is opening itself to the listening process, even if it is 14 years after Lambeth 1.10 was adopted.
When Archbishop Nicholas Okoh has the guts to stop running away from LGBTI people and instead, pauses, turns, and sits and engages in conversation with us, then the Kingdom will have taken a further step towards truth, justice and love. Until then, we wait impatiently for him to lay his prejudices aside and open his heart in love.
By committing the Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion) to serious fasting and prayers that God will do “a new thing” in the Communion, he may inadvertently be opening the door to the winds of the Spirit blowing a new vision of justice and inclusion for all across the forests and savannahs of Africa. Come with us and walk together with the rest of the Communion, Nigeria, and make the task of proclaiming the infinite, tender love of God a much easier task for the next Archbishop of Canterbury.