In April, Archbishop Josiah Odowu-Fearon was appointed as the new Secretary-General at the Anglican Communion Office.
Yesterday, 26 June, the Archbishop of Canterbury published a response to a Church of Nigeria statement concerning Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon’s appointment which had been published on 30 April 2015.
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) statement reminded readers that the Province is a founding member of GAFCON/FCA, and subscribed to The Jerusalem Declaration, 2008.
It comments on the Most Rev’d Josiah Idowu-Fearon’s statement that: ‘I have never supported the law in Nigeria that criminalizes the gay community and I will never support it.’ This clearly indicates, the statement says, “that he is not in accord with the theological and doctrinal posture of the Church of Nigeria. His acceptance of the post of ACC General Secretary neither received the approval of the Church of Nigeria, nor does it in any way affect the Church of Nigeria’s theological posture on the issues of homosexuality and gay movement. Thus, the Most Rev’d Josiah Idowu-Fearon represents himself at the ACC, and not the Church of Nigeria.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement revisits the process that was undertaken to appoint a new Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Office. Thirty-one applications were received from which a short list was drawn up from which the Most Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon was appointed.
The Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement concludes: “Archbishop Fearon’s view on the criminalisation of people of same gender attraction is fully in line with Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.”
I read the Archbishop of Canterbury as saying that the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is not fully in line with Resolution 1.10 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. This is no surprise, but it is a helpful reminder that, deeply flawed as it is, the positive elements of Lambeth 1.10 are to be respected as much as the flawed elements.
As a comment on Thinking Anglicans also picks up, the Church of Nigeria statement also implies that the official position of GAFCON/FCA is that the gay community should be criminalised. This axis includes members of the Anglican Churches in the UK and Ireland, of course.
Archbishop Josiah has also put himself at odds with his own Province by categorically opposing the criminalisation of the gay community. That doesn’t immediately transform him to an active supporter of gay equality in the Anglican Communion but it does make him an ally rather than opponent of our full humanity in Christ.
These are small steps in the global dynamic of the Anglican Communion, especially when compared with, as one example, yesterday’s Supreme Court decision that the U.S. Constitution guarantees a right to marry for same-sex couples.
The two statements give us helpful clues, however, as to the stance being taken by significant people in the Communion whose influence will impact on future developments, perhaps to a greater degree than the noisy opponents of LGBTI equality in GAFCON might appreciate.