Changing Attitude Pass the Buck

So Colin Coward has produced a response to blog posts on this and other sites, challenging him and Changing Attitude on the various allegations made in the two press releases of the past few weeks. This third press release is disappointing and fails to address the issues raised in conservative blogs.

Shall we have a look?

Over the past 36 hours, the Reverend Colin Coward, Director of Changing Attitude England and Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, have been subjected to a sustained attack on conservative Anglican web sites. We have been accused of being detestable, liars, inventing stories, undertaking works of the devil, perpetrating a hoax. Some people believe we have committed a crime because we falsely claimed an attack happened and have accused the church in Nigeria in general and Archbishop Peter Akinola in particular of carrying out the attack. We have been told we are practically accusing conservatives of incitement to hatred and violence and that we constantly use language that is intended to demean and belittle the conservative position by force of emotion rather than argument.

I think it’s fair to say that some of the adjectives Colin uses ("detestable, liars") refers more to comments on the blogs rather than the bloggers themselves. But I’ll grant you, Greg Giffith at Stand Firm has come out as near as you can get it to claiming Mac-Iyalla is lying.

As for being accused of using language the belittles by force of emotion, well, hmmm…..

The reaction to the Open Letter to GAFCON leaders has been violent and sustained in some quarters of our Communion. Why do some conservatives feel so threatened by our witness of death threats and violence against lesbian and gay Anglicans in Nigeria and the UK? Why are they moved to bear false witness against us?

The thrust of the conservative argument is:
We don’t believe your witness.
These attacks don’t ring true.
Produce evidence to convince us.
Prove the church is complicit in these attacks and threats.

There’s a good word – "violent". That’s not emotive is it Colin?

I think Colin misunderstands the thrust of the conservative argument. It would be better to outline it as this:

  • You have accused us of being indirectly involved in inciting violence against homosexuals
  • You have made insinuations that some in the leadership of the Church of Nigeria are directly responsible
  • You have, however, at the same time provided no material witness (local news reports, police reports, medical reports) that these attacks took place, beyond word of mouth
  • On the basis of this, we wonder why you want us to act, especially considering all of us would quite happily publicly condemn any form of violence against homosexuals (or anybody for that case)

See? It plays a bit different when you actually report what the blogs are saying.

Shall we continue?

Davis Mac-Iyalla and Colin Coward and the CAN leader in Port Harcourt are people who know their own truth and integrity. The two Nigerian leaders have met the trustees of Changing Attitude in London. Davis Mac-Iyalla is known by Archbishop Peter Akinola and Bishop Martyn Minns. Both have had the opportunity to question him and verify the truth of his evidence.

Colin Coward and other friends of Changing Attitude Nigeria resident in England have lived through the events of the past three weeks in close contact with those who have been attacked. We know from their own witness and reactions that they have told us the truth. As the events unfolded, none of us thought about the need to gather evidence. The priority for all of us was to ensure the safety of those who had been attacked. This also meant not making the news of the attacks public for fear that it would put them at even greater risk in West Africa.

The first of these two paragraphs is disingenuous. As far as I am aware, subsequent to these attacks and threats Mac-Iyalla hasn’t offered to be available to either of the two bishops mentioned. As for the second paragraph, while we can sympathise that when one is threatened one needs to get out of the way fast, in the case of the assault there should be police records and medical records. Nigeria is not a country stuck in the middle ages – it has many of the same systems and processes that European countries do so if an assault took place and it was reported OR if there was any medical treatment, it should be easy to demonstrate that.

The fact that it still hasn’t been demonstrated is not addressed by Colin.

We have been asked to produce evidence to demonstrate that the events we reported actually happened.
I, Colin Coward, have the evidence of my own text messages, phone log and electronic communications, evidence submitted to the police and logged by them.
We have the evidence provided by Davis Mac-Iyalla of the text messages he has received and is still receiving.
We have the memory of the terror in the Port Harcourt leader’s voice when he reported the attack.

This is simply disingenuous and just repeats stuff that nobody is arguing about. No-one has doubted that Mac-Iylla and Coward have received threatening text messages. After all, we know from which Nigerian numbers they came from (and if the Nigerian telecoms company were worth any salt they would already know who sent the messags). The thing we have doubted is the alleged assault, the event which is notable by its absence in the list of evidence provided by Changing Attitude.

We have been asked to prove that there is a relationship between these threats and attacks and the GAFCON leadership team and in particular, Archbishop Peter Akinola and the Church of Nigeria.

So let’s address that shall we?

One web site accuses us of publishing the Open Letter and press release as part of a ‘smear campaign’. Smear campaign is the name Davis Mac-Iyalla gave to the Disclaimer published by the Venerable (then Canon) Akintunde Popoola on the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) web site on 28 December 2005 http://www.anglican-nig.org/disclaimer_iyalla.htm.

Nope, I thought not.

The Disclaimer was designed to discredit Davis Mac-Iyalla. It made accusations about events which happened in 2003. Canon Popoola disclaimed Davis as a gay man and a member of the Church of Nigeria and accused him of theft and lies. Davis provided ample evidence to disprove the claims, evidence published on the Changing Attitude web site. The smear campaign waged against Davis and Changing Attitude Nigeria has continued.

At the Primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam in February 2007, Colin Coward asked Bishop Martyn Minns to contact Canon Popoola and ask him to stop publishing false information about Davis Mac-Iyalla. Bishop Martyn agreed to do so. I have no evidence that Bishop Martyn did what he had promised. The Disclaimer is still posted on the Church of Nigeria web site. It was used by David Virtue in January 2008 to repeat the accusations against David Mac-Iyalla and attack the reputations of both Davis and Colin Coward. David Virtue engaged in long conversations with both of us in Dar es Salaam. David met us as Christian brothers and yet has attempted to destroy our reputations. Davis has met bishops (including Nigerian bishops) and senior church leaders in the UK, USA and Tanzania. They have all had the opportunity to question him and challenge or verify his own truth.

The Popoola statement is interesting because it makes some direct claims about the behaviour of Mac-Iyalla. In particular, it alleges that he attempted to defraud the Bishop and Diocese of Otukpo. The difference between these allegations and the more recent ones about assaults is that in this case there is definite evidence of police involvement in the fraud allegation.

That said, Changing Attitude does have some photographic evidence that contradicts some of the claims of Popoola. On this page CA shows a number of pictures that demonstrate that Mac-Iylla was involved in the diocese and even entered into a lay order ("A knight of the diocese of Otukpo"). It’s obvious though that after he fled the diocese and began Changing Attitude Nigeria he hasn’t been welcome in the Church there.

Back to the recent piece

The Open Letter was sent electronically to the GAFCON leaders on Sunday 6 April 2008. Canon Dr Chris Sugden acknowledged receipt of the letter and promised to forward it to the GAFCON leadership team. Not one of the leaders has replied to the letter nor issued any comment or statement condemning the violence perpetrated against Davis in Togo and the CAN leader in Port Harcourt. They may believe with other conservatives that we have invented the attacks and threats. Neither have they issued a statement condemning violence in general against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We are grateful for the statement issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams.

Believe it or not, one is not under any obligation to answer correspondence. Indeed, one of the best ways to ignore a letter that you don’t like is not to reply. But one thing that the GAFCON leaders definitely haven’t done is condemn the violence against Davis and the CAN leader in Port Harcourt and that’s probably because they, like us, are waiting for the proof they happened.

And so is Rowan, because if you read his press statement carefully you’ll see that he doesn’t recognise that the specific attacks happened either:

"The threats recently made against the leaders of Changing Attitudes are disgraceful. The Anglican Communion has repeatedly, through the Lambeth Conference and the statements from its Primates’ Meetings, unequivocally condemned violence and the threat of violence against gay and lesbian people.  I hope that this latest round of unchristian bullying will likewise be universally condemned."

See what he says there. He outright condemns the text message threats, because he, like all of us, recognise that they happened. Interestingly though he makes absolutely no mention of the alleged assaults. Doesn’t talk about them. Not a hint. Nada. What he does say is to remind us all that the Primates (that includes Peter Akinola of Nigeria) have roundly condemned violence and threat of violence against homosexuals.

So if Colin Coward accepts this statement from Rowan he must accept that Peter Akinola also condemns such violence and threats of violence.

We have been asked to say categorically whether we believe the GAFCON leadership team is directly of indirectly responsible for attacks on gay leaders in West Africa. No, we do not believe they are directly responsible. Yes, we do believe they are indirectly responsible. So are all bishops and Christian leaders who fail to condemn threats, violence and false witness against LGBT people. We respect those bishops and leaders who hold different opinions from our own. It is difficult to respect those who for various reasons will not publicly condemn violence against us.

That doesn’t make sense. We’ve already established that Akinola, as one of the Primates has categorically condemned such violence, so why do you want him to say it again? Akinola hasn’t "failed to condemn threats" – Rowan Williams’ statement makes it perfectly clear he has done the opposite along with all the other Primates.

In October 2003 the Church of Nigeria issued a statement which read: "We totally rejected and renounce this obnoxious attitude and behaviour [homosexuality], it is devilish and satanic. It comes directly from the pit of hell. It is an idea sponsored by Satan himself and being executed by his followers and adherents who have infiltrated the church. The blood and power of Jesus Christ of Nazareth will flush them out with disgrace and great pains."

Statements such as this provide members of the Anglican churches of Africa with the rhetoric which they take as encouragement to threaten and attack gay people. When GAFCON and global south Primates, bishops and leaders remain silent in the face of such attacks, those carrying out the threats believe their action is condoned.

No they don’t. Statements like that express the gospel of grace in language appropriate for Nigeria. The statement clearly states the biblical position on sexuality, shows that Jesus’ death is powerful enough to heal any wound and warns that a life that continues in sin will only reap the reward of its actions (which is what Paul is arguing about in Romans 1).

It must be me, but I missed the section where Akinola says "So go and kick their heads in". I did however spot the press statement issued a day ago or so where Rowan reminded us that Akinola has publicly denounced such threats of violence.

Changing Attitude apologises to the GAFCON leadership team if any section of the Open Letter to them or the press release which accompanied it implied that they are directly responsible in any way for the threats to murder Davis Mac-Iyalla and Colin Coward or the violence inflicted on Davis and the gay leader in Port Harcourt. We repeat categorically that we do not believe this to be true.

So why the above? Why claim that the Church of Nigeria and others do this kind of stuff, but then issue an apology when we all go "show us the proof?"

Those Primates, bishops and priests who are members of the GAFCON leadership team have an authority and stature among their own constituency. They are able to communicate to their followers and church members and be heard with respect. We ask them to speak now and break their silence. We ask them to state categorically that any Christian who threatens or attacks a person because they are lesbian or gay comes under the judgment of God and disobeys God’s law. We ask them to condemn those individual church members who are continuing to threaten Davis Mac-Iyalla and other Nigerian lesbian and gay leaders.

Akinola beat you to it. Rowan’s reminded us that he has done exactly what you wanted, condemning violence and threats of violence. However, what hasn’t been done yet is the provision of any evidence that there are "individual church members who are continuing to threaten Davis Mac-Iyalla and other Nigerian lesbian and gay leaders".

In fact, what’s extraordinary about this piece is that a whole press statement trying to explain why Changing Attitude hasn’t been making unsubstantiated allegations concludes in its final sentence with another unsubstantiated allegation. Beggars belief.

Foot in mouth or what?

Let me finish though by quoting a paragraph from a column in today’s Church Times in the UK:

On the other hand, some gay Anglicans are wicked manipulators, keen to appropriate the power of faith so that their own lust for authority can exist beyond rational contradiction. Often, this latter group exploits those for whom homosexuality is emotional and existential security.

Pro-gay Anglicanism is a 20th century invention, in many ways a response to the rapid social change brought about by modernity. It is a perversion of religion, and in no way the real thing.

By golly that’s offensive stuff isn’t it? Problem is, the column was written by Giles Fraser, that bastion of all things inclusive, and actually reads:

On the other hand, some fundamentalists are wicked manipulators, keen to appropriate the power of faith so that their own lust for authority can exist beyond rational contradiction. Often, this latter group exploits those for whom fundamentalism is emotional and existential security.

Fundamentalism is a 20th century invention, in many ways a response to the rapid social change brought about by modernity. It is a perversion of religion, and in no way the real thing.

Violent rhetoric. Sauce, goose, gander.

I’m done.

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10 Comments on “Changing Attitude Pass the Buck

  1. What a lot of hot air and rhetoric from Changing Attitude!

    As a member of the largest group of potential ‘victims’ – women – I know what it is like to be frightened and intimidated. In my lifetime I have been stalked twice – once necessitating me to move home – and have encountered numerous incidents of sexual intimidation – again once necessitating a change of job because of sexual pressure from my boss. I have been groped on the Underground more times than I can count, and endured sexual innuendo all my life. Women have to learn to shrug these things off, and to keep themselves as best they can out of harm’s way. Something we learn at our mothers’ knee is that acting in a provocative manner is likely to get us into trouble.

    Unlike those who self-identify as gay, we have immediately recognisable features. However, I do not blame all men for the actions of a few, nor do I expect men to repeatedly condemn violence against women. I know that most men, particularly Christian men, deplore violence of any kind (including, I am certain, the GAFCON leadership!) and to be constantly whining for letters of condemnation is just silly and childish, and an insult to the non-violent majority.

    As for the phone calls, what about the poor woman who received 17,000 abusive and threatening calls for standing up for scriptural teaching on homosexual practice?

    A lot of violence in the gay community comes from other members of that community. Does that count as ‘homophobic’? Many crimes against people who self-identify as gay have nothing whatsoever to do with homophobia. Even gay poster-boy Matthew Shepard’s murder turned out to be drugs-related and nothing to do with him being homosexual. But this doesn’t stop it being used as an example of homophobic hate crime.

    I recommend they stop crying wolf and waving the homophobia card at every opportunity, because eventually even Rowan Williams will grow tired of supporting people who would prefer to apportion blame rather than look after themselves. Some people need to grow up a bit.

  2. Jill, I’d like to ask you a question or two. Why don’t you expect “men to repeatedly condemn violence against women”? I’m sure you’ll tell me if I’m misreading your comment – but it seems to me you’re implying that it’s impossible for men to condemn violence against women without thereby making women powerless victims. Surely there’s a possibility that men can stand with women, and condemn violence against women? Also, you say that “acting in a provocative manner is likely to get us into trouble” – but isn’t that moving towards blaming the victim? It also looks slightly odd given that in your own story of being on the receiving end of intimidation (and worse), you yourself weren’t acting provocatively.

    Is “the poor woman who received 17,000 abusive and threatening calls for standing up for scriptural teaching on homosexual practice”, Sally Kern, the senator from (I think) Oklahoma? The abuse she received is indefensible; my quibble is that I didn’t think she was “standing up for scriptural teaching”. This may be incorrect (especially if you don’t mean Sally Kern!), but I had the impression she was recorded saying that the ‘homosexual agenda’ is a greater threat to the USA than is terrorism, including terrorism by militant ‘Islamists’. There’s no such thing as the ‘homosexual agenda’ in Scripture, and it’s a long way to a ‘homosexual agenda’ from the Scriptural texts usually cited on homosexuality.

    What evidence do you have that the murder of Mathew Shepard was “drugs-related and nothing to do with him being homosexual”? I read that at the trial, the 2 men accused of murdering him at one point used the ‘gay panic defense’. Their girlfriends testified that neither was on drugs at the time of the attack. I understand that there was a later investigation (in 2004) by the ABC programme 20/20, and that this looked at the possibility that the attack on Mathew Shepard was drugs-related. But it doesn’t seem to have established this beyond reasonable doubt, given that interviews given to the programme contradicted what was said at the trial, and that any involvement of drugs doesn’t necessarily cancel out any anti-gay motive.

    Peter, from reading your original post it seems to me that in your concern to defend GAFCON leaders from what you see as unjustified and possibly false accusations from Changing Attitude, you’ve gone too far the other way. Two examples if you can bear much more of this: Peter Akinola is of course one of the Primates, and they have indeed collectively condemned violence against gay people. But I’m not sure that it follows that Peter Akinola himself condemns such violence – I realise that logically one might think so, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find any comment where he’s speaking singly, for himself, and where he condemns such violence. You’ve overlooked (for instance) his support a year or so ago for the Nigerian legislation against same-sex marriage. I don’t think the bill passed in the end but it contained clauses which prevented free speech and free assembly for gay people, and prevented anyone helping organise these – the penalty for any of which was to be 5 years imprisonment (see politicalspaghetti.blogspot.com for more on the proposed bill). It’s pretty tough to square support for that bill with a condemnation of violence against gay people.

    Second example: it’s remarkable that you say the 2003 Church of Nigeria statement “express[es] the gospel of grace”. To say that the “attitude and behaviour [ie homosexuality]” comes “directly from the pit of hell” is a long way indeed from ‘clearly stating the biblical position on sexuality’. You also refer to Romans 1, but Paul makes no mention of Satan there. You yourself have never come remotely near using that kind of language despite seeing yourself as defending “the biblical position on sexuality” – I say that simply to show that such language is not at all necessary for defending that position, here or in Nigeria I would suggest. I don’t see how such a statement as the C of N’s can be anything other than inflammatory.

    I’m sure my self-righteousness has gone quite far enough in this post… though I still want to post it, not for entirely good reasons I’m sure.

  3. Hi Blair,

    Let me see if I can address the points one by one.

    i) As regards whether Akinola has condemned violence and threats of violence, the answer is logically yes as you understand. He is a Primate, the Primates have issued a statement of condemnation. QED.

    Should he continue to issue condemnations of violence? Absolutely, but in this specific the condemnation has been requested for political purposes, including that of attempting to extract from Akinola some kind of formal recognition of Mac-Iyalla. Frankly, if today Colin Coward challenged me to issue a condemnation of violence I would simply say “I stand by what I have said publicly previously. Why do you doubt that?” If he had asked me a month ago without making unfounded allegations the reply might be quite different.

    ii) The Same-Sex Bill in Nigeria. Hmmmmmmmmmm. See what a little propaganda can do. The fact of the matter is that Akinola’s involvement politically was to make the Bill more Christian, not less. Go back to your gay friends who claim that he supported and promoted the Bill and ask them what documentation they have about Akinola’s stance on specific portions of the Bill. See if you can get a reasoned response. You might be surprised.

    iii) The Nigerian statement on homosexuality. Theologically there is nothing in the statement that is incorrect. If you see homosexual attraction as fallen and that the fall came through Satan’s temptation of Eve, and if you also believe that Satan does work in the world today to sometimes specifically tempt people in certain ways, there is nothing wrong with the statement. I certainly wouldn’t put it the way they did, but also I’m theologically and culturally astute enough to understand that different societies have different ways of expressing the same core thought.

    Finally, let me say that I for one appreciate your “self-righteousness” when you post here Blair. I am encouraged that you make a genuine effort to understand what I (and others) who you disagree with are *actually* saying, and that you respond to us on the basis of what we have actually written, not what you assume we believe or mean. I hope that others here would treat you in the same manner and that we continue to have meaningful and respectful conversations, even when we disagree.

    And I realise that I owe you a reply on the Welsh Women Bishops thread, but Doctor Who is starting soon…

  4. Peter – you ask for respectful conversations, and I absolutely agree – I hope you weren’t intimating that I would hold any other sort! However, what you said did make me stop and think. I was completely baffled by Blair’s question to me at the start of his post, and didn’t have the foggiest idea how to answer it, and can only imagine that it has something to do with totally different mindsets. I do of course understand that men and women are from completely different planets – Blair, you are presumably a man. I tackled my husband on whether or not he ever felt threatened or afraid when he is out and about on his own, and judging by the scornful look he cast me I assume the answer is no. But I do, sometimes, and so do most women, and that is why we take care not to put ourselves at risk.

    Now, I don’t want to sound patronising, and somebody will have to correct me if I am wrong, but it is only relatively recently that men who self-identify as gay have been able to behave in an ‘out’ manner. Could it be that this behaviour is provoking these attacks, and they are surprised? I can think of no other reason for the attacks. Gay people do not normally have two heads, or other identifying features. They are either men or women, and unless they behave in a particular way they would not be regarded by other members of the public as anything other than men or women. So how are attacks identified as being ‘homophobic’? This is what I mean by provocation.

    Men are programmed to protect women and children – it is in their DNA. In addition, everybody is entitled to protection from violence by law. So why do men who behave badly in public think they are entitled to extra protection? We are all supposed to be equal under the law. I don’t think the day will ever come when homosexual practice will be acceptable to society as a whole, no matter how much brainwashing goes on. In the past I have been the first person to stand up for the right of consenting adults to behave in private in whatever manner they deem appropriate – if this happens to be with someone of the same sex, well, it’s really none of my business. For Christians, it is between themselves and God. But this is not the case any more, is it? We now have to endure public displays of indecency, and are powerless to prevent them – such as the degrading and humiliating spectacle of men and women debasing themselves at the Folsom Street Fair. Decent people do not like this, and alarm is increasing as it is being realised that we will soon be powerless to prevent this event here in the UK. I cannot see a happy outcome here. Certain sectors of society are going to react badly at having their children exposed to it.

    When you boil the whole thing down, what Changing Attitude are demanding is that they should have extra special rights, not available to the rest of us, for engaging in homosex.

    If the day comes when the Archbishop of Canterbury issues a press release every time a little old lady is beaten senseless and relieved of her pension money condemning the attack, instead of a man thousands of miles away because he happens to be homosexual, I might think again.

    Matthew Shepard. Well, you can read the story here. http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Story?id=277685&page=1 You will see that one of the killers said … ‘I would say it wasn’t a hate crime. All I wanted to do was beat him up and rob him.’ The leading investigator in the case believed robbery was the primary motive. He said ‘If it wasn’t Shepard, they would have found another easy target. What it came down to really is drugs and money and two punks that were out looking for it. Matthew Shepard’s sexual preference or sexual orientation certainly wasn’t the motive in the homicide’. But then the facts are never allowed to get in the way of a good bit of propaganda.

    The media frenzy over Matthew Shepard was shameless exploitation to promote immoral behaviour. Just compare this to another murder around the same time involving the repeated rape and murder of a 13-year-old boy- Jesse Dirkhising – by two homosexual men. This was suppressed by the media. It was hardly even reported. Why? Note too the age of Jesse – of course it wouldn’t do to put any connotation of the ‘p’ word into people’s minds, in connection with homosexual men, would it? The story is here: http://www.covenantnews.com/dirkhising.htm

    Back in the 1980s a book was written entitled ‘The Overhauling of Straight America’ . One of the guiding principles was ‘in any campaign to win over the public, gays must be cast as victims in need of protection so that straights will be inclined by reflex to assume the role of protector.’ Victim status is one of the pillars of the gay agenda. But we are not stupid.

  5. Peter and others,

    As I read these posts, it seems sad to me that we are playing games with one another, on both sides, while people get hurt. This is ultimately about politics, about who controls the agenda, and we will do all that we can to blame one another for various things to score points. Changing Attitude blame Gafcon and Jill, as usual blames, ‘homosexuals’ for the ills of society. Jill, I do wonder where you dark fantasies come from about one street event in San Francisco and its implications for the rest of western society. I would hardly want to draw a correlation between two people of the same sex holding hands in public on Compton Street and the indencies of the Flotsam Fair.

    Anyway, I pray for Christendom if our discussions here reflect where we are at at this moment in time. My non-Christian friends think that we are crazy talking about this as people riot over food shortages, the situation in Zimbabwe and Tibet etc. Maybe, Jill, you might be better spent writing with great passion about the materialism of the West and its connection to the evil of global poverty. I think that is what Jesus would be doing.

  6. Hello all,

    oh my what a lot of thoughts to respond to… haven’t had time to repond before now, so I can understand that there may be less momentum behind the discussion. Still, a few quick thoughts.

    Peter, thanks for your comment and kind words from a few days ago. Taking your first two points together: yes, in strict logic Akinola as one of the Primates has signed up to a collective condemnation of violence against lesbian and gay people. But strict logic isn’t all there is to it – as far as I can ascertain he supported the anti-same-sex marriage bill, and in what I’m assuming was its final form this stands rather in tension with the Primates’ condemnation of violence. (The text of the proposed bill is available on Fulcrum and Political Spaghetti, the blog I referred to before). Incidentally I didn’t learn about this bill and Dr Akinola’s support for it from “gay friends”, but gleaned the few bits I know from my usual time-wasting on the ‘net… I was unaware that Dr Akinola had specific stances on different parts of the bill by the way. Also, you talk of people “who claim that he supported and promoted the Bill” as though this were a moot point – but if you go to http://www.anglican-nig.org/communique_ibadan2006.htm you’ll see he signed this commnique, which calls for the bill to be passed. In the end I’m not sure what happened – news of the bill seemed to fizzle out, so if it wasn’t passed one could well ask why I’ve just bothered with this paragraph…

    On the Church of Nigeria statement: I see what you mean about the logic of it, but that statement isn’t to be read as a piece of logic, or it wouldn’t be couched in the terms it is. It casts the wrangles in the Anglican church as a conflict on a cosmic scale – “this obnoxious attitude and behaviour” from “the pit of hell” which will be “flushed out” by the “blood and power of Jesus Christ”. So it seems fair to me to call it inflammatory. That said, if your last point in your original post was that both sides (ie ‘liberal’ as well as ‘conservative’) use just as much violent rhetoric as each other, I agree.

    in friendship, Blair (returning later :) )

  7. Me again…

    Jill, goodness knows if this’ll clarify things, but I’ll have a go. The reason for my questions to you at the start of my first post, was that it seemed to me you were suggesting that victims of violence are somehow to blame for being attacked (“acting in a provocative manner is likely to get us into trouble”). Partly I was wanting to check and see if I’d understood you rightly. Also it seemed to me that you contradicted yourself a little, as in the stories you told about being intimidated and threatened yourself, you hadn’t acted in such a way as to provoke the threats (and worse) you received. Moreover, you said that “most men, particularly Christian men, deplore violence of any kind” – and there’s probably a good deal of truth in that, but it seems odd that you’d said you wouldn’t “expect men to repeatedly condemn violence against women”. Maybe not repeatedly condemn, but if one does deplore violence this needs to be made explicit, I’d have thought – to be silent risks being understood as condoning.

    Interested in your comment about asking your husband “whether or not he ever felt threatened or afraid when he is out and about on his own”. In contrast to him I have felt afraid sometimes when out on my own, especially if there are groups of young men / teenage lads around (…that probably makes me sound old and I’m only 29!). Should add that i haven’t been on the end of the sort of treatment you’ve had Jill – only occasional verbal abuse and once being robbed, though many people must have had those experiences, and my fears could well be partly groundless.

    Going back to the provocation thing: again, in your second paragraph you seem to be suggesting that people (or rather, gay people in this instance) who’ve been attacked somehow deserved it, or ‘had it coming’ to them because they must have provoked it. Again, if that is what you’re suggesting I’d like to challenge the assumption that the victims are to blame or have brought it on themselves. You say you “can think of no other reason for the attacks” but it is possible that hatred could be a motive, at least in part – think of the murder of Jody Dobrowski and the ‘nail bomb’ attack on the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho in 1999. Those cases might also link to your point about “identifying features” – people could be identified “as anything other than men or women” & so perceived as gay by the clothes they wear, the people they’re with, the places they go to; so it’s possible to identify attacks as homophobic.

    You went on to say that “everybody is entitled to protection from violence by law”, and to ask “why do men who behave badly in public think they are entitled to extra protection?”. Sure, it’s true that everybody is protected from violence by law – but i doubt I need to tell you that people can be attacked because of a particular characteristic (you probably saw on AM’s homepage that there’s a story about a man killed in Somalia, apparently because he became a Christian). So it could be said that there’s a case for provision in law protecting people with some of those characteristics – I’m presuming that this is the reason for the ‘religious hatred’ laws, and the parallel laws meant to protect gay people. I hope this bit doesn’t sound patronising – am trying to suggest that it may not be a case of “men who behave badly in public” demanding special protection.

    Thanks for the link about the Mathew Shepard case – I read the article. But at the risk of simply banging the same drum, I would still risk saying that the drugs link hasn’t been proved beyond doubt. One of the investigators did indeed say what you quoted, though you didn’t quote another who said, “I really don’t think he [one of the men who killed Shepard] was in a methamphetamine-induced rage when this happened. I don’t buy it at all,” [former police commander] O’Malley said. “I feel comfortable in my own heart that they did what they did to Matt because they [had] hatred toward him for being gay”. And the contradictions with what was reportedly said at the trial remain.

    There may be some truth in saying that the story of the murder of Jesse Dirkhising was “suppressed” – but I’d question what inferences you want to draw from the story, Jill. Are you seeing it as proof, or at least a pointer, that being gay is pathological – or that the story was suppressed because this is a piece of evidence of what a ‘gay lifestyle’ leads to? I fear I’m putting words into your mouth, but I’m curious about what that story shows, in your eyes.

    in friendship, Blair

  8. Thanks for your comments today Blair.

    I remember the Admiral Duncan pub bombing. I had a friend just round the corner and we spent an anxious hour trying to get through on his mobile phones to make sure he was OK. Turns out he was fine!!!

    Night all.

  9. “We totally rejected and renounce this obnoxious attitude and behaviour [homosexuality, it is devilish and satanic. It comes directly from the pit of hell. It is an idea sponsored by Satan himself and being executed by his followers and adherents who have infiltrated the church. The blood and power of Jesus Christ of Nazareth will flush them out with disgrace and great pains.”

    You know, I’m just a little American Reformed Methodist college student here, so I don’t understand a lot of what’s going on in this article, but I do think that the statement quoted above is pretty harsh and inappropriate. Maybe there was more written after it, but I don’t really see where it talks about Christ’s healing power or grace. Also, it’s not just saying that homosexual behavior is a sin, but that the attitude is “devilish and satanic.” It’s hard enough for me, as an American, to tell my Christian friends that I experience homosexual attraction (which few believe is a sin by itself), so I have no idea how difficult it must be for people in that country. I wouldn’t tolerate that kind of language from a US Christian leader, so I don’t see why the fact that they are Nigerian should excuse it.

  10. Hi Jay,

    I understand how you might at first see that paragraph as offensive, but if you break it down you’ll see that it is actually just a statement of Biblical fact.

    The first thing you need to know is that language in Western Africa is a lot more clinical than it is here. Think Victorian English (Charles Dickens novels for example or even back to Regency period – Jane Austen). What appears to us to be brutal is actually just more emphatic and clear.

    So that in mind, phrases such as “obnoxious attitude and behaviour” is simply describing fallen attraction and sinful behaviour in a more clinical manner than Western US/Brit English of the C21. Nigerian Africans would use the same kind of language to talk about any number of fallen temptations and sinful behaviour. It’s not as if Akinola is making a special case.

    The next sentences (“pit of hell”, “sponsored by Satan”) is simply an expression of the fundamental belief that some temptation is directly inspired by the Devil. Now, I would probably take exception to the idea that homosexual attractions are ALWAYS satanically inspired, but the leadership of the Church of Nigeria believes that, given the paticular way the apostasy of TEC has focussed around this issue, that there is demonic involvement in the revisionist agenda. Controversial perhaps, but not in any sense explicitly un-Christian (especially as many of us would argue strong demonic involvement in things like the Nazi Holocaust).

    The final sentence simply expresses a trust that Jesus will judge this apostasy and clean it out from his Body, the Church. But if you read the statement carefully, you will see that the ones being flushed out are those who promote the heresy that homosexual activity is godly, NOT that all homosexuals will have “great pains”. The statement actually very clearly defines fallen nature and sinful behaviour, but then reserves punishment for those who promote homosexual behaviour. Ask the Church of Nigeria what their response would be to someone who comes to them struggling with same-sex attraction, but seeks to live a chaste godly life, and you would get a completely different response.

    So with just a simple hermeneutic we can see that the Nigerian statement isn’t defamatory of all homosexuals. Rather, it is a contextually worded critique of those who seek to promote a particular activity as godly which God has claimed is abomination.

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