One of my gay Nigerian friends was in conversation with me on Facebook this morning. I told him about General Synod and the bishops’ report. He asked me to send him the link to the report, which he read swiftly.
Now, I am posting this in the context of Wednesday’s debate, and thinking about Justin Welby’s engagement with Nigeria through his work before ordination, and his involvement today as a result of being Archbishop of Canterbury. Somehow the untruths about Nigeria which are infecting the Anglican Communion’s dynamic have to be confronted. The Nigerian church and the culture of Nigeria are repeatedly raised as the reason why no progress can be made here – because the God they worship, the God we exported to them, hates homosexuals. Well, maybe they’ve modified their hatred now. When I first became involved with Nigeria thanks to Davis MacIyalla (to whom what follows will be very familiar) the bishops denied that homosexuality existed in Nigeria. They had to abandon that falsehood in the face of evidence that it does. That was an early achievement of Changing Attitude’s presence in Nigeria. Now they need to face the reality that gay people get married in Nigeria, something that our friends in Anglican Mainstream and GAFCON will deny, of course.
My friend was confused by one particular part of the report:
“Nevertheless, the necessity of approaching mission contextually is central to Anglican and ecumenical missiology since at least the famous Edinburgh Conference of 1910. The challenge faced by the Churches is to find ways for the gospel of God’s love to be heard in our particular context, without undermining the lives and witness of our brothers and sisters in Christ elsewhere. In a world still struggling to understand the ways that globalisation connects yet divides humanity, this is not just our problem. In addressing it we want to listen to other parts of the body of Christ, in this country and from across the world.”
I replied that it means the bishops have this problem, that bishops in Nigeria, for example, have a different theology and live in a different social context, a homophobic context according to our values, and the English bishops don't know what to do about the cultural war that has broken out as a result across the Anglican Communion.
“For example Nigeria. There are different kinds of gay men here. Recently I attended a gay wedding here which have in attendance politicians and well known members of the public. But imagine asking Nigerians to support gay marriage. The only thing they will say is a capital NO.”
My friend has just spent some time in hospital. His next comment was:
“After I returned from the hospital, a friend of mine called me to let me know I will be planning his wedding in South Africa. Then my question was why South Africa - why not Nigeria? Why can't I find love here and get married here and be happy here? it was really something that changed my mood completely. This guy is a church guy, he grew up in the church and always dream of getting married in the church, now just because he is gay the church rejected him, saying he is demonic.”
My next question was, why are Nigerians so prejudiced and anti-gay? And his reply:
“That's a very complicated question. I have been gay since I was 7. I have never been rejected by anyone, instead loved by many. In Nigeria there are different cultures and traditions, different religions, and history has it that before Christianity was brought to Nigeria there are different kinds of gods, so for that reason we all have different beliefs. We hide ourselves from the truth because we don't want the next person beside us thinking negative about us, we satisfy others at the expense of our own happiness.”
And of course, in the report prepared by our bishops, exactly the same thing is happening. Our happiness is being sacrificed at the expense of others.
I’ll leave you with my friend’s final, dynamite comment, which I have no doubt is truthful:
“To be honest I have once slept with a catholic bishop, he was so romantic and fun. But he has the idea of gay is just for fun, nothing else, he doesn't believe in love, he is only after sex. Such people can be anti-gay”