THE importance that African church leaders attach to the question of same-sex relationships is the result of interference by conservatives in the United States, the secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has said.
In an interview with The Church of Ireland Gazette, published last week, Dr Idowu-Fearon said that Anglican leaders in Africa seemed “to be so much taken in” by the issue, not because of concerns about the impact on relations with Muslims, but as a result of “very strong minority conservatives” in the US.
“The very strong minority conservatives, not in the UK but in America, they have found a footing amongst some of the leaders in Africa,” he said. “They are the ones that sort of pumped this thing into the leaders, and the leaders decided to make it an African thing. It is not an African thing. There are homosexuals everywhere — even in my diocese.”
He denied that African leaders were anxious about relationships with Muslims: “It’s not true. It has not stopped church growth in my part of Nigeria. . . Nobody talks about it.”
While emphasising that he had always been, and remained, “a conservative”, he argued that it was important to ask what God was doing in the Church. He gave the example of John the Baptist, a “firebrand” who had “certain expectations” of God, but struggled to perceive what God was doing through Christ.
He had “learned a lot” from listening to the Governing Body of the Church in Wales discuss same-sex marriage (News, 15 April): “I was impressed by the calmness, the demonstration of love that I saw there.” Africans needed to learn that a variety of views were held, he said. “There is no diocese on the continent of Africa where everybody subscribes to the same position.”
He promoted the Lambeth Resolution 1.10 because there was “no way the Anglican Church can ever agree on this human sexuality thing”. He had “never subscribed to the principles behind GAFCON”, and had told its chairman, the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, that “our effectiveness is in remaining participating in all that is going on”.
He had also told Dr Peter Jensen, its general secretary, that GAFCON was “not a movement of the Holy Spirit, because it is divisive”.
Seventy per cent of Anglicans wanted to stay together, Dr Idowu-Fearon said, but the 15 per cent on either side wanted to “impose” on this majority.
Reflecting further on the Church in Africa, he suggested that it “lacks what I would call effective leadership”. Leaders “do not see themselves as leading the way Christ leads his Church. Rather the African church leader sees himself in the light of the traditional rulers: those with absolute authority. There is no consultation.” People were afraid to speak out, he said, for fear of being marginalised.
Corruption was endemic, he suggested, and infected the Church because corrupt members of the political and traditional classes were also members of its congregations.
The Bishop of Salisbury, the Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, has suggested that Primates in Africa have taken a public stance against homosexuality because of “conservative money” (News, 24 June). “There are certainly people working in each of those provinces who are either English or North American, who are the thought police and controllers,” he told the Institute of Public Affairs.
Bishops to consult on sexuality. The Bishops will consult the General Synod on the matter of sexuality in February, besides updating it on their own discussions, a statement confirmed on Tuesday.
The College of Bishops met on Monday at Lambeth Palace, and continued the process of “episcopal discernment” that began in September. The discussions are private. Consultative materials for the Synod will be prepared next month.