Nigerian president supports antigay bishops, slams gays
October 29 2004 12:00 AM ET
Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo praised Africa's Anglican bishops Wednesday for opposing same-sex unions and the appointment of gays as bishops, saying gay unions are contrary to the Bible. Last week a commission in London, set up by the head of the Anglican Church and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, issued a report condemning the blessing of same-sex marriages in Canada and the appointment of a gay bishop in the United States. But Peter Akinola, head of the Anglican Church in Nigeria and chairman of the African bishops' conference, rejected the commission's report because it also had disapproved of harsh criticism against homosexuality. "I wholeheartedly salute the wisdom, courage, and resilience of African bishops within the Anglican Communion for standing so firmly against attempts to undermine our faith and falsify God's will and the word of God," Obasanjo told African bishops meeting in Lagos, Nigeria's economic capital.
The global Anglican church is deeply divided over same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay priests, with Akinola leading a conservative African church that is highly critical of dioceses condoning them. African bishops spearheaded a resolution overwhelmingly adopted in 1998 by Anglican bishops that declared homosexuality "incompatible with Scripture" and opposed gay ordinations and the blessing of same-sex unions. "Such tendencies are clearly unbiblical, unnatural, and definitely un-African," Obasanjo said Wednesday. Obasanjo, who describes himself as a born-again Christian, is a Baptist.
Some bishops in Nigeria said Monday they were considering establishing a separate theology to conform with prevailing beliefs across the continent against gay practices. Other ideas being considered included establishing theology schools in Africa that would be insulated from influences such as the acceptance of same-sex unions prevalent in seminaries in the West, Akinola said.
The Anglican church traces its roots to the Church of England, whose archbishop of Canterbury is the communion's spiritual leader. But both the Church of England and the Episcopal Church USA are now among the smaller members of the communion, which has grown strong in Africa. Africa accounts for about half of the world's 76.5 million Anglicans, and Nigeria's 17.5 million Anglicans constitute the largest congregation outside England. The African churches are the fastest-growing in the worldwide Anglican Communion.