October 26, 2003


Defender of the Faith: Why all Anglican eyes in London are nervously fixed on a powerful African archbishop (Philip Jenkins, November 2003, The Atlantic Monthly)

The most important figure today in the Anglican Communion, a worldwide federation of churches with some 75 million adherents, is probably a man few people in the West know anything about: Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola, of Nigeria. An uncompromising traditionalist, Akinola presides over the most vibrant and almost certainly the largest Anglican community in the world—at a time when the Anglican world's true center of gravity has shifted to Africa.

It was no small matter, then, when Akinola went public this past summer with blistering denunciations of proposals to consecrate openly gay bishops and to sanctify gay marriage. Commenting on the decision of the Canadian diocese of New Westminster to approve the blessing of gay unions, Akinola declared that the diocese had in practice seceded from the Anglican world. Reacting to a proposal in the Church of England to ordain a gay bishop (a proposal ultimately withdrawn after intense pressure from African and Asian leaders), Akinola thundered, "This is an attack on the Church of God —a Satanic attack on God's Church." And during the buildup to the U.S. Episcopal Church's controversial ordination of Gene Robinson as the bishop of New Hampshire, he announced, "I cannot think of how a man in his senses would be having a sexual relationship with another man. Even in the world of animals, dogs, cows, lions, we don't hear of such things."

American and European readers may be inclined to dismiss such remarks as coming from a hidebound bigot, or perhaps from a demagogue seeking attention—but they would be wrong to do so. In his attitudes toward sexuality, and above all in his attitude toward religious authority, Akinola represents a deep-rooted conservative tradition in African Christianity that is flourishing and growing, and that is simply not going to vanish as levels of economic growth and education rise in Africa. The prospect of imminent global schism in the Anglican Communion is therefore real.

If we've not become immune to irony, there's something delicious in the specter that Britain having brought Western civilization to its empire will now be summoned back to a vindication of that civilization's values by its former subjects.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 26, 2003 3:14 PM

If only Nigeria didn't have oil, I'd look for investments there.

Posted by: mike earl at October 26, 2003 6:03 PM

If we've not become immune to history, we'll remember the immoral drive to allow women to be ordained Episcopal priests.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 26, 2003 6:48 PM

Long live hidebound bigots--at least of this kind.

Jeff, that last comment of yours sounded like that of a sniffy British toff moaning about the end of the The Empire. Feeling pressured?

Posted by: Peter B at October 26, 2003 7:21 PM

"Bishop" Robinson was on with George Stephanopolous this afternoon, trying to sound likke a cheerful country vicar. But he kept dodging George's surprisingly intelligent and prickly questions. We know the Reverend loves himself, but it didn't sound like he thought very much about the church he claims to serv.

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 26, 2003 9:58 PM

Whatever will the Western multiculti's do when an 'oppressed' 'man of color' from Africa (doesn't get more authentic than that) lectures them on the wages of homosexual sin? Perhaps revise their premise that all cultures are equal? Should be interesting.

Fred Jacobsen
San Francisco

Posted by: F.A. Jacobsen at October 26, 2003 10:50 PM

It's way more ironic than even Orrin thinks. Bringing back to Europe the values of a religion whose only original doctrines were rape, robbery and murder is juicy indeed.

Perhaps the African bishop will given Robinson the same treatment that his spiritual ancestors handed out to Abbot Whiting.

I'd pay to see that.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 26, 2003 11:44 PM

Perhaps just as ironic as Algerians and Moroccans colonizing France?

Posted by: Barry Meislin at October 27, 2003 2:12 AM

> the values of a religion whose only original
> doctrines were rape, robbery and murder is juicy
> indeed.

Huh? Double huh? Huh^^64?????

Posted by: Kirk Parker at October 27, 2003 2:22 AM


It wasn't ten years ago that the Episcopal Church was threatened with schism resulting from some portions of the Church insisting women be allowed to become ordained priests.

I'm sure Akinola would have vociferously opposed such a thing; certainly, many others did.

Which side of that question would you prefer to defend?

That he relates to a deep rooted conservative African Christianity is immaterial to whether he is a bigot.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 27, 2003 7:24 AM

He's only a bigot if you agree that there is
an innate "god-given" right for a women to be
a priest.

The notion that there is a physical and moral order to creation may be old-fashioned (and
subversive depending upon your proclivities)
but it's not bigotry.

Posted by: J.H. at October 27, 2003 9:06 AM

The comments about the African archbishop bring to mind...

The cardinals will soon be choosing a new pope. I wouldn't at all be surprised to have an African pope. The Roman Catholic Church is thriving in Africa, as it declines in the secular rust belts of Old Europe, North America.

If the above commenters are unhappy with that archbishop, they should wait until the first pope from the Dark Continent arrives on the scene! There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the illuminati.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at October 27, 2003 9:22 AM


So it is bigotry if you believe there is a God-given right to be a priest, but not bigotry if you believe only men have that God-given right?

That makes utterly no sense.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 27, 2003 11:01 AM


The bigotry which offends you so much is looked on as tradition by some. The basis you have for your opinion seems to be colored by nothing other than a worship of the modern idea of "equality" for no particular reason. Equality as some kind of greater good seems a little out of place for someone who holds utility as the highest, practical value. It might be tough to have a world of complete equality if, for instance, upper body strength were a prerequisite for firefighters even if much more "practical". I mean, what is more important to you, actual results or abstract equality?

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 27, 2003 11:30 AM


Racism has a long tradition, too.

The only way you can morally justify keeping women out of the priesthood is by arguing they are inadequate to the task.

My opinion is based on no consideration other than merit.

Once upon a time I commanded a flying training squadron. Among other decisions I had to make was to decide which students had sufficient merit to fly high performance fighter-type aircraft. As it turns out, the necessary combination of physical aggresion, desire, and flying skills occurs far less frequently among women than men. But for those women with those characteristics, what reason other than misogynistic bigotry could I use to exclude them?

Or consider your fire fighter example. If a woman meets the requirements to perform the task, on what basis would you exclude her?

As for being a priest, I would dearly love to hear what it is about that position that arbitrarily excludes all women from it.

Other than misogynistic tradition, of course.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 27, 2003 8:51 PM


I don't believe any tradition excludes priests on the basis of race. I doubt that the type of fitness you describe ,i.e. pilots or firefighters, would find a disagreement on this board but you know as well as I that numbers are important in the world of abstract equality not fitness. As far as the reqirements of a religious organization is concerned, I would be the last to impose my idea of "justice". It is up to the religious body, not me, or you to decide. Freedom of association and all that.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 27, 2003 10:08 PM

Jeff, I don't think you have much business telling a religion who it can have for priests. I agree that discriminating against women (or any other similar class) is small-minded, but you and I certainly ought to stay out of that.

I don't know how much you know about Anglicanism, Kirk, but aside from robbing abbeys and setting aside inconvenient wives, what doctrines did it ever have that were not those of Rome?

Abbot Whiting was crucified between two lesser felons atop a hill. As the historian Geoffrey Ashe commented, you can't push Christian symbolism further than that. Although the interpretation is obscure. If Whiting took the place of Jesus, then the crime belonged to the Anglicans, no?

Possibly greed blinded them to the deeper point.

It is interesting that the Anglicans tried to find evidence that Whiting was homosexual or condoned homosexuality. They didn't, but they crucified him anyway.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 28, 2003 2:02 AM

Tom, Harry:

I'm absolutely not trying to tell any religion who it may, or should, have as priests.

However, bigotry is a concept independent of religion. Should a religion exclude a class of people from its hierarchy for reasons having nothing to do with ability to perform the duties, then that, to me anyway, reeks of bigotry. It may be tradition, it may even be scriptually decreed, but that doesn't necessarily make it moral.

If Anglicans were to exclude those of African descent from the priesthood, or Catholics anyone except of Italian descent from becoming pope, would that not constitute bigotry? And how is excluding women any different?

Was the reaction against women in the Anglican priesthood based on their merit, their ability to fulfill the duties, or the same sort of appeal to tradition that justifies something merely due to its longevity?

So I'm not trying to tell religions who they must include in their heirarchy, but that doesn't mean religions are somehow excluded from having their actions branded according to their effect.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 28, 2003 9:44 AM


Again, it all depends on one's definitions of words like "bigotry" or "discrimination". Where I come from being able to discriminate was considered a sign of maturity or good sense if done on merits rather than trivialities. Read E. Burke if you'd like to get a take on the importance of human institutions and the role they play in reinforcing the good in society. The wholesale devaluation of those institutions based on contemporary intellectual fashions should be avoided or at least analyzed with care, restraint and some introspection.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 28, 2003 10:32 AM

Where I come from, the "ability to discriminate" included telling a man's background and character solely by the color of his skin. It was preached in the Christian churches.

Nothing to be proud of, Tom.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 28, 2003 12:59 PM


Discrimination used to be a word that meant something. Read what I said. Skin color is a TRIVIALITY. At least to me. Keep you judgements regarding what I may be proud of to yourself. Jackass.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 28, 2003 2:12 PM


Sorry, I overracted. But self-righteous, pomposity is a red flag to me. I'm sure I misinterpreted your comment.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 28, 2003 2:53 PM

I am well aware of the difference between the discrimination of the savant or the connoisseur, and the other kind.

Read Abbot Whiting's sad tale and let me know how discriminating you think Anglicans were.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 28, 2003 8:48 PM


But what about my main point? If an organization excludes a group of people based on criteria having absolutely nothing to do with merit, what do you call it?

And do you call it something different if a religion is doing it?

Religions have a long history of misogyny. Doesn't make it right, though.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 28, 2003 8:49 PM

Again, Jeff, hundreds of years of institutional or cultural history may, on occasion, be its own justification. There is a difference, after all, between male and female as well as the simple fact that the founder of Christianity and his immediate circle were male. Traditions come from somewhere and to project a contemporary sensibility unto those traditions might just be a bit presumptuous.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 29, 2003 10:28 AM


That sort of reasoning justifies everything, and makes a mockery of any religious pretense towards morality.

Of course there is a difference between male & female, but in what way does that difference have anything to do with the ability to perform the abilities of a priest?

And using the social milieu of Christ's time--what were the odds that a woman at that time would be allowed to travel freely with a group of unrelated men--is no more probitive.

But that is hardly my point. If the word "bigotry" has any meaning, then the reasoning you supply does not vitiate it in any way when applied to the exclusion of women from the pulpit.

Insisting that merit be the sole criteria for acceptability is not a mere contemporary sensibility, it is a strong moral position.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at October 29, 2003 5:35 PM

I just want to see the dissolution of the Episcopalian churches, the statue-breaking, burning and panic in the streets.

If Africa is going to drag us back to primordial Anglican values, it will be a good show.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 29, 2003 8:30 PM

Harry- Thoughtful comment. Are they still burning statues? Jeepers those Anglicans are scary!

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at October 29, 2003 11:05 PM

It was not me that welcomed going back to primordial Anglican values. That was Orrin.

Current values have replaced statue-breaking with homosexual, multicultural love-ins.

The problem may be myths about what Anglicanism was originally. For that, we read history.

It is not a pretty story, is it?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at October 30, 2003 3:20 PM