An interview with Archbishop Idowu-Fearon

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The Nigeria Guardian has an extensive interview with the Most Rev Josiah Idowu-Fearon about his appointment as Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council.

Idowu-Fearon describes the structure of the Anglican Communion and the relationship of its churches to one another and to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and defines his position as Secretary General to the ACC. He acknowledges the honor brought to Nigeria by his appointment as the first African Anglican to hold this position.

Then, the interview broaches the subject of cultural and theological differences within the Communion.

The culture in Africa is very different from that of Europe and America.

As an African and a Nigerian, God has given us that opportunity to at least make our voice heard. That is a very important opportunity we now have. The Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t mince his words. He said he wants the voice of the southern part of the globe, Africa in particular because we have the largest number of Anglicans.

He wants our present felt and our voice heard. God help me, we will do that. It is not to be waving our fingers but to rationally present our position. My ministry is to help Africa understand Europe and Europe to understand Africa. Because of my education, I am opportuned to understand both Europe and America.

It appears that the interviewer asks a question about understanding and defining marriage within the Communion, leading into a discussion of marriage equality, polygamy, secrecy, and psychology.

Firstly, I want you to understand that the Anglican Church has a position, which has not changed. The fact that there is part of the Communion, who because of their culture and where they are operating from, tend not to adhere to our position does not mean that the Anglican Communion does not have a position.

Our position is that we cannot accept any marriage that is not Biblical, that is a man and a woman coming together. That is the standard position of the Anglican Church. We call it resolution 110 and it has not changed.

However, there is part of the Communion, not just Europe, but also even South Africa, where the culture is trying to say look, for us it doesn’t matter.

There, the Anglican Church is very much aware of it and our position is that we don’t hate anybody. All we are saying is it is not acceptable to us now. Let me give you an illustration. In the Anglican Church here, we do not allow a polygamist to take communion.

That is in our constitution. But go to some parts of Nigeria, people with multiple wives would sit in front of the church and go for communion and are also given positions in the church. But here, in the north and I am speaking as the oldest bishop in the Anglican Church in the north, we don’t tolerate such. If anyone does it, he is going to do so secretly.

The Church of Nigeria doesn’t allow polygamy, but we know it is done. We don’t give them positions in the church, but we know there are polygamists, who are treasurer, chairmen of various organisations in churches.

That is why I said earlier on that it is a question of understanding. Nobody would get up and say the Church of Nigeria promotes polygamy, we don’t but it is there. I am not trying to escape.

All I am saying is that the communion has a position and Church of Nigeria is with that position. In South Africa, there are sections that accept resolution 110 and there are sections that said well, we cannot live with it, but you can’t drive them out of the church. They are members of the church. Even in my diocese, we have had a couple of such cases. We have a psychologist that is working on that person now. That is the attitude of the church.

Our tradition in Kaduna diocese is not to wag fingers at anybody.

The Archbishop concludes with his hopes for elevating the understanding of the situation of Nigeria among aid agencies, including the UN and church agencies, so that the problems of the region are more readily addressed.

The entire interview is available here.

Posted by Rosalind Hughes

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8 Responses to "An interview with Archbishop Idowu-Fearon"
  1. And hence - here is the divide that defines the difference within the Communion.

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  2. These are more moderate words than some of his past interviews. For that I'm grateful. I would like for him to respect that "non compliant" (my quotes, not his) provinces, on marriage, arrived at our positions through processes that are prayerful, thoughtful, and broad. It isn't easy for him because he isn't used to democratic processes within the church, his orientation is more hierarchical.

    Of course Africa needs a strong voice. We actually have a lot more in common than meets the eye. But I surely wish we could all work together to bring Good News to the poor and oppressed everywhere, rather than get hung up on trying to exercise power over "non compliant" provinces.

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  3. There is no such thing as "THE Anglican Church"... there is a stretched "Communion" that tries to contain many expressions of anglicanism. I would like to see the "Communion" to concentrate vision and prayer in growing and making Jesus to be known more than focussing in divisive and rather inisgnificant matters.

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  4. "We have a psychologist that is working on that person now."

    Chilling.

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  5. I really, really, want our contribution to ACC (over $1 million) to be conditional upon the creation of a Human Rights Task Force. This would hopefully be a way of improving the legal situation for LGBT people everywhere. It also would be a great to help work on the Five Marks of Mission. Here they are:

    To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
    To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
    To respond to human need by loving service
    To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation
    To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

    The church could be instrumental in reporting on abuses and working on reconciliation. Note that while No. 5 looks like an "environment" issue, these issues are often human rights issues in the developing world.

    Who do I talk to see if this can be on the agenda at GC???

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  6. I wish I could unequivocally demonize Bishop Idou-Feardon just as I'd like to demonize the Nigerian government. But, history has taught me that it is not that simple.

    During the European colonization of the African continent in the 19th century, human and material resources were exploited and exported at the same time that Western world views were imported to Africa. The British Empire was a major stakeholder in the scramble for African resources; that included a scramble for converts to Christianity via the Anglican Church. Wherever the English landed, Africa was presented with a "potted plant"--- a Trojan Horse of Western values nourished by the the British monarchy, aristocracy and the Church. Tragically for Africa, many of these former colonies still water this plant.

    Many of the colonial artifacts in Africa today are anti-African, i.e., anti-democratic; misogynistic and homophobic. The fact that Bishop Idou-Fearon can converse with us in English is an ironic colonial artifact. I think it's easy to demonize the African prelate until we realize that he is a product of our Church and our 19th century world views. I think its easy to demonize the Nigerians when in fact they are not the only segment of the Global South; they have legions of supporters throughout Anglican Communion and TEC.

    Were it not for the fact that: the U.S. has created a Constitution of democratic laws; cobbled together 27 Amendments to that Constitution over time (to rework our standards for democracy); and especially...we were not re-colonized by foreign global corporations since our liberation in 1776 --- were it not for these things, I think we'd be in pretty close alignment with Bishop Idou-Fearon.

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