New head of ACO: “I do not support the law in my country that criminalises homosexuality”

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UPDATE: Statement from the Rt Rev Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon via Anglican Communion News Service

Statement from the Rt Revd Josiah Idowu-Fearon responding to misleading stories concerning a sermon in 2014 and an interview in 2007:

In Benin on Sunday 23rd March, 2014 at St. Mathew’s Cathedral where Knights and their wives were being admitted, I encouraged them to continue to uphold family values in their homes bringing up their children as Christians in order to make a difference in their society. I then went on to challenge the National Assembly, comparing corruption with homosexuality that they had just criminalized. I wished the National Assembly had spent all that time and energy to criminalize corruption rather than homosexuality which is not damaging the Nigerian society as is corruption.

I have never supported the law in Nigeria that criminalizes the gay community and I will never support it. The Church is called to love and protect everyone without discrimination, ‘love the person but hate the sin” whatever the sin may be, corruption, sexual sins of all kinds, misuse of power or anything else.

In this I believe I am affirming the position of the Anglican Communion in Lambeth 1:10.

In a Dallas interview in 2007 the question was about the Bible and culture. I did say by way of explanation that the West brought the Christian Faith to us and our forefathers embraced the faith finding it corroborated our view on marriage. Today, the same West are telling us that the position has changed. To the African, that is confusing, hence the difficulty between the Western church and the African church.

Again, my position is clear. For the majority of African Christians, the Bible judges culture, including African culture. As African Christians we must accept other cultures and the way they also understand the Bible’s relationship with culture. I accept and promote a culture of respect for such differences.

The Rt Revd Josiah Idowu-Fearon

A member of the Episcopal Women’s Caucus has posted an email from the newly-named Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Office, Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon of the Church of Nigeria. In the email he states “I do not support the law in my country that criminalises homosexuality as a Christian, that has been my position and it has not changed.”

Idowu-Fearon’s email is posted at the open Facebook group Episcopal Women’s Caucus. It is his response to a request that he “work on his LGBT relations.” His full email message follows:

I believe it is right for me to take up your offer and contact you.

Firstly, permit me to thank you for your mail and congratulatory message, I feel encouraged and hopeful. I have been very frightened of this opportunity to serve our Communion, your letter is a part of the Lord assuring me that He will provide for my enablement.

Julie, I do not support the law in my country that criminalises homosexuality as a Christian, that has been my position and it has not changed. The church must always critique any government policy that is discriminatory, that is why the church is there! When any government enacts or passes any law that is wrong, the church must and should provide an alternative.

I hope my clear and unapologetic position will make it possible for us of the same Anglican Family to talk with rather than at each other. I have spent over 40 years working on the culture of respect for differences among Christians and Muslims in Nigeria and Africa, this is what I believe the Lord has called me to spend the rest of my life and ministry doing now within our own Family: the Communion.

I look forward to our learning from each other and using our differences to work for the Lord.

Blessings.

Josiah

Changing Attitudes UK says “Bishop Josiah is being judged and condemned for his anti-gay position.” But it continues,

I have met Bishop Josiah twice and found him open to me as a gay priest and activist and far less obviously hostile than he is now being portrayed. I have often wondered whether his more extreme remarks were made to satisfy the deep prejudices of the collective House of Bishops in Nigeria. Bishop Josiah’s engagement with me was in marked contrast to Archbishop Peter Akinola and the now-Primate of All Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, both of whom ran away from Davis MacIyalla and myself at the Primates’ meeting in Tanzania in 2006.

Davis MacIyalla, past Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, has commented on Thinking Anglicans: “I am happy over the appointment of Most Revd Dr Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon as the next Secretary General of the Anglican Communion. I know that Josiah, will be more open to serve the Anglican Communion without bias. The Church of Nigeria would not be walking away if a Bishop like Josiah was the Primate of All Nigeria.”

Yesterday The Episcopal Café quoted accounts where Idowu-Fearon was quoted as supporting criminalization of homosexuality. A portion of our report of yesterday follows:

From “No going back on stand against gay marriage – Anglican Communion,” March 2014, in the Nigerian newspaper New Telegraph:

The Church of Nigeria, (Anglican Communion) said yesterday that there was no going back on its 1998 stand against promoters of homosexuality and bi-sexual tendencies. Leadership of the communion lauded the Federal Government for the decisive step it took banning the ugly practices.

Bishop of Kaduna Diocese of the Anglican Communion, Most Rev (Dr) Josiah Idowu- Fearon, who spoke at the induction/investiture of knights and dames, held in Benin, Edo State capital, stated that legalising gay marriage or such acts amounted to making God’s good creatures and standards to look imperfect.

Rev. Idowu-Fearon said, “Our battle today is not against homosexuals, our battle today is against those who say God’s standards are not good enough for us.

The government has criminalised homosexuality which is good, our battle is not against human beings, it is against the devil.” He urged all those already initiated to reestablish the family system that is Anglican oriented.

“You knights should go back and re-establish the family system and that is the Anglican position. Our resolution of 1998 on homosexuality has not changed and will not change by the grace of God.

Idowu-Fearon preached at the consecration of Justin Welby as Bishop of Durham. The biography Archbishop Justin Welby: The Road to Canterbury, contains the following passage,

CaptureDurham
In 2011 he pleaded with Gafcon Primates not to boycott Lambeth. He took a similar stance in 2007.

In 2008 he was demoted from archbishop to bishop by then Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola.


Posted by John B. Chilton

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Cynthia Katsarelis
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Folks, be sure to check out the 3rd installment, the response to "misleading quotes." Martin Reynolds and John Chilton provide devastating information.

Catherine and Julie, have a look. And we all need to consider whether we are being played.

We know that the Risen Lord is with the victims of brutality, gay, straight, women, girls, all victims. It is imperative that we calibrate our moral compasses to our Risen Lord and the suffering people, and not a competition to see who is more liberal, tolerant, intolerant, etc.

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Gary Paul Gilbert
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Gary Paul Gilbert

Advocating against equal rights for LGBTQs is much more serious in an African context, where basic human rights are not honored. "Love the sinner but hate the sin" is unacceptable in an Anglican leader. Jürgen Moltmann says the idea that heterosexuals are better than gays betrays the doctrine of justification by faith alone.

Singling out gay people for discrimination is wrong.

Gary Paul Gilbert

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Catherine Salmon
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Catherine Salmon

I think some commenters might benefit from reading this:
https://afmclavier.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/the-new-secretary-general-of-the-anglican-consultative-council/

While I encourage all to read it in its entirety, I include here a few quotations:

Bishop Idowa-Fearon "has worked heroically for understanding and reconciliation with the Moslem majority in his present diocese and in the northern regions of Nigeria. He has steadfastly supported the full participation of the African Church in the Anglican Communion. ... His witness for peaceful accommodation with Moslems has been at great cost to him personally and put him in harm’s way. His loyalty to the Anglican Communion has put him at odds with the leadership of his own church and others in Africa and elsewhere who champion schism and disunity and work for the fragmentation of the Anglican Communion."

"Bishop Idowa-Fearon is a traditionalist, does not support same-sex unions, but, unlike many others, believes that in baptism we are drawn together, have a common identity as children of God, and thus cannot but work together however we may disagree. We are saved by faith, trust in God, and not by the perfection of our beliefs or conduct. In short we are all sinners, saved by grace."
...
"... Anglicans, at least in the West, have been drawn into group identity, holy tribes, sure of their own perfection and ready to denounce those perceived as enemies ... Has a particular view on sexuality now become the litmus test of suitability, a core doctrine?"
...
"... One can only hope and pray that all Anglicans will come together and support the new secretary-general and not give in to the impulse to withdraw into sects of self-regarding virtue on the left and right."

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David Allen
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David Allen

Sisters, you're both out of posts in this thread today.

Catherine, I'm sorry that you find the 4 post per article per day rule difficult. We ask everyone to follow it.

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Cynthia Katsarelis
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I may have maxed out my four posts for the day. But Catherine, this blog that you link is from a very conservative blog, deeply skewed, and almost hysterical.

My biggest objection is that it conflates legitimate concern for the human rights support (or lack thereof) of Bishop Idowu-Fearon with conservative positions. This is deeply disingenuous, but self-serving.

One must admit that the Church of England and the ACC has a history of coddling human rights abusers, so all skepticism was well deserved.

Sadly, I believe that the conservatives are deliberately conflating these two, separate, issues.

The fact that this blogger raises the spectre of TEC withholding funding from ACC on account of this appointment is just wildly speculative and came from one commentator with no standing in the larger church (that I know of). It might be a good idea for TEC to spend our resources on more useful ministries, but I would think that would be part of a larger discussion about our priorities.

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June Butler
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From the article by Tony Clavier:

"It has been predicted that the Episcopal Church will withdraw funding from the ACC as a result of this appointment. Such an action would perhaps fatally cripple the Council. One can only hope and pray that all Anglicans will come together and support the new secretary-general and not give in to the impulse to withdraw into sects of self-regarding virtue on the left and right."

Predicted by whom? And stated in the self-protective passive voice. May we have a source? A link perhaps?

Further, it's not entirely true that "Archbishop Welby had no part in Bishop Idowa-Fearon’s appointment, an appointment which was the unanimous decision of the ACC..." He approved the appointment.

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Catherine Salmon
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Catherine Salmon

David Allen, I disagree. Having the ability to prevent an appointment is still not the same as making the appointment oneself – unless, perhaps, one rejects every single appointment until those who are making it choose the person one wanted them to choose in the first place. I have seen absolutely no sign that this happened here.

Approving an appointment others have made is hardly the same as making an appointment oneself.

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David Allen
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David Allen

However, he could have vetoed the choice, could he not? So that grants him the ultimate hand in the selection, as he could have sent them back to choose someone else.

Bro David

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Catherine Salmon
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Catherine Salmon

Approving an appointment others have made is hardly the same as making an appointment oneself.

As for who has predicted what, I don’t know what Tony has read or with whom he has discussed the subject; I haven’t had a chance to speak with him yet today.

-fixed it for you, Bro David

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David Allen
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David Allen

FYI - It's been noticed that five different folks commenting in this one thread all have the same IP address. After a quick discussion among the moderating team, we will be blocking the superfluous alias' comments.

Bro David

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June Butler
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Good heavens! Have the courage to post under your own name, rather than sneaking your way in to post under several aliases. You waste everyone's time with your trolling, and, in the end, you will be found out.

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David Streever
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David Streever

ahhh him again. I already told him (when he promised never to post here again) that we can see his IP. Weird.

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David Allen
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David Allen

He was becoming Legion.

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Whit Johnstone
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Whit Johnstone

I have a question for anyone who knows the good bishop, or at any rate knows his native language. Is it polite to call him Bishop Fearon, or is necessary to refer to him as Bishop Idowu-Fearon? I ask because 'Fearon' is quite easy to spell and pronounce, while 'Idowu-Fearon' is quite impossible for me to manage.

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christopher seitz
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christopher seitz

Yes, I suspect many of our words are likewise confusing to Africans.

I don't think Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon would object to being referred to as 'Bishop Josiah' here, if typing his surname is 'impossible to manage'. He's very much a kind and informal man, should you have the opportunity to address him orally.

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Whit Johnstone
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Whit Johnstone

I don't have a problem with typing his full name, but pronouncing it is another matter entirely!

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Ephraim Radner
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Ephraim Radner

Mr. Chilton seems to think there is something underhanded about the fact that Seitz and I wrote about someone whom we know! God forbid that we should express opinions about the character of a man whom we have actually heard in person, and worked with. As several people have pointed out on this thread, figuring out who a person is and what a person stands for requires more than newspaper quotes. I am, therefore, glad that Mr. Chilton offered some links to places where Bp. Fearon offered more extended reflections on matters of the faith. They are worth perusing as are other articles he has written. By the way, he is a strong man, and will do fine in the face of whatever criticisms people offer, so I have no worries over people's open expressions of their concerns. Such expressions, in any case, usually reflect more on the speaker than the person spoken about.

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Harry M. Merryman
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Harry M. Merryman

E. Radner,

I was with you until the last sentence in your post. I can only hope that Bp. Fearon will not similarly minimize others' concerns so breezily.

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Jim Naughton
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Jim Naughton

I suspect that much (most?) of the resistance to Bishop Fearon's appointment was not due to his views on marriage, but what were reported to be his views on criminalization. It is hard to imagine that people committed to working within the Communion aren't aware that many Anglicans share the bishop's views.

With all due respect to Julie Gittens, who played an important role in what has unfolded in the last few days, no news organization should assume that a private email that made its way onto Facebook trumps public remarks. So further investigation was necessary.

I was glad to read Bishop Fearon and Bishop Tengatenga's public statements on this issue this morning on the Anglican Communion's website. I suspect those statements will make a pivotal difference for at least some of those who were concerned about this appointment.

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JC Fisher
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JC Fisher

I welcome the (soon-coming, one hopes) clarification by Bishop Idowu-Fearon of his 2014 (assuming accurate quotation) vs. 2015 positions.

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Pasi neNgochani
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Pasi neNgochani

The Anglican Communion has gone to the dogs. Homosexuality is against the word of God. Period!. Why do we want to try and justify an act that is a sin. Are we still the Church or a social club. If Josiah Idowu Fearon does not support homosexuality then he is the right candidate for the post. The Communion has to be led by people of undoubted moral integrity. Down with homosexuals. Britain and the West keep your money and we Africans will keep our unblemished Christianity. I pray that God helps you to see the light.

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Cynthia Katsarelis
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By all means, Pasi neNgochani, please tell us exactly where in Scripture God weighs in on loving same-sex couples? To find any potential references to homosexuality in the New Testament, you'll have to resort to the Koine Greek, as most English translations are inadequate. And you'll have to explain why you know better than the scholars that believe those references are generally about rape, prostitution, and worship practices related to fertility gods? In Leviticus, you'll have to explain why that one reference to men lying with men is more important than the bans on eating shellfish, wearing clothes with mixed fibres, and the call to relieve the debts of the poor every seven years. Sodom and Gomorrah? I'm afraid that Ezekiel and Isaiah say that the sin of Sodom was it's unmerciful treatment of the poor and strangers.

Finally, you'll have to explain why you know better than the Jesus who explicitly said "don't judge," and who was always on the side of the oppressed, especially those being oppressed by the Law of the Pharisees.

Is it possible that you are a Pharisee. Jesus said feel the hungry, give water to those who thirst, visit the prisoner, and love you neighbor as yourself. Every neighbor, black/white, gay/straight, rich/poor, Christian/Muslim, every neighbor without excuse.

The vehemence of hate against LGBT people based on the 5 or so potential references in the Bible is irrational. Especially when you weigh it against the many references to divorce, adultery, and treatment of the poor.

Africa keeping it's "unblemished Christianity?" Wow. The treatment of women and girls in much of Africa doesn't seem very Christian. Are you working to criminalize adultery? Are you working to vigorously punish rapists? Are you insisting that Western corporations extracting African resources do more for the health, education, and well being of ALL people?

Can you see the problem in insisting that one issue makes African Christianity unblemished?

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Catherine Salmon
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Catherine Salmon

For people who are basing their opposition and/or skepticism on previous media reports, I would caution you not to assume that every news report is always perfectly accurate. I remember very well sitting and listening to my father address diocesan convention and speak about several significant issues, then opening the newspaper the following day and reading an article which completely misrepresented his position on every single one of those issues. And I do mean completely – if he said up, the author reported that he'd said down – despite the fact that his statements were in no way misleading or confusing.

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christopher seitz
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christopher seitz

I too have known Bishop Josiah well and was a bit surprised to see the 2014 quote, though I might have assumed it was tied into the cultural challenge in Kaduna, where the majority Islam groups practice sharia law.

I wonder if the same outcry against +Josiah would be forthcoming if he was quoted as saying he was opposed to same-sex marriage? My hunch is, Yes.

That is, the criminalization comment lies on the same vector as being opposed to same-sex marriage for most western progressives, and there is little difference when it comes to an appointment to such a senior post.

I'd like to think otherwise, but I suppose we shall find out in the coming months.

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Harry M. Merryman`
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Harry M. Merryman`

C. Seitz,

I am relieved to hear that both you and Dr. Radner (see above) find + Josiah’s criminalization comment “surprising” and perhaps due to the “. . . cultural challenge[s] in Kaduna, where the majority Islam groups practice sharia law.” However, I hope you will forgive me for finding this observation ironic, given that TEC has been repeatedly accused of perverting the Gospel through its alleged obeisance to secular/cultural (as opposed to biblical) understandings of marriage and sexuality.

Of course, you may be right about “most western progressives.” Again, I cannot help but wonder how the leaders of ACI or GAFCON would be reacting “to an appointment to such a senior post” of one who was in SUPPORT of same-sex marriage. I would like to believe that they would be waiting to see if this person was genuinely tolerant and open to dialog and communion with those who hold different views.

As a “western progressive,” I intend to wait and see whether Bishop Josiah can foster mutual tolerance among those in the Communion who hold different views, despite his personal views. In some ways, the appointment to this post of one with + Josiah’s views is clearly needed. That is so because, contrary to what I take to be your implication, fostering a spirit of tolerance among those who hold views similar to his is the greater challenge facing the Communion.

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JC Fisher
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JC Fisher

"I wonder if the same outcry against +Josiah would be forthcoming if he was quoted as saying he was opposed to same-sex marriage? My hunch is, Yes."

If he was speaking about Nigeria? That we here at the Cafe can see no practical difference between the illegality of same-sex marriage compared to the illegality of homosexual EXISTENCE? We'll just be forthcoming w/ the exact same shrill "outcry"?

Your "hunch", christopher, would very much be WRONG.

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ronald reno
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ronald reno

Bishop Josiah has now made a statement. He is indeed a supporter of the traditional view of marriage and not a supporter of criminalization.

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Julie Gittens
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Julie Gittens

The Episcopal Café had the opportunity to share a private email standing Archbishop Josiah's statement regarding homosexuality and LET IT GO! But, you couldn't do it. Why not? Why are you so determined to make this man into someone who is against homosexuality when he isn't!!

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Cynthia Katsarelis
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What David said.

Those remarks in March 2014 can't be ignored. I respect the comments of the folks from "Changing Attitude," but David is right that there is contradictory information.

It will be a good thing if Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon has changed his position. It will also be good if he stays engaged and does indeed work on LGBT relations. This needs to be monitored, closely.

As for relations between TEC and the Anglican Communion, Jeremy makes a very strong point about the efforts of the "Anglican Communion" to punish and discipline TEC and Canada. Further, Rowan and Sentamu behaved atrociously at one of TEC's General Conventions, interfering and successfully lobbying for a hold on LGBT liberation. Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon himself was in the US and condemned the consecration of Bishop +Gene.

I think it's fair to say that it's the "Anglican Communion" led by Rowan that made relations toxic. The statements that TEC wouldn't accept any Anglican Communion leader who isn't in support of equal marriage are generally products of conservatives using both the larger communion and Christianity's history of oppression (racism, anti-semitism, burning of witches, etc.) to support continued oppression. And in some cases I think it is the product of liberal guilt - "including everyone means including human rights abusers..." I note that there is a Ugandan bishop who has stood courageously against the abusive laws there.

MLK gave us a strong theology of justice and liberation. That is why TEC is way ahead of the curve on liberation. The tolerance we need seems to be on display in the Indaba process. Blessing on all engaged in that.

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David Allen
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David Allen

You appear to be just posting knee-jerk reactions at this point. Did you actually read this piece before posting. I'm sure that the first paragraph mentions and quotes this very email about which you carry on.

The truth of the matter is that there exist contradicting statements from this man. He was previously quoted in a number of different sources as in favor of the kill the gays/jail the gays legislation in Nigeria. Now in this email you provide he is appearing to walk back that harsh position and claims that he is against the legislation.

Bro David

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June Butler
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Thanks for the update. I respect both Colin Coward and Davis MacIyalla, and I will give careful consideration to their words, though, at this time, I'm not sure I agree with them. In any case, the appointment has been made, and, with Colin Coward " I hope and pray the direction of change [in Bishop Idowu-Fearon] will be towards deeper understanding of and generosity towards LGBTI people."

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Jeremy Bates
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Jeremy Bates

"bodes ill for . . . the TEC’s relationship with other parts of the Anglican Communion"

Oh, you mean with the parts of the Communion that were eager to discipline TEC and Canada, and demote us to a new and second-class status?

At this point, as an institution, the Anglican Communion is a fool's errand.

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Donna Hicks
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Donna Hicks

Just came across this:
http://jessezink.com/2015/04/03/the-tengatenga-ing-of-josiah-idowu-fearon/

Well worth reading in the context of the ongoing conversation. I am grateful for some nuance, finally.

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David Allen
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David Allen

That doesn't really say much more than this author feels that +Josiah is being unfairly judged on previous statements. But it makes no attempt to address those previous statements. I'm not seeing anything close to a claim that in fact the bishop didn't make the statement, that he was misquoted, that it was taken out of context, etc. If he said that, it presents a problem for many in TEC. Now we must trust that his most recent statement in the email represents his current thought on the matter and walks back the previous statement.

Bro David

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Ephraim Radner
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Ephraim Radner

I am glad that Bp. Josiah was able to answer the question regarding Nigerian legislation; the remarks quoted earlier, that had him endorsing that legislation, seemed out of character, as others who have known him have indicated. Bp. Josiah has in fact been a consistent voice for engagement within the Communion across differences, although obviously from the perspective of someone who holds fairly clear classical Christian convictions. More to the point is whether an Anglican Christian who does not believe same-sex marriage is coherent with the Gospel -- as Bp. Josiah does not -- ever deserves to be a Communion leader, and to be respected in that role by others who do not share his views on this matter. Surely there are few leaders in our Communion who do not have an opinion one way or the other, and therefore the challenge comes in granting some measure of tolerance to those who disagree. Will that be forthcoming? I get the sense from many who have commented on this appointment at this site that such tolerance is unacceptable for those who hold to the classical Christian views of marriage: "who needs the Communion?", "let's cut funding" and so on. This surely bodes ill for the future place of classically-minded Christians within TEC, let alone the TEC's relationship with other parts of the Anglican Communion.

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Harry M. Merryman
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Harry M. Merryman

Dr. Radner,

You may well be right that “many who have commented on [+Josiah’s] appointment” find his appointment “unacceptable” because he “hold[s] to classical Christian views of marriage.” This would be unfortunate, though understandable, given the way TEC has been treated by many in the Communion for its evolving views on marriage and sexuality. After all, the intolerance was not initiated by TEC. The crisis in the Anglican Communion is not the result of TEC refusing to tolerate the “classical Christian view” for those in other provinces. It is others who have been intolerant of TEC’s discernments and unwilling to remain in communion with TEC. However, no matter the history, I agree that tolerance is called for.

But in this case, we have a cleric who apparently made a very clear statement of support for a law that criminalizes homosexuality. You state that he “. . . was able to answer the question regarding the Nigerian legislation” in the email that was posted. Certainly his answer appears to be wholly opposite to what he said earlier. I accept your (and others’) assessment that this earlier statement is “out of character.” But under the circumstances, I think it understandable if many are skeptical and find his “answer” to be unsatisfying if not unconvincing.

Beyond that, I suggest that the “point” you make about Communion leaders’ convictions works both ways, viz, “whether an Anglican Christian who . . . DOES believe that same-sex marriage is coherent with the Gospel . . . ever deserves to be a Communion leader, and to be respected in that role by others who do not share his (sic) views on this matter.”

-HMM (formed at St. Mark's, Berkeley)

Harry, I edited the double post for you - David Allen

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