YOU CAN BE A FOLLOWER, BUT WHO'S YOUR LEADER?

Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola's attempts to break the Anglican Communion apart continue:

Anglican conservatives, frustrated by the continuing stalemate over homosexuality in the Anglican Communion, declared Sunday that they would defy historic lines of authority and create a new power bloc within the communion led by a council predominantly of African archbishops.

[...]

They insisted that they were not breaking away from the Anglican Communion or creating a schism. But their plans, if carried out, could create severe upheaval in the communion, the world’s third largest grouping of churches, after the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches.

This upheaval has been going on for a while; conservatives within the communion have been breaking from the American church for years now, ever since openly gay New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson was consecrated in 2003.

Akinola has been essential to the break. He defied the requests of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Episcopal presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and installed the Virginian Martyn Minns as a bishop of the Nigerian church, after Minns broke from the Episcopal one. Just as critically, he has been a mouthpiece for the most homophobic tendencies within the church, telling the New York Times that he jumped back in horror the first time he met a gay couple, comparing homosexuality to everything from pedophilia to zoophilia, and pushing for Nigeria to enact a five-year mandatory sentence for homosexual acts or "associations", a bill so broad that it could lead to the imprisonment of AIDS caregivers. While there would surely be conservatives fighting against Robinson and the liberalization he represents without Akinola, he has increased their power and influence tremendously.

In no small part because of these retrograde social views, Akinola has wide support among American conservatives. After Minns' installation, the Washington Post published a mash note to Akinola by Michael Gerson, calling his Christianity "undeniably alive" and denouncing Williams and Schori's "condescension". Rick Warren even compared him to Nelson Mandela. Warren would do better to head the words of Mandela's ally, and Akinola's fellow Anglican Archbishop, Desmond Tutu: "If God, as they say, is homophobic, I wouldn't worship that God."

--Dylan Matthews

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