Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Episcopal bishop of Washington has lambasted the archbishop of Nigeria for ignoring poverty and AIDS in Africa while criticizing U.S. and Canadian churches for ordaining and “marrying” homosexuals.

“Why does this archbishop spend so much time on human sexuality issues while so many of his countrymen and women are oppressed by poverty?” Bishop John B. Chane wrote in a Sept. 1 column in the Washington Window, the diocesan newspaper.

“Where is the strong voice of the Nigerian Anglican church in opposing the continued neglect of vulnerable women and children or in advocating on behalf of the poorest of the poor?” he wrote.

Bishop Chane and Archbishop Peter J. Akinola of Nigeria have met once, concerning AIDS, at a 2003 gathering of Anglican bishops in Nairobi, Kenya.

Their paths have since diverged. That November, Bishop Chane participated in the consecration of Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the world’s first openly homosexual Episcopal bishop.

Archbishop Akinola, spiritual head of Nigeria’s 17.5 million Anglicans, has become the de facto spokesman for 22 Anglican provinces that have partially or completely broken relations with the U.S. church over the Robinson consecration.

Most of the archbishops from these provinces will be in Cairo from Oct. 25 to 30 for an invitation-only meeting of Anglican prelates, mostly from the world’s developing nations. Items on the table, according to one of the planners, include militant Islam, AIDS and poverty.

Archbishop Akinola also recently disinvited Brazilian Archbishop Orlando Santo de Olivera from the Cairo meeting.

The Nigerian did so because Archbishop Olivera defrocked a conservative bishop from Recife who had clashed with his prelate over the Robinson consecration, even though Archbishop Olivera refused to discipline a pro-homosexual bishop from southwestern Brazil.

Archbishop Akinola seems to “presume to speak for many,” Bishop Chane wrote.

The Anglican Communion is not “a church dominated by a curia of primates and bishops,” he continued. “And yet that appears to be the direction in which we are heading. This is fearful indeed given the rhetoric of some of the primates claiming new authority for themselves.”

Last year, the archbishop visited the District, with Bishop Chane’s permission, to start a national network of Nigerian Anglican parishes as a conservative alternative to liberal U.S. Episcopal churches.

The archbishop also has urged African provinces to refuse donations from liberal Episcopal dioceses and agencies.

During the summer, Archbishop Akinola sharply criticized the Church of England for a July 25 statement agreeing to make homosexual clergy eligible for “civil partnerships” as long as they were not sexually active.

The Church of Nigeria has since deleted from its constitution all references to “communion with the see of Canterbury,” the symbolic center of the Church of England and the Anglican Communion.

Conservative Anglicans dismissed Bishop Chane’s criticism of the Nigerian as groundless.

The archbishop “has been an absolutely staunch, outspoken leader in dealing with poverty, AIDS, militant Islam, Shariah law and inequities toward women,” said Bill Atwood, general secretary of Ekklesia, a worldwide network of conservative Anglican bishops and archbishops.

According to the Sept. 4 Sunday Independent, a newspaper in Lagos, Nigeria, the archbishop chided Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo to his face during a funeral for “harsh policies,” which he said keep many Nigerians poor. He also criticized Mr. Obasanjo in front of the congregation for being 45 minutes late.

The archbishop has been portrayed in British media as using the Cairo meeting to usurp control of the Anglican Communion from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

The Rev. Martyn Minns of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, who will attend the Cairo meeting, said this is not true, pointing out that Archbishop Williams also will be there.

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