Nigerian Gay-Rights Advocate Speaks Out to U.S. Churches

An Anglican gay-rights advocate from Nigeria is currently visiting Episcopal churches across the United States on a speaking tour.

Davis Mac-Iyalla, founder of Changing Attitude Nigeria – the country's only gay-rights organization – spoke at Church of Our Saviour in Cincinnati, on Pentecost Sunday amid divisions in the Episcopal Church over homosexuality and Anglican tradition. Nearly two weeks into his six-week tour, Mac-Iyalla has visited three U.S. congregations and prepared a petition against the "persecution" of homosexuals in Nigeria.

Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria, the most populated country in the African continent. And the Nigerian government is likely to pass a same-sex "marriage" ban that would imprison anyone who "performs, witnesses, aids or abets the ceremony of same-sex marriage" or forms gay groups.

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Archbishop Peter Akinola, who heads the Church of Nigeria in the Anglican Communion, has been a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and the consecration of openly gay men as priests. His conservative stance is reflective of Nigerian tradition where homosexuality is seen as "taboo."

"Homosexuals are thought of as threatening the divinely ordained order of the community," stated the Church of Nigeria report for "The Listening Process" – a mandate in the Anglican Communion to listen to the experience of homosexual persons.

"The so called 'right' to homosexual orientation threatens the order of society because the continuation of the race is threatened by gay practice," the report added. "Children are treasured as fruits of marriage and any union, as a gay union, that prevents the propagation of the community's growth is a personal shame to be openly censured."

The Church of Nigeria thus remains strongly opposed to homosexuality and the recent actions of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, including the 2003 consecration of openly gay bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

At the same time, the Nigerian Anglican church, as well as the rest of the global communion, is committed to the pastoral care of homosexual people.

When Mac-Iyalla, who was an active member of the Church of Nigeria, founded Changing Attitude-Nigeria, he was reportedly fired from his job as a school principal and ostracized by his family and friends. Changing Attitute-Nigeria is a network of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and heterosexual members.

He is now scheduled to appear in about 20 cities, including New York City with Robinson, who is at the heart of the Episcopal Church's controversy, on June 19 at Church of the Holy Apostles.

Meanwhile, Akinola has a growing number of orthodox Anglican congregations joining a missionary arm called the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), which he had set up in the United States as an offshoot of the Church of Nigeria. Some 34 congregations have split with the Episcopal Church, discontent with the U.S. body's departure from Christian orthodoxy, and joined CANA.

Akinola has said if the Episcopal Church is "back in line" with the Anglican Communion, the Church of Nigeria will cease from the ministry of CANA which is meant to provide a safe spiritual home for orthodox Anglicans. The Episcopal Church faces a Sept. 30 deadline to make an unequivocal pledge not to authorize same-sex blessings and not to confirm another openly gay bishop.

"The Church is clear that all people are sinners and need to repent. What it will not do is bless sinful lifestyles," the Church of Nigeria affirmed.

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