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Nigerian Anglicans Consider US Gay Bishop Controversy

  • Cindy Shiner

Nigerian Anglicans are examining a report by a special commission that criticized U.S. Anglicans for ordaining a gay bishop. The controversy has threatened to split the Anglican Church and is not yet over. U.S. Anglicans are known as Episcopalians.

Nigeria’s Anglican leadership has been a leading critic of last year’s consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson. Conservative Anglicans, many of them African, have called for the reversal of Bishop Robinson’s consecration. The report by the Lambeth Commission, released this week, called for the U.S. Anglicans to apologize for the move.

The U.S. Episcopal Church has expressed “regret” that Bishop Robinson’s appointment has threatened to split the church, but stopped short of apologizing. As a country, Nigeria has the largest number of Anglicans outside of Britain. Nigerian Canon Gordon Okunsanya was appointed during one period to minister to African Anglicans in the United States to help close the gap in Anglican worship.

Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola announced this year the setting up of the Church of Nigeria in America for Nigerians who wanted to leave the Episcopalian Church.

But Canon Okunsanya said many African expatriates already worshiped separately before Bishop Robinson’s consecration. “There were a lot of African Anglicans in this country who are not members of the Episcopal Church and the question is why, and it came out that some of the reasons are that some of these African expatriates who are Anglicans did not see the Episcopal Church as Anglican Church. Some of them felt that they are better worshiping in the same way in which they were familiar with when they were back home in their country.”

He said he was appointed as a “missioner” to work with Episcopal Church bishops to find ways to allow the Africans to worship in ways that were familiar to them in Episcopal churches. “I think that different cultures have different ways of worship and liturgy,” Canon Okunsanya said. “I don’t think it’s a matter of belief. We all believe in the same God … I think where there may be differences in belief, and it would not be belief as far as I’m concerned, it would be in terms of interpretation of scripture and that’s what I think is the major issue here.” He said the report by the Lambeth Commission was “a good place to start” to reconcile the world’s Anglicans.

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