Monday, December 25, 2006

Akinola Recoiled. Jesus Wept.

Today's New York Times includes a profile of Nigerian Archbishop Akinola. The article's title is simple enough: At Axis of Episcopal Split, an Anti-Gay Nigerian.

The first and last few paragraphs were the ones that particularly stunned me.

The Times story opens with this:

The way he tells the story, the first and only time Archbishop Peter J. Akinola knowingly shook a gay person’s hand, he sprang backward the moment he realized what he had done.

Archbishop Akinola, the conservative leader of Nigeria’s Anglican Church who has emerged at the center of a schism over homosexuality in the global Anglican Communion, re-enacted the scene from behind his desk Tuesday, shaking his head in wonder and horror.

“This man came up to me after a service, in New York I think, and said, ‘Oh, good to see you bishop, this is my partner of many years,’ ” he recalled. “I said, ‘Oh!’ I jumped back.”

Yeah, I can imagine Jesus doing that. Not!

When I read that in the Times, I vaguely recalled having heard of that meeting and seemed to recall the "gay person" in question was the ever-joyful Louie Crew – he who so frequently reminds us all that "God loves absolutely everybody!" Indeed, it turns out Louie's own account of that incident was published in The Witness at God Always Feeds Us in the Presence of Enemies. Here is the relevant segment of the piece:
In July 2002, I was a lector at the Enthronement of Peter Akinola (Archbishop of the Anglican Province of Nigeria) at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. Mark Sisk (Bishop of New York) invited Ernest and me, among many others, to his home to meet the archbishop at a reception afterward. The archbishop dashed to the other side of the room when I introduced him to Ernest at the punch bowl. Later in the reception Cathy Roskam (Bishop Suffragan of New York) called me over to engage the archbishop in conversation with me. Looking like a deer in headlights, he summoned an aide across the room and abruptly ended the conversation. Ernest had watched the latter scene from the doorway. "What did you say to him that put him into a panic?" he asked. "Nothing. He does not know you and me and he wants to keep it that way. Otherwise, he might have to feed my sheep."
In today's Times story, the reporters write: "Though he insisted that he was not seeking power or influence, he is clearly relishing the curious role reversal of African archbishops sending missionaries to a Western society he sees as increasingly godless." Then, in the penultimate paragraph of the story, we have this delightful quote from the lion of African Anglicanism.

“Self-seeking, self-glory, that is not me,” he said. “No. Many people say I embarrass them with my humility.”
Yeah, I can imagine Jesus saying that. Not!

In contrast to my near-speechless shock at the archbishop's actions and words, the Reverend Michael Russell (Rector, All Souls' Point Loma in the Diocese of San Diego) is articulate and right on the mark:

"He sprang backward." This shall be the first line of his commemorative description when it gets to Least [sic] Feasts and Fasts. He sprang backward from touching a gay person. How unlike Jesus or Francis or any of the multitude of Saints who actually honor the name Christian.
And with that, I shall let my brother Michael have the last word.

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