Most of us are aware of Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, who is gay.  His consecration as bishop caused a great deal of furor in the worldwide Anglican Communion, the loose confederation of national Churches which follow the traditions laid down by the Anglican Church (Church of England). The Episcopal Church is the American branch of the Anglican Communion.

Conservatives in the Anglican Communion have been disgruntled for some time over innovations in the national Churches of England, Canada and the US: changing liturgy, consecration of female priests, but particularly tolerance of gays and lesbians. The elevation of Gene Robinson to bishop (and who just recently married) pushed conservatives into action.The conservative leadership has come from the Global South. The national churches of Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda comprise half of all Anglican worshipers in the world and their leaders wield much influence.  Recently, the archbishops of those three nations convened a conference in Jerusalem for conservative bishops from around the world to discuss formally separating from the Anglican Communion.

The conference ultimately decided not to secede.  But not before the leader of the Church of Nigeria, Archbishop Peter Akinola, gave a press conference in which he seemed to shrug off violence against gays and lesbians.

In response Archbishop Peter Akinola said that he was not aware of any such incidents anywhere in Africa. He also said he was unaware that anyone had been imprisoned for being gay or lesbian.

When given the example of a lesbian women from Uganda who had applied for asylum in the UK after being jailed, raped in the police station, and marched for two miles naked through the streets of Uganda, Archbishop Akinola said: “That’s one example. The laws in your countries say that homosexual acts, actions are punishable by various rules. I don’t need to argue.”

“If the practice (homosexuality) is now found to be in our society” he continued, “it is of service to be against it. Alright, and to that extent what my understanding is, is that those that are responsible for law and order will want to prevent wholesale importation of foreign practices and traditions, that are not consistent with native standards, native way of life.”…

But such violence has been happening. One example of this tolerance of violence occurred earlier this year, when a gay rights leader was attacked by a mob while attending a funeral.

Of course, such incidents wouldn’t bother Archbishop Akinola.  He is proud to say he has only shaken hands with a gay person once, and that was purely by accident:

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.”…

Archbishop Akinola is the person many conservatives in the US (and elsewhere) look to for Christian leadership.  But where is the love which is at the heart of Christianity?