When Fraternal Correction Isn’t Enough

Christianity has always recognized the value of fraternal correction in living the Christian life. This responsibility to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper has its roots in the very words of Jesus. In the Gospel we read, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother” (Mt. 18:15). This admonition comes in a long passage after Jesus has been asked by the disciples who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.

The Episcopal bishop of Washington, John Bryson Chane, recently challenged his brother bishop and Anglican Primate of Nigeria, Peter Akinola. Akinola and other Nigerian bishops support new Nigerian legislation that not only bans same-sex marriage, but also provides up to five-years imprisonment for practially anything that demonstrates public support for a “same sex amorous relationship.” A clergy person who officiates over a non-civilly recognized same-sex commitment ceremony could end up in jail, as could those who publicly demonstrate or speak out against this totalitarian law.

Bishop Chane is to be commended for his courage in calling to task not only Archbishop Akinola, but also those many Episcopalians and others here in the U.S. who support him. Because Akinola’s sin was quite public, it is thus appropriate that Bishop Chane’s correction be public as well. For his support of such blatantly discriminatory law, Archbishop Akinola is no less than (and no more than) a public sinner … and it is right that he be publicly rebuked.

Unfortunately, I suspect that Bishop Chane’s words will fall on deaf ears, even if they come to Akinola’s attention. Episcopalians and Nigerians of good will the world over should join their voices with Bishop Chane’s and others who understand that ALL people, including gay men and women, are created in God’s image and likeness. Tell Archbishop Akinola that he is wrong and urge him to repent during this holy season of Lent.

Episcopalians are currently preparing for their triennial General Convention this coming June in Columbus, Ohio. Let us pray that Archbishop Akinola’s sin will be named for what it is and that the Convention will loudly and clearly uphold the rights of gay men and women to participate fully in the life of church and civil society.

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