My colleague and friend, Davis Mac-Iyalla, Director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, has sent me a message of reassurance following my encounter with Bishop Nwosu.
Davis is glad “that I came out alive from an encounter with such people who can do anything to achieve their own goals in the Communion in the name of Christianity.” I don’t think I am at risk of being killed here in the Jamaica Pegasus hotel but Davis’s comment reminds me that many Nigerian LGBT people are threatened with death and killed because of their sexuality.
The incredible anger expressed by the bishop to me shows me what gay Nigerians can expect if they dare to make themselves visible. Davis did that, initially in Nigeria and then from the relative safety of Togo where he received death threats and was physically attacked. The Church of Nigeria claimed there was no proof they were implicated in the threats or attack.
My experience this morning shows me that Nigerian bishops are perfectly capable of threatening and intimidating people – and if they will do that to me in the context of an ACC meeting, how much more feely will they attack and abuse those they disagree with at home in Nigeria.
Davis reminded me that every Sunday members of Changing Attitude Nigeria in every Diocese in the Church of Nigeria are worshiping under the same roof with priests and bishops who hold intolerant, abusive and threatening views about gay and lesbian people. He asks how many more LGBT Nigerians will become refugees from the country before the Church of Nigeria repents its homophobia.
Last week I had a brief conversation with the Ven Dr Abraham Okorie. I introduced myself as Director of Changing Attitude and said we worked for LGBT Anglicans.
Later in the week he contributed to the debate on the Anglican Covenant, referring to The Episcopal Church as satanic because they want to create more problems rather than heal wounds.
Satanic was the word he used about lesbian and gay people in his conversation with me. Lesbian and gay people are only welcome to come to church if they repent, he said. Their activities are satanic. For Dr Okorie, and possibly for bishop Nwosu, there is no place for LGBT people in Nigeria. They are a satanic presence. There can be no listening process when church leaders hold this attitude. The support of the Church of Nigeria for further punitive legislation against gay people and gay marriage is perfectly logical in their mindset.
Not all Nigerian bishops, priests and lay people have the same mind set. Unknown to them, many have gay and lesbian sons and daughters. Many also have homosexual feelings which they suppress or turn into anger against gay men.
The attitudes of these representatives from the Church of Nigeria compromise their associates, some present here, from the UK and North America. Leaders of Anglican Mainstream tell me that bringing practitioners of reparative therapy to a conference in the UK is a contribution to healing LGBT people which the Listening Process should acknowledge. I want to ask them how this apparently docile and tolerant attitude relates to the Christian theological view in Nigeria that homosexuality is satanic.