I came to Jamaica in the knowledge that it is a very homophobic country and I would need to be very careful and discrete here. I assumed that if I were to be threatened, it would be by a hostile Jamaican man. I was wrong. I have been threatened thos morning by Bishop Ikechi Nwosu of the Church of Nigeria, reinforced by the Ven Dr Abraham Okorie, the Nigerian clergy delegate.
Following the 8.30 press briefing, at which Canon Chris Sugden from Anglican Mainstream was not present. After the meeting I wandered downstairs to the swimming pool. Across the breakfast room I saw Canon Sugden with the Bishop Nwosu, Dr Okorie and Stanley Isaacs from South East Asia (the latter three ACC delegates. Also with them were Philip Asher and Julian Dobbs. I thought the group was worth a photograph because Canon Sugden had engaged in conversations similar to this at the Primates’ meeting in Dar es Salaam.
Having taken the photograph, I returned to the press room. Bishop Nwosu and Dr Okorie suddenly burst into the room and immediately challenged me. The bishop demanded that I gave him my camera. I had no right to take his photograph without his permission, he said. Calmly, I said no, I am not giving you my camera. He was seething with anger, looming over me, jabbing his finger at me. He was intimidating and very frightening. I understood how Nigerian bishops can so successfully and easily intimidate their own people.
I asked him whether this was the way a bishop should speak to another priest in the Anglican Communion. He continued with his demands that I give him my camera. I asked him if he was angry because I am a gay man. Yes, he said.
For one last time, he asked me, more appropriately, let me have that camera please. I responded firmly and calmly, no (though I felt anything but calm inside). You will see the consequences, he said as he finally gave up and left the room.
The incident raises a number of very serious issues. Why was he so angry at having his photograph taken in a public place? I have taken several pictures of him in the meeting room, where there are rules about taking photographs that I have signed to comply with, but I haven’t as yet used them.
Why was he so angry at having his picture taken in that context. What does he have to hide? Well, I can guess, and normally, the conservative strategy is to hire rooms in an adjoining hotel and hold meetings away from the public gaze.
Having failed to get what they wanted from Friday’s debate on the Covenant (just read the conservative web sites, blogs and commentaries), their next move would be to come up with a strategy today designed to sabotage this meeting or impose their own will.
Stanley Isaacs also leapt upstairs after me and turned his anger on a group of American journalists standing in the foyer. The atmosphere for me now is very unpleasant here. I know there is a Nigerian bishop present whose anger is almost uncontrollable.
Conservative plots are nothing new to me, nor will they be to those reading this blog. I was reminded of the attempt by Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma to exorcise Richard Kirker at Lambeth 1998.. What has shocked me this morning is Bishop Nwosu’s attempt to threaten and intimidate me. Isn’t this what conservatives are doing all the time to our Communion, all the time trying to hide behind a façade of niceness and reasonableness?