NIGERIA: Homosexuality and pedophilia must be condemned, says primate[Episcopal News Service] Anglican Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria told reporters at a July 14 press conference that "same-sex marriage, pedophilia and all sexual pervasions [sic] should be roundly condemned."
Okoh, who succeeded outspoken Archbishop Peter Akinola as primate of the Church of Nigeria on March 25, was giving his maiden press conference about the state of the church and nation when he accused the "church in the West [for using] their money to spread the homosexual lifestyle in African societies and churches; after all Africa is poor."
Nigerian church leaders have been among the Anglican Communion's fiercest critics of homosexuality, which is illegal in most African countries. In Nigeria, homosexual activity is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment or death by stoning in some states that have adopted Shari'a law.
Western churches “are pursuing this agenda vigorously and what is more, they now have the support of the United Nations," Okoh said. "We therefore call on parents to ensure that their children obtain their first degree in Nigeria before travelling abroad. Parents and guardians should closely watch and monitor the relationship which their children or wards keep so that deviant behavior could be timely corrected. The sin of homosexuality, it must be re-emphasized, destroyed the communities of Sodom and Gomorrah."
Okoh referred to the three moratoria on same-gender blessings, cross-border interventions and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate, which were first proposed by the 2004 Windsor Report and have been reaffirmed by all the instruments of communion.
The Church in Nigeria has consecrated former Episcopalians as bishops in the U.S., an action that is in contravention of the moratorium on cross-border interventions, and the U.S.-based Episcopal Church on May 15 consecrated Los Angeles Bishop Suffragan Mary Douglas Glasspool, the church's second openly gay, partnered bishop. Some dioceses in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada have chosen to bless same-gender relationships.
"We reject being put in the same category with churches conducting gay ordination and same-sex marriage, and the equating of our evangelical initiative (for which we should be commended) with those who are doing things unbiblical," Okoh said. "But for the Nigerian initiative and others like her, many of our faithful Anglican American friends who cannot tolerate the unbiblical practices of the Episcopal Church in America could have gone away to other faiths. The great commission to go in to all the world to save souls is our compelling constitution."
Okoh congratulated Ayodele Joseph Oritsejafor, president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, on his recent appointment as president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, the country's main ecumenical network.
"We invite him and all denominational leaders to protect Christian interests and our cherished way of life, including speaking out against the invading army of homosexuality, lesbianism and bisexual lifestyle under any guise," Okoh said. "In this matter silence can be detrimental to public well being. The issue at stake of human sexuality is not an Anglican prerogative and it is by no means limited to the Anglican circle as it is clearly shown all over the world."
Before being elected in September 2009 to serve as primate by the church’s bishops, Okoh was archbishop of Bendel province and bishop of the Diocese of Asaba.
Okoh said that he'd spent his first months as primate touring all 14 internal provinces of the Church of Nigeria, and that the conversations and feedback from Anglicans throughout the country had informed his address to the press.
Okoh reflected on the country's 50 years of self-governance. "We congratulate ourselves that we have a country to call our own, still united as one political entity, numerous difficulties notwithstanding," he said.
"However, we are all aware that the dreams and expectations of our founding fathers, prior to and at independence have not been met,” he added. “Basic infrastructure which is taken for granted in less-endowed countries than ours have virtually collapsed. Crime has hit an all-time high; ritual killers are on the prowl with little defense to the man and woman, boy or girl on the street; high profile hired assassinations have not been resolved creating an ominous culture of impunity among the powerful in society."
He also lamented issues with water, public transportation, unemployment, housing and corruption.
Okoh recognized the need for Nigeria to move away from its dependence on oil exports and explore more viable alternatives for income, such as agriculture and steel.
"Before we discovered oil in marketable quantity, we prospered on agricultural produce; even with our regional governmental structure," he said. "In my travels by road through various regions I observed the vast uncultivated but arable land mass everywhere; all green. I wonder why we still lack vision and mission such that can explore this resource to employ and feed all our people; why do most people hunger when God has so endowed us?"
The church's main priority, he concluded, "remains the evangelization of our people. The Gospel is not only proclaimed as a religious faith but a means of godly civilization."