I tend to think of ex-gay ministries as appealing primarily to fundamentalist evangelicals. But there are some “mainline” churches that also are conservative and that readily buy into the anti-gay activism that Exodus and NARTH offer.
Two such churches are Truro Church and The Falls Church, two large historic and affluent Episcopal churches in Virginia near the National Capital. The Truro Church supports “healing from homosexuality” and recommends Exodus, Love Won Out, and Exodus’ local affiliate, Regeneration. The Falls Church relies on NARTH as a source for why gay people are not entitled to civil rights.
Truro and The Falls are not ordinary Episcopal churches. They are far more conservative and just this month voted to sever ties with the Episcopal Church and align themselves with the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola.
Although there were other areas of dispute building between the conservative and liberal branches of the church, the issue that brought this separation to a head was disagreement over the place of gay people within the church. So it is fair to compare that policy which they found unacceptable, namely the recognition of a gay bishop in New Hampshire, to that which they find far preferable, the beliefs of Peter Akinola.
Akinola is making a name for himself primarily on one issue, his opposition to homosexuality. And as such, he’s taken well documented positions and expressed his opinions without hesitation. In an article yesterday in the Amherst Times, Akinola reveals his sole experience with an openly gay person:
The way he tells the story, the first and only time Archbishop Peter J. Akinola knowingly shook a gay person’s hand, he sprang backward the moment he realized what he had done.
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.”
Akinola is also an anti-gay political activist in his native Nigeria. In his Message to the Nation, the archbishop endorsed anti-gay legislation that “includes measures so extreme that the State Department warned that they would violate basic human rights.” The AP reports that
Lawmakers in Nigeria are debating a bill that would ban same-sex marriage and any form of association among gays, even sharing a meal at a restaurant.
Other activities prohibited under the proposed law include belonging to gay clubs or reading books, watching films or accessing Internet sites that “promote” homosexuality.
Punishment for viewing Ex-Gay Watch in Nigeria under Akinola’s favored bill would be five years in jail.
Akinola’s attitudes about gay persons go far beyond just his Biblical interpretation or understanding. It’s clear that Akinola views gays with fear and loathing. Perhaps some of this attitude is culturally initiated and perhaps some is based in ignorance or unfamiliarity.
However, it does cause me concern that churches who turn to ex-gay ministries for guidance on issues relating to sexual orientation would sever a relationship with their parent church over the issue of homosexuality and place themselves under the authority of a leader that embodies the very definition of homophobia.
Exodus claims that they seek to challenge those within the church “who respond to homosexuals with ignorance and fear”. It seems that their consistent vocal condemnation and political lobbying may have negated this part of their mission completely.
(thanks to commenter Ken R for providing information about the link to Exodus and NARTH)