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.This man recoils at the realization that he touched a homosexual. (Can you imagine Jesus telling this story.) He believes homosexuality is an abomination akin to bestiality. He supports a bill in Nigeria’s legislature that would make homosexual sex and any public expression of homosexual identity a crime punishable by five years in prison. I think it is safe to say that he fits the definition of a bigot. He holds equally draconian views on women.
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.”
Some American Christians argue that the fact that the Nigerian and other churches in the developing world hold these views and are thriving while American mainline Christianity struggles proves the worth and "truth" of the conservative position. If this were really the choice we faced I would rather Christianity die than turn the clock back on a hundred years of Western progress in human rights.
Mainline, and particularly liberal, Christianity has real problems which it is just beginning to figure out and address. The reports of its demise, however, are premature. But one thing is for certain: its long public support for human rights and legal protections for blacks, women, and gays and lesbians is not only been the morally right thing to do but it is also in response to the prompting of the spirit of God. And where there is bigotry and support of discrimination against women or homosexuals or anyone else, we can be sure that God is not the prompting force.