Cover Story

Men of the hard cloth

"Men of the hard cloth" Continued...

Issue: "2006 Daniels of the Year," Dec. 16, 2006

Akinola had to leave school after his primary education. He took up carpentry to support his family and ran a successful business before returning to school under church guidance. He was ordained an Anglican deacon in 1978, a priest in 1979, and attended Virginia Theological Seminary, where he received a master's in theology in 1981. He became an archbishop in 1997 and primate of all Nigeria in 2000 when the country came under one province. Like Orombi, Akinola "founded" a diocese in Abuja, which became surprisingly self-reliant using business investments to fund 12 primary and two secondary schools. Akinola has worked in both the predominantly Christian south and the largely Muslim north. In the south Anglicans often have been at odds with Roman Catholics; in the north, Islam and Christianity have been at war with one another.

When northern states began adopting Shariah law, Akinola called on the government to suspend oil receipts and supplies. "Time has come to call the Shariah governors to throw Shariah off our land. The governors were elected by Nigerians of all persuasions, not just by Muslims alone but for our common good," he said.

Last February when Muslims rioted over the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammad, Nigeria was hit hardest: In the north rioters killed more than 120 Christians, burned about 40 churches, and destroyed hundreds of shops and houses. Reprisals by Christians in southeast Nigeria killed about 100 Muslims and left perhaps thousands homeless. Akinola says the controversy ended discussions about dialogue between Christians and Muslims. "We have had the assumption that Islam is a religion of peace, and I ask myself: From what you see on the ground happening, how can you not see that Islam is not making peace? That understanding-it is frightening."

Akinola says he now tells those under his care to be cautious, "to watch what you say and where you go." But he draws a parallel to the conflict with the Western church: "I have Muslim friends, and we know the boundaries of our friendship. I have Roman Catholic friends, and we know the boundaries of our friendship. We must accept our boundaries in the Anglican Communion. Unity at the expense of the truth is not faith."

In appointing Truro Church's Minns, Akinola said he plans "not to challenge or intervene in the churches of (North America) but rather to provide safe harbor for those who can no longer find their spiritual home in those churches." Minns himself finds precedent. London sent clergy to America in colonial times, and now Africa is doing the same: "We are a church that needs help."

Orombi says he looks forward to key Anglican meetings, like one of worldwide Anglican leaders coming up in Tanzania in February, even though they are likely to turn into showdowns. "Many of us in the global south want this whole sexuality thing to be thrown out, to be finished," he said. "It is exhausting and debilitating." It is also painful. "If your brother decides he is not going to move, you are sad and pained and you are walking away. Not because you love it. You are walking away painfully, bleeding."

Daniel Nation

Archbishops Peter Akinola and Henry Orombi are not alone in shepherding U.S. churches that finally want to separate from the radically-led Episcopal Church; they happen to represent some of the largest numbers of Anglicans, both in their own countries and as emigrants (students and workers) to the United States. Others:

Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone represents 30,000 Anglicans in five South American countries. "If you're faithful to what Jesus calls us to do, you'll have a very uncomfortable life," he told a gathering of conservative Anglicans. "If you follow Jesus, an awful lot of people aren't going to like you."

Archbishop of the West Indies Drexel Gomez: "So if we are to go forward together the [Episcopalians] have to, as it were, backtrack."

Archbishop of Rwanda Emmanuel Kolini helped form Anglican Mission in America (AMIA) in 2000 as a way to provide "alternative oversight" to churches caught in a hierarchal web of Episcopal teaching radically at odds with Scripture.

Archbishop of Southeast Asia Datuk Yong Ping Chung retired in February but was dubbed "the Asian tiger" by Akinola for leading a small province to take a big stand for biblical authority. "Our battles did not come overnight, they are 30-40 years in the making, and we have until now been too willing to compromise," Yong told WORLD during an early December visit to the United States. With Kolini, Yong has led AMIA. "Only God could bring together a churchman from Sabah (North Borneo) in Malaysia and one from Rwanda, which has just gone through this period of genocide," he said. "To be a small church used by God for such a time is amazing and humbling. In God's economy it is not about human size and power. It is about heart and obedience."

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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