by Pat Ashworth
ENGLAND has let Christ go, says the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola. Consequently, the “huge religious vacuum” created in the name of multiculturalism is being filled by Islam.
In an interview with Third Way, the Archbishop says he now leads 20 million Anglicans — “not on paper: in the pews on Sundays”. He describes himself to Joel Edwards, director of the Evangelical Alliance, as a nobody; someone with no claim to glamour or “superstar syndrome”; a “tool in the hand of God”, with no choice but to be humble.
As a family man, he says that none of his six children, aged between 25 and 38, have ever given him a sleepless night. While he acknowledges that in his younger years as a Canon he could be “a little bit aggressive”, he says that his new status as Baba, spiritual father to the country, gives him no choice but to be “more tender, more pastoral, more caring”. It is a self-portrayal different from his defiant appearance in a BBC documentary, Battle of the Bishops, screened in July and featuring his preparation for, and presence at, GAFCON.
In the Third Way interview, he reflects on being fatherly and on the hard work of getting the 12 Primates of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA), which he chairs, to achieve things by consensus: “We discuss as gentlemen, as elders, as fellow fathers.”
He denies any assertion that GAFCON is a personal triumph for him. That is “a falsehood of the highest order”, he insists. He declares himself proud to be described as conservative, “because there is no other name given under heaven by which man shall be saved”. When asked how African culture intersects with biblical truth, he says: “Whatever in my culture is not consistent with the mind of God must go.”
The West’s tendency to accom-modate cultural trends within the Christian religion is one of the big problems facing the world, he suggests, parodying Christian leaders failing to proclaim the gospel as fluttering: “‘Oh no, no, no, just acquiesce. Just be gentle. Just be politically correct. Just be moderate. Just be tolerant.’ Now that’s arrant nonsense.”
He says that the Western media and some “Church Fathers” have demonised him over tensions between the Muslim and Christian communities. “But when you had your own dose of what has been going on in my country, you knew what I was talking about.”
England is making “a constant effort to throw God out of the system”, he says, describing a reported one million Anglicans at Sunday worship as “not even as much as one diocese in my country”. He criticises English preachers for their timidity: “When the gospel is proclaimed uncompromisingly, the Muslim respects you. When you have no regard for your religion, when you are neither here nor there, the Muslim disdains you — detests you.”
On the issue of homosexuality, he recalls warning the former Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Most Revd Frank Griswold, that all the churches in Africa and Asia would have to close if the Americans went ahead with consecrating Gene Robinson. “All to no avail. Their idea is to make all of us do what they are doing,” he says.
The October edition of Third Way is available next week.