The unwavering stance of the African Anglican bishops on homosexuality won praise from the Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2004. Obasanjo, himself a born-again Christian, lauded the African bishops for standing for biblical values rather than heeding to the financial pressures of the Western world, during his speech to the premier African Anglican Bishops Conference.
"I wholeheartedly salute the wisdom, courage and resilience of African bishops within the Anglican Communion for standing so firmly against attempts to undermine our faith and falsify God's will and the word of God," Obasanjo told African bishops meeting in Lagos, Nigeria.
"Such tendencies are clearly unbiblical, unnatural and definitely un-African," Obasanjo said.
"Do not succumb to intimidation, blackmail, isolation or even barefaced persecution," he said, adding "stand firm for the gospel and the Word of God once delivered to the saints. At times like this, humanity needs men like you. Let your voice be heard within Africa and beyond."
Obasanjo’s speech opened the long-awaited African Anglican Bishops Conference, the first of its kind in history; Preparations for the gathering began in 2001.
Although the top bishops took pains to emphasize other issues are more important than that of homosexuality, Obasanjo’s address likely set the main flavor of the 4 day conference.
Prior to Obasanjo’s opening speech, Peter Akinola, head of the Anglican Church in Nigeria and chairman of the African bishops’ conference, explained the reason why African churches especially had to clarify its stance on homosexuality. According to Akinola, homosexuality is an “abomination” that goes against both the culture of Christ and the traditions of Africa; should the African Anglican church adopt homosexuality as an acceptable practice in leadership, many of the church members will leave the church or turn to Islam.
Some of the 300 bishops who gathered for the Conference on Monday said they may consider establishing separate theological seminaries to protect their priests from the teaching of the West, namely the Episcopal Church USA which recently ordained an openly gay man as bishop.
Africa accounts for about half of the world’s 76.5 million Anglicans; Nigeria alone has some 17.5 million members, making it the second largest archdiocese outside of England. African churches are also the fastest growing in the world; the ECUSA and several of the European Anglican provinces have been experiencing a financial and membership drawback.