Archbishop rebuffs claim of re-written pastoral letter

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The Church of Nigeria has denounced as ‘racist and demeaning’ suggestions that Archbishop Peter Akinola’s Aug 20 pastoral letter was ghost-written by his American bishop, the Rt Rev Martyn Minns.

The charges of American manipulation of African Archbishops were ‘another attempt to divert attention’ away from the root causes of the crisis of faith and order in the Anglican Communion, it said.

On Aug 24 the Church Times reported that ‘computer tracking software suggests’ the pastoral was extensively edited and revised over a four-day period by Bishop Minns. The article stated there were “about 600 insertions made by Bishop Minns, including whole new sections amounting to two-thirds of the final text.

There is also a sprinkling of minor amendments made by Canon Chris Sugden of the conservative group Anglican Mainstream.”

The Rev Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, charged that the Church Times report confirmed his suspicions that American conservatives, not African bishops were
driving the Global South’s calls for discipline of the US church.

The Church Times report “demonstrates that the most extreme demands being made of the Anglican Communion by the secessionists originate not with Archbishop Akinola in Nigeria but from Bishop Minns and other extreme conservatives associated with CANA.

“The conservatives who have been driving the Global South agenda have tried to present themselves as orthodox in contrast to what they claim is TEC’s heterodoxy. In their campaign to defeat those of us who support the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Anglican Communion, they are prepared to use methods which we believe to be abusive, dishonest and fail to embody Christian values,” Mr Coward said.

The Church of Nigeria’s director of communications, Archdeacon Akintunde Popoola, responded that it was “very insulting and racist to infer that the Primate of All Nigeria is
being dictated to.” Archdeacon Popoola stated work on the pastoral letter began in Abuja on Aug 6, as staffers gathered research for the letter. A first draft was read by Archbishop Akinola on Aug 9, but no corrections were made at that time.

Archbishop Akinola then travelled to the United States, and working in the offices of Bishop Minns, completed the letter. The charge that Bishop Minns wrote the letter was
nonsensical, Archdeacon Popoola said.

‘I fail to see any issue if amendments are then made on Bishop Minns’ computer’ by Archbishop Akinola. “Apart from the fact that they were together during the period of the
amendment, the Archbishop, like many effective leaders who spend little time glued to a desk, often phones me and other staff to write certain things. Such remain his idea and anyone who knows Archbishop Peter Akinola knows you cannot make him say what he does not mean,” he said.

Bishop Minns told The Church of England Newspaper he served in a secretarial capacity as Archbishop Akinola’s amanuensis, and did not write the pastoral as claimed by the Church Times.

--This article appears in the August 31st, 2007, edition of the Church of England Newspapaer, page 7

On Aug 20 CEN received a copy of Archbishop Akinola’s pastoral from the Church of Nigeria written using Microsoft Word. A revised copy of the pastoral was sent out later that day. In its report on the pastoral the CEN noted that Archbishop Akinola was visiting his parishes in Northern Virginia at the time of the document’s release.

Using the Microsoft Word feature ‘Track Changes’, changes to the original draft document as claimed by the Church Times can be observed, including the name of the registered user of the software used to edit the document.

While Bishop Minns is named as the registered owner of the software, there is no evidence that he was the author of the document — merely that it was typed on a machine whose copy of Microsoft Word was registered in his name.



Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Nigeria

18 Comments
Posted August 31, 2007 at 4:54 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Even if true, the allegations are broadly the same as claiming that Ronald Reagan was being manipulated by Peggy Noonan or his other speech-writers.

This tendency to grasp at any angle in an attempt to discredit ... smacks of desperation.

August 31, 5:51 pm | [comment link]
2. Sherri wrote:

The charges of American manipulation of African Archbishops were ‘another attempt to divert attention’ away from the root causes of the crisis of faith and order in the Anglican Communion, it said.

I think that nails the big fuss about the speech rather squarely.

August 31, 5:55 pm | [comment link]
3. Dan Crawford wrote:

One is tempted to add “deliberate, malicious desperation”.

August 31, 5:58 pm | [comment link]
4. Alice Linsley wrote:

Much ado about nothing.  It must have been a slow news day in the UK.

Meanwhile there is real news from Nigeria!  Readers should visit the Church of Nigeria website and see the amazing photos of the gathering of Nigerian bishops in Sokoto, a Nigerian state that embraces the Sharia code.  Sokoto is the home to the spiritual head of millions of Muslims in Nigeria, Sultan Muhammadu Saad Abubakar III.  There are photos of the Sultan in his white robes surrounded by many Primates in their purple shirts! Turning to Archbishop Akinola, the Sultan said, “If somebody tries to hit you because you are a Christian I will place myself in front of you so that they can hit me first!”

No greater love…

August 31, 10:31 pm | [comment link]
5. CharlesB wrote:

What a crock!  Just shows that the Archbishop is a wise and gracious man.  Anyone in his position would or at least should have such a letter reviewed by others.  And to agree to the revisions shows that he values the content more than his own pride of authorship.  Something in Proverbs comes to mind.  These people just want to do anything to put him down.  Kind of like the Democrats and president Bush.

September 1, 12:26 am | [comment link]
6. MargaretG wrote:

Matt - the racist comes about because of the repeated “chicken dinner” type comments which suggest that the African primates are unable to make up their own mind. On this occasion the implication that   because the letter was typed on Bishop Minns wordprocessor it could not possibly be the work of Akinola and that Akinola was being led, were more of the same type.

Racism is alive and well in the TEC.

September 1, 1:35 am | [comment link]
7. Mark Johnson wrote:

I too don’t see how this is “racist.”  However, I don’t see why the big fuss over this either.  Of course Minns has strong input with Akinola—we heard about that all over the reports from Dar es Salaam when Akinola reportedly went to confer with him regularly during the middle of meetings.  Getting advice or input doesn’t mean he’s incapable of doing things himself.

September 1, 8:57 am | [comment link]
8. RalphM wrote:

Matt Thompson and MargaretG,
While I do agree that there is an air of superiority in TEC’s pronouncements toward the Global South, and it does often contain more than a hint of racism, I think the “racist” cry is being heard far too often. 

TEC will never respect the Africans because TEC does not respect the word of God and the Africans do.

September 1, 9:02 am | [comment link]
9. Connecticutian wrote:

Perhaps part of the problem is the way certain factions, generally on the “left”, have casually tossed the term “racism” about over the past few decades.  It has taken on new meanings, probably inappropriately; but nevertheless, to paraphrase a Supreme Court justice, “we know it when we see it.”

Look at some of the (over)reactions to trivial things like sports commentators losing the jobs for saying that African-Americans have advantages in certain sports.  “Racist”, so off with his head.

I think Matt is generally right about this, it’s not true racism…  and yet, it is clearly racism as defined by entities such as TEC.

September 1, 9:03 am | [comment link]
10. Sherri wrote:

I think the “racist” reaction came from the very open implications in blogland, at least, that of course Abp. Akinola couldn’t have come up with the letter himself, he had to have a white man to tell him what to think.

September 1, 10:14 am | [comment link]
11. MJD_NV wrote:

I think “racism” may be lost in translation here.

To the American, the word nearly always means a black/white issue.  However, it’s been my impression that in Africa, the word has more of a connotation of the African race vs. the Western race. 

Thus, “racism” in the American sense is indeed a completely overblown charge.

However, if Canon Tunde used in the way I cite above, I frankly think he has a point.

September 1, 10:30 am | [comment link]
12. Br. Michael wrote:

It also reflects a double standard.

September 1, 10:40 am | [comment link]
13. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

‘Racism’ is relative. My Ugandan friends tell me that one of the funniest things going is to see the expression on African-Americans’ faces when they finally figure out that Africans regard them as white[/].

September 1, 3:51 pm | [comment link]
14. MJD_NV wrote:

EXACTLY my point, Bart Hall.

Matt, I appreciate that we are in “rought agreement” on this, but I still think that you’re not quite getting the semantics here.  To the African, blind, arrogant insensitivity from the West IS racism.  WE as Americans would never use that term bacause it’s got a very different conotation here. 

It’s just like hearing an American & a Brit discuss “football” - same language, same word - two different sports. I could continue to cite examples of this sort of linguistic jumble from both English & other languages, but you get the picture - “You keep using that word - I do not think it means what you think it means.”

And, to be honest, I am not sure Canon Tunde fully understands the charge he lobs when he uses that word with Americans. BUt the point is not the words used - the point is the attiturde expressed. And what we have here, Matt, as you so aptly expressed, is “Nigerians ... be[ing] prickly about “well-meaning” Westerners.”

And rightly so.

September 1, 5:30 pm | [comment link]
15. Summersnow wrote:

MJD_NV,
Perhaps the six-fingered man can ‘splain it better?

September 1, 9:46 pm | [comment link]
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