Nigerian Anglican Primate stirs homophobia

Anglican Church of Nigeria backs harsh new anti-gay law

London – 4 March 2013


The Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, has condemned homosexuality and gay marriage, saying: “The basics of Jesus Christ will continue to be our teachings and we will not depart from it….The basics of Christian marriage is between man and woman.”

British human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell, has criticised the Primate, who heads the Anglican church in Nigeria, accusing him of “stirring up prejudice against gay people in Nigeria.”

Okoh spoke during the ordination of three Anglican Bishops – James Olusola Odedeji (Bishop of Lagos West), Simeon Oluwole Borokini (Bishop of Akure) and Geoffrey Enyinnaya Okorafor (Bishop of Egbu) at the Cathedral of St. Jude Ebute Metta, Lagos.

During the service, Okoh described homosexuality and same-sex marriage as great evils and works of the devil that must neither be condoned nor allowed to exist in Nigerian society. He has previously condemned the “homosexual lifestyle”, describing it as “the way of death.”

The Nigerian Anglican church supports the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill, which is currently before parliament. It proposes some of the harshest anti-gay laws in the world.

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According to The Guardian newspaper of Nigeria, Okoh told the assembled Sunday congregation:

“You are already aware of the evil wind blowing across the Western world, by way of the homosexual agenda. They want to push it down everybody’s throat. Whether you like it or not, the government is doing so and the church is doing so. And as far as they are concerned, it is a matter of human right. But God’s right is not discussed. I want to say that you have a responsibility to this church, not to allow any influence from any quarters to corrupt our church,” the Primate said.

“The Biblical understanding of marriage will continue to be the basis of our teaching; we will not change that position. So, no matter what they tell you, no matter where you go and who your friend is, please, resist the Devil and all his works, and he will flee from you.

“I want to encourage our clergy, particularly those of you who have attachment with the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe and America, don’t bring that influence in here. It is the responsibility of your Bishops to know where you go, who you relate with, and the influence around you. It may not be helpful to you to align with those people,” he said.

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Another Nigerian news report from the Naij website quoted Okoh as also saying:

“There are lots of immoralities going on in the world and we do not want our Bishops or our members to be involved in any act of immoralities. I am calling on our clergies not to allow any influence from any quarter to corrupt the church of Christ.

“The basics of Jesus Christ will continue to be our teachings and we will not depart from it. A practicing homosexual would not be of any help for the nation and the Church of God at large. The basics of Christian marriage is between man and woman and not between man and man or other way round,” he said.

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Responding to the Nigerian Primate’s comments, Peter Tatchell, who is Director of the London-based human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said:

“Nicholas Okoh is preaching a false, unchristian gospel. Jesus Christ condemned many sins but he never once condemned homosexuality. The Christian gospel is one of love and compassion. It is not consistent with homophobic prejudice.”

“The Primate supports Nigeria’s discriminatory anti-gay laws. Discrimination is not a Christian value.

“If Rev Okoh supports love and marriage, surely he should welcome fact that Nigerian gay couples love each other and want to get married. Their love is just as real as the love of husbands and wives. I know gay couples who have together for 20, 30 and 50 years. To deny them the right to marry is cruel and heartless.

“The Anglican church of Nigeria should welcome loving, committed same-sex couples into its communion. It should cease supporting the persecution of gay people in Nigeria.

“I am not asking Nicholas Okoh to approve of homosexuality but I do ask him to stop vilifying gay Nigerians. He should support the decriminalisation of homosexuality and speak out against the anti-gay bill that is currently before the Nigerian Parliament, the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill.

“In a democratic, free society, religious leaders are entitled to express their opposition to lesbian and gay people but they are not entitled to demand that their interpretation of scripture becomes the law of the land. That is the slippery slope to theocracy, not democracy,” said Mr Tatchell.

Further information:

Peter Tatchell
Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Email: [email protected]

Nigerian LGBTIs in the Diaspora against Anti-Same-Sex Laws

Nigerian lesbian and gay activists:

Yemisi Ilesanmi – [email protected]
Davis Mac-Iyalla – [email protected]