The following is a transcript of an interview by BBC presenter William Crawley of Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the new Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion on the BBC Sunday Programme conducted on August 9 2015.
BBC: How messy do you think the global Anglican Church is or should be?
Archbishop Idowu-Fearon: Well, if it is messy. I’m not sure it is messy enough. I would wish it were a bit messier than it is now. Seriously, I’m not joking.
Where would you like to see some more messiness?
I suppose we need a bit more of prosecution from outside, and I am speaking from my experience in my own country. When we have extremists — Muslim extremists — either burning churches or stopping us from going about our normal life, the Church or the denominations pull together.
Are you serious about that? To see more persecution of the Church?
Not persecution … not persecution … I wouldn’t want to see people being killed. But I would want a situation where Christians are made to focus on the essentials that is: preach the Gospel … live out the Gospel. I think that’s what we need to concentrate on.
Underlying that response to that question is the idea that the unity of the Church is a prized possession of the Anglican Communion.
But when you look at the Anglican Communion today, isn’t that notion of unity simply a fiction. The game has been changed, Archbishop, by the move of The Episcopal Church in America by allowing gay marriage. Doesn’t that have colossal impact on Anglican churches, particularly in Africa? Particularly all over the world, it isn’t just in Africa. However, the situation within TEC, why all of us within The Communion have some uneasiness about it is simply because it goes against Resolution 1.10 of Lambeth 1998. That Resolution says: “In view of the teaching of Scripture we uphold faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in life-long union and believe that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage.
The other side of the coin is in Nigeria or Uganda, where homosexuals are being criminalized. It goes against the spirit of Resolution 1:10.
Are you saying clearly today that it is wrong of Anglican bishops, in some African countries, to call for or support of the criminalization of homosexuality?
Because it goes against Resolution 1:10. Any Resolutions from any (Anglican) Province that does not take Resolution 1:10 seriously, is against the agreement within this Church.
But even setting aside a Lambeth resolution, Archbishop, do you believe it is morally wrong of a fellow bishop of yours to support the criminalization of gay people?
Well, I’m not sure I’d want to air my own opinion, because as Secretary General my job is to present and execute the decisions of the Four Instruments of Unity we have. If I have a personal opinion, it is a personal opinion, and it carries no weight.
So you can’t tell us today whether you believe it is morally wrong to lock gay people up?
I stand by Lambeth Resolution 1:10. If that Resolution, and wanted to look at it, you’d judge our sociologies, we don’t actually draw conclusions. We state the facts the way they are and let the listener make up his or her mind. And I would plead that you’d help me do the job, and say Resolution 1:10 is against this and is for that instead of saying the Secretary General, which may upset some of the bishops or upset some of the members.
Some of the people think that what the American church has done has been to massively sub the Archbishop of Canterbury. Do you think The Episcopal Church in the United States should be disciplined?
I would strongly recommend that their Presiding Bishop [Katharine Jefferts Schroi] should be given the opportunity to come and explain himself (sic), and those who disagree with this member of the family within that particular family, let them also explain themselves.
We need to show that, look, we are concerned about what you have done and the impact on our corporate witness. So give us time, to take our decision, and when our decision is taken and they accept fine. If they don’t accept, they have a choice…
You can stay and do as you are told or get out.
Exact … ah, well, if you put it that way. But I would wished they would did whatever … because whatever it is it is not punitive, it is meant to be corrective, and to let people know that this Communion has a position.
How are you going to get all these different factions under one roof, given that there is no current plans for a Lambeth Conference?
Well, if there is no Lambeth Conference now, I believe this Communion , in spite of our differences, is still viable, I have spent 25 years in my country working for the promotion of the culture of respect for differences between Muslim and Christians with our major theological and doctrinal differences, and if we can do that as Muslims and Christians, I believe this Communion will stay together.
Note: Lambeth Conference 1998 Resolution 1.10
commends to the Church the subsection report on human sexuality;
* in view of the teaching of Scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, and believes that abstinence is right for those who are not called to marriage;
*recognizes that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation. Many of these are members of the Church and are seeking the pastoral care, moral direction of the Church, and God’s transforming power for the living of their lives and the ordering of relationships. We commit ourselves to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and we wish to assure them that they are loved by God and that all baptized, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ;
*while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture, calls on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialization and commercialization of sex;
*cannot advise the legitimizing or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions;
*requests the Primates and the ACC to establish a means of monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Communion and to share statements and resources among us;
*notes the significance of the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Human Sexuality and the concerns expressed in resolutions IV.26, V.1, V.10, V.23 and V.35 on the authority of Scripture in matters of marriage and sexuality and asks the Primates and the ACC to include them in their monitoring process.