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'God wants unity' but doesn't get it

WHEATON | Lesbian chaplain protests Anglican archbishop's talk

September 24, 2007 Chicago SunTimes - LINK

BY STEVE PATTERSON Staff Reporter/spatterson@suntimes.com

Archbishop Akinola, at the podium, speaks at the Midwest Anglican Awakening at Wheaton College.

(Al Podgorski / Sun-Times)

They spoke of faith, preached unity and professed an unwavering love for God.

Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola did it Sunday from the pulpit of Edman Memorial Chapel at Wheaton College.

The Rev. Liz Stedman and more than two dozen others did it outside -- protesting Akinola's presence.

Akinola, of Nigeria, heads one of the Anglican faith's most thriving sectors and is building up churches at a roaring pace while carving out a firm stance against gay clergy.

But Stedman -- the Episcopal chaplain at Northwestern University who is also a lesbian -- stood outside the chapel where he spoke, a chapel named after her own grandfather, and protested what she and others say are the anti-gay and divisive messages Akinola preaches.

He spoke at the Midwest Anglican Awakening, where the theme was "That We May Be One."

But the Episcopal faith is anything but "one" now, with the church torn into factions separated in large part by support for gay clergy. The Episcopal Church represents Anglicanism in the U.S. But it has angered some Anglican leaders -- including Akinola -- by moves like consecrating openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. In Chicago, a lesbian priest, Rev. Tracy Lind, is among five finalists to become bishop of the Chicago diocese.

"I wish, in our community, we could come together and talk, listen to each other and listen to the core messages of Scripture and how we're each trying our best to live out the call," Stedman said. "If that conversation could take place, I'd have tremendous hope."

'Dying in sin'

Indeed, Akinola spoke of his own hope in the future of his faith.

In a fiery and passionate sermon, he called on all Christians to better commit themselves to the "word of God" and not to resist being submissive to God's directions as dictated in the Bible.

Doing so, he said, will deliver "the power to change people, to change their way of life" and "until that has happened, you cannot have unity."

Akinola provided little controversy in his speech, nor did he make reference to homosexuality or the protesters outside.

He insisted, "God wants unity," but added "if God says something's not right, we say it's not right," and that Christians must not "manipulate the word of God."

As believers, he said, Christians can't "selectively" pick teachings to follow.

"'Oh, that is for those people, this is for us,'" he said mockingly, insisting instead, "whoever loves God will obey God."

He ripped those telling "little lies" and "bearing false witness," as well as those committing adultery and "fornicating," adding that those "just having fun" will soon be "dying in sin."

"Call a spade a spade," he said. "You do it, you go to hell, unless you repent."


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