Sex-for-mark allegation against Venerable: Why the Anglican Church should speak.
The Punch Newspaper of April 14, 2018 carried a story where an unnamed clergyman in the Ife Diocese of the Anglican Church explained why neither the Bishop nor the Church will officially respond to the viral sex-for-mark allegation against a Venerable in the Diocese.
According to the report, the Venerable (a Professor in the Obafemi Awolowo University) in question did not respond to enquiries, the members and clergy declined to speak on the issue and the Bishop’s Court was hostile. These responses are understandable, as the Police would tell you that you have a right to be silent. It turns out that in life, however, not communicating is also communicating.
What appears unfathomable are the reasons given by an unnamed “senior clergyman” in the Diocese, who told the reporter that neither the Church nor the Bishop will address the matter, since the “alleged offence was not committed in the church or against a church member”. Really?
Continuing, the clergyman said: “You don’t need to come and interview the Bishop or any member of the church. What do you want us to say? We can’t speak on the matter. What happened was between a lecturer and a student and it probably happened on the campus, so, what do you want the church to say on it? If it had been an allegation of a rape or sexual misconduct against a member or that the man in question did what he was accused of while ministering, then the church would have spoken but not on this case. I am sure that the bishop will not talk to you or any journalist on this”
Is the clergyman saying that what church members, not to mention church leaders, do outside the Church is no business of the church? It happened between “a lecturer and a student”. But this is no randomn lecturer, but a Venerable of the Diocese. One news report wryly observed that the said lecturer is high enough in the hierarchy to become a bishop.
Reputation, good reputation, was a critical requirement in the Scriptures for the appointment of leaders in the Church. And no, it was not just reputation in the Church. In appointing the very first Deacons in the Church, the requirements started with “Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report…” In the book of Timothy, talking about the appointments of overseers, says “A church leader must be without fault…He should be a man who is respected by the people outside the church…” 1 Tim 3:1-7 (GNB).
What Church leaders did outside the Church was important, and remains important to God!
Apostle Paul was intensely concerned about the behaviour of church members outside the Church. And he spoke forcefully to the incident of one man who was reported to be sleeping with his stepmother. It would have been convenient for him to say “what two consenting adults do in the comfort of their homes is none of our business”. But no. He addressed the matter with the seriousness it deserved.
God is concerned about how we live our lives outside the Church. That is why the Lord said “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven”.
This is not the time for sophistry. It is time for contrition, and for healing. Avoiding to address an issue that is all over the media with your name written on it, using clever arguements, will not cut. As they say today, the internet never forgets.
If the Anglican Church wants to be taken seriously when she speaks to National Issues as she usually does during her Annual Synods, she must not be seen to avoid addressing similar issues within its own domain, simply because “it happened on campus”. It will be painful, but then the Word says again : “The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.” Proverbs 20:30 (GNB).