Friday, July 09, 2021

Preserving Wesleyan heritage and implications of same-sex marriage policy - ITREALMS

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1.00   BACKGROUND

The Conference of the British Methodist Church announced Wednesday 30th June 2021 that same-sex couples will be allowed to get married on its premises. This followed debates on the topic at the Methodist Conference where the proposals to allow same-sex marriages were passed with 254 votes in favour and 46 against.
This follows in the footsteps of the Church of England which in Britain allows Same Sex Marriage in accordance with their statutory environment. It is instructive to note that for some Provinces of the Church of England this is not the case, as exemplified by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) which stoutly rejected Same Sex Marriages and has rejected communion with mother church on these grounds exemplified in their non attendance of Lambeth Conferences to date.

2.00 METHODIST CHURCH NIGERIA DOCTRINAL POSITION ON SAME SEX MARRIAGES & RELATIONSHIPS

Methodist Church Nigeria, the premier Christian mission in Nigeria having set foot on the shores of Nigeria earlier than any other Christian mission on 24th day of September 1842 is a Church wholly founded on the principles of Scriptural Holiness; and this it has preached and practiced since the founding of the Church by The Reverends John and Charles Wesley in Great Britain.

The Wesleyan principle of Scriptural Holiness as it affects Marriage is further delineated for the guidance of the Church and members in S. 41, 42 and 43 of the 2021 Constitution of Methodist Church Nigeria as follows:

“41. A valid marriage of a man and a woman who are competent to marry consists in the consent to be husband and wife and declaration thereof before witnesses to live permanently one with another as husband and wife.

42. Marriage in Local Church is controlled by custom and may be modified by State legislation. Nevertheless, the Church has set Standards for Christian Marriage and when these are complied with the Marriage may be solemnized according to the Liturgy of Methodist Church Nigeria.

43. Christian Marriage is a lifelong partnership of one man and one woman excluding all others, in mutual fidelity, respect, trust and service, and in a joint endeavor to provide and maintain a family of which Christ is the Head.” 

The Church’s constitutional standard on marriage is deduced and founded on the biblical and Christian precept of union between only one man and only one wife.

“3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:3-6

Be the foregoing as it may, the current legal and judicial position in Nigeria on Marriages re-echo and confirm the Church Practice in the following extant legislations:

1. Same Sex Prohibition Act 2014

2. Criminal Code Act

3. Penal Code Act

S. 1 and 2 of the Same Sex Prohibition Act has prohibited Same Sex Marriages in Nigeria and voids any Same Sex Marriage celebrated in other jurisdictions. That law provides as follows:

“1. (1) A marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex:    

(a)    is prohibited in Nigeria; and

(b)    shall not be recognized as entitled to the benefits of a valid marriage.

(2)    A marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex by virtue of a certificate issued by a foreign country is void in Nigeria, and any benefit accruing therefrom by virtue of the certificate shall not be enforced by any court of law.”

3.00 SOLEMNIZATION OF SAME SEX MARRIAGE IN PLACES OF WORSHIP

2. (1) A marriage contract or civil union entered into between persons of same sex shall not be solemnized in a church, mosque or any other place of worship in Nigeria.

(2)    No certificate issued to persons of same sex in a marriage or civil union shall be valid in Nigeria.

4.00 RECOGNIZED MARRIAGE IN NIGERIA

3     Only a marriage contracted between a man and a woman shall be recognized as valid in Nigeria.”

In view of the foregoing, Same Sex Marriages cannot be celebrated nor harboured in any Methodist Church in Nigeria as such is a criminal offence punishable with 14 years imprisonment.

5.00 “OFFENCES AND PENALTIES

5. (1) A person who enters into a same sex marriage contract or civil union commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a term of 14 years imprisonment.”     

We also refer the general public and our members to S. 214 and 215 of the Criminal Code Act which outlaws unnatural carnal knowledge and has prescribed 14 years imprisonment for those who engage in such homosexual practices.

“214. UNNATURAL OFFENCES" 

Any person who‐ 

(1) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or 

(2) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or 

(3) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, 
is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.

215. ATTEMPT TO COMMIT UNNATURAL OFFENCES 

Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences defined in section 214 of this Code, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years. 

The offender cannot be arrested without warrant.”

We are not unaware of developments in other churches and other jurisdictions where Same Sex marriage is tolerated, especially in the British Methodist Conference.  It will therefore continue to be our business to declare our stand that this is NOT OBTAINABLE in Methodist Church Nigeria. We have also gone further to make it our business to continue to pray for such churches about the Holy Spirit inspired interpretation and understanding of the very Word of God.

As a Church and a Conference, Methodist Church Nigeria remains totally faithful to the biblical teaching on sex and sexuality.

6.00 A RESTATEMENT OF THE STAND OF METHODIST CHURCH NIGERIA ON SAME SEX MARRIAGE.

For avoidance of doubt, the position of Methodist Church Nigeria on the issue of Same Sex Marriage is as follows:

§  The position of Methodist Church Nigeria  against Same Sex Marriage is in one swoop Scriptural, doctrinal and legal. The Church in Nigeria cannot disobey Nigerian Law as stated above.

§  Methodist Church Nigeria shall continue to defend the Doctrinal Standards of the Church as handed to us by the Wesleys.

§  Methodist Church Nigeria condemns in its totality the move by the British Methodist Conference to celebrate Same Sex Marriages and states that as an autonomous and autocephalous church that it is independent of the British Methodist Conference; and will therefore NOT entertain any proposals or propositions in that respect.

§  Methodist Church Nigeria shall NOT hesitate to forge ahead as a lone voice in the wilderness for the preservation of the Wesleyan Doctrine of Scriptural Holiness if need be.

§  Methodist Church Nigeria considers Same Sex Marriage to be Satanic and barbaric in all entirety. It is most despicable to hear such things within the Christian Fold and as a Church; we distance and separate ourselves from such ungodly and unscriptural act. 

*The Rt. Rev’d (Dr.) Michael O. Akinwale
Secretary of Conference

Pix: Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, His Eminence Samuel CK Uche, JP.

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