• Fubara-Manuel commends US Presbyterians for such a bold move

Nduka Nwosu New York

In a move that has rankled the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria General Assembly and its laity to the very foundation of their belief system, the top legislative body of the Church in the US (Presbyterian Church U.S.A. also known as PC USA) has voted by a large margin Thursday in Detroit in favour of recognition of same-sex marriage through a re-write of the church constitution.

Their argument: marriage can be the union of “two people,” not just “a man and a woman.”

But back home, in an exclusive interview with THISDAY opinion has become divided whether the church and government are being fair in throwing gay people away into the dustbin of outcasts.

The PC USA amendment which has been approved by the Presbyterian General Assembly, the highest authority and legislative body of the church, is waiting for the endorsement of a majority of the 172 regional presbyteries, expected to vote on the change over the next year.

In a separate policy change that takes effect at the end of this week’s meeting, delegates voted to allow ministers to preside at gay weddings in states where the unions are legal and local congregational leaders approve. According to NBC News, “nineteen states and the District of Columbia recognise same-sex marriage in the US”

However, a respected Presbyterian Reverend and scholar who was a former clerk of the General Assembly, Dr. Ben Fubara-Manuel has called for caution in the way gay people are treated in the country insisting that the Apostle Paul who stood against gay people who were mainly prostitutes in the days of Jesus did not anticipate the biological and sociological issues associated with such people in the 21st century.

One of those taking a contrary view from Fubara-Manuel who holds a PhD in Systemic Theology with bias for Ecumenical Missiology from Calvin Theology Seminary Grand Rapids, Michigan, is Onoh Okwara Onoh, a ruling elder of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria and General Manager/National Director of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International.

According to Elder Onoh, “I saw it coming after reading some developments in the PC-USA early this year. It is unfortunate that we Presbyterians have left the bedrock of our faith, which is the Word of God and are being guided by baseless, Satan inspired “scientific discoveries” that support same sex marriage.

“We seem to be guided by the majority opinion which is fast sweeping through the corridors of political powers, unhindered. We may be politically correct, but may be Biblically wrong.

“I lend my voice to the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee to decry this abomination in the Church of God. The majority may have drowned the lone voice of Bill Norton, who called for caution, but the Word of God cannot and will not be gagged. It will continue to speak to the hearts and consciences of all people.”

According to Onoh, “marriage between a man and woman, is a sacred institution ordained by God. This holy union must be allowed to remain so,” to which Fubara Manuel agreed but added, “I am one of those reluctant to use Biblical references to condemn homosexuality. However, if we believe that God is a God of justice, should we then deny them the love of God? I have not concluded this discussion as a theologian.
“I believe the PC USA has moved a little too far because marriage is a union between a man and a woman, not between two people.”
Rev Aluu William Nnali, a Prebyterian Church of Nigeria minister who just concluded his Doctorate studies in the USA, added: “Signs of the times, when Christians celebrate the church’s compromise of the truth, rather than dust on heads, rags and ten toes, it’s a departure from the truth and denial of the sacred.”

Another elder of the church and manager at Chevron-Texaco Okoroji Onoh added his voice to the debate: “The primary issue is that many do not understand God’s purpose and plan for families, where a man and his wife nurture and raise the future generation for God. The whole concept of Gay Marriage is to destroy the eternal plan of God for the family and indeed His creation, and satisfy the selfish desires of a few.”

According to Fubara-Manuel, the Bible condemns some form of homosexuality but looking at the other side of the coin, the other aspect which Gay Rights Advocates are crusading for was unknown to the Bible, insisting that in those days of Sodom and Gomorrah, gay prostitutes were very well known and were obviously a by-product of greed and wickedness, people who were deviating from God’s laws and got themselves enmeshed in gang rape.

Fubara Manuel who pastors a Presbyterian church in Port Harcourt and who was for seven years an ecumenical dialogue delegate of the World Council of churches and the Roman Catholic Church explained: “Male prostitutes known in Greek as arsenkoitef or male bedders were not found in many places.
“Paul condemned this category of human beings but not those who for some reason of biological defect have no feelings towards the opposite sex

“This form of sexual orientation was only a discovery of the late 19th century. It is a sociological development that has taken many years to form. May be they should go by a new name but definitely not the word marriage.”
In a controversial defence by the once No 2 man in the Presbyterian Church hierarchy, Fubara Manuel commended the PC USA for their decision. “What they have done must be understood for their reasons. I commend the spirit.”

Fubara Manuel did not hesitate to flog the church and the Nigerian government for their hypocrisy adding, “enacting a law that puts gay people into jail houses is outright injustice. The United Nations Charter insists there should be no discrimination against the minorities in this context gay people but what are we seeing? Nigeria is criminalising its minorities in this power game of the majority against the minority.

“Christians abhor polygamy and all forms of idolatry, yet why has the church not jailed fornicators and adulterers? This is mediocrity at the highest level. The church must change.”

The Full Gospel National Director disagreed adding: “My joy is that God has a way of ensuring that His ways and plans are established in every generation. The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria must rise to declare her position in the God of the Holy Scriptures and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman.

“Gay marriage is not only un-natural, it is alien to our cultural beliefs and our convictions in the Word of God. No wonder, not too long ago, the Nigerian National Assembly, called the bluff off of the US and the United Nations and rejected the bill on same sex marriage. The heavens did not fall and will not fall.

“All these aberrations simply point to the fact that Jesus is coming soon and His followers must walk in faith and obedience as we await His return. Like Noah, who lived in a decadent, corrupt and violent society, we must stand to be approved of God having found favour with Him. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”

The Detroit votes, according to the NBC news were a sweeping victory for Presbyterian gay-rights advocates noting that the denomination in 2011 eliminated barriers to ordaining clergy with same-sex partners, “but ministers were still barred from celebrating gay marriages and risked church penalties for doing so,” quoting Alex McNeill, executive director of More Light Presbyterians, a gay advocacy group, who said the decisions were “an answer to many prayers.”

Also, the Rev. Krystin Granberg of the New York Presbytery, where the state recognises gay marriage, said she receives requests “all the time” from friends and parishioners to preside at their weddings.
“They want to be married in the church they love and they want me to do it,” Granberg said during the debate. “I want pastoral relief.”

But Bill Norton, of the Presbytery de Cristo, which covers parts of Arizona and New Mexico, urged the assembly to delay any changes.

According to Norton, “we are laying hands on something that is holy, that God has given us, so we need to be sure any changes we make are in accord with God’s will revealed in Scripture.”