By Peter Onwubuariri in Abuja
8 March 2005
About 400 Nigerian Anglican churchmen representing the laity, clergy and bishops are gathering in the northern city of Kaduna for their bi-annual meeting, which is set to be dominated by issues concerning the growth of the church and the state of the nation. The meeting, otherwise known as The Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, will take place at the Cathedral Church of St Michael, Kaduna, from 9-12 March.
A major concern of the Kaduna meeting will be the appraisal of the vision of the Church of Nigeria initiated by the Primate of All Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, shortly after his presentation in 2000 as the leader of the 17-million Nigerian Anglican congregation.
At the start of his public ministry as Primate of All Nigeria, Archbishop Akinola encapsulated the five key areas of the vision to include evangelism, spirituality, unity, caring and relationships with other faiths. Five years after, a gathering of the 10 provinces and over 80 dioceses of the Church of Nigeria with representatives of laity, clergy and bishops will evaluate how the Church has (and hasn't) changed.
One distinct area that will engage the meeting is the issue of funds, particularly the N1 billion endowment fund initiated in 2000 with the aim of financing the activities and programmes of the church. With a good endowment fund in place, the burden of fund raising by the bishops and their dioceses should be reduced. In fact dioceses are now enjoying a reduction in the annual assessment paid to the central pool. This is supposed to eventually be passed down to individual churches. However the Primate is worried that the endowment fund is not being fully gathered even though the dioceses have gained a 15 per cent reduction in their assessment in 2005.
On evangelism, the 26-year old church of Nigeria has been involved in massive church planting and the creation of additional missionary dioceses. From 29 dioceses in 1989, the church grew to 76 dioceses in 1999 and a record 91 dioceses in 2005. Keeping with his vision for growth, the present Primate has gone ahead to create 14 dioceses in the past five years.
His predecessor, Archbishop Joseph Adetiloye, the 2nd Primate and Metropolitan of the Church of Nigeria (1988-99), created 47 dioceses. With more than 5,000 priests, the leadership of the church has repeatedly admonished clergymen that the emphasis on growth is not just in numbers but in deeper understanding of the word of God facilitated by enhanced attendance at bible study, prayer meetings, worship services and stewardship.
In Kaduna, delegates will be briefed on the outcome of the just-concluded Primates Meeting held in Northern Ireland, particularly on matters affecting sexuality and the North American churches uncompromising liberal stand.
Last month, Primates of the Anglican Communion asked the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) to voluntarily withdraw from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference of in 2008.
In 2003, the Nigerian Anglican Church severed links with some US dioceses that approved and consecrated Gene Robinson, a homosexual, as the Bishop of New Hampshire. It also broke ties with the Canadian church for authorizing the blessing of same-sex unions.
On national issues, the meeting is expected to voice out on some burning issues. At present some 400 Nigerians are in Abuja attending the National Political Reform Conference. Anglican Bishop of Lagos West Diocese, the Rt Revd Peter Adebiyi, is among the six delegates of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). Archbishop Peter Akinola has declared his support for the conference and hinted that CAN delegates will canvass religious tolerance and a halt to the killing of their members in the country. Interestingly Kaduna has witnessed bloody clashes between Christians and Muslims in the past four years.
The churchmen will use the occasion of the meeting to hoist an olive branch of peace and unity to a region, which has become notorious for restiveness.
(Church of Nigeria News)