THE CHURCH OF NIGERIA (Anglican Communion)
THE MOST REV. PETER J. AKINOLA, D.D.
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria.
PRESS BRIEFING BY THE PRIMATE OF ALL NIGERIA, THE MOST REV’D PETER J. AKINOLA ON THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 29, 2005
Gentlemen of the Press,
I welcome you all to this special occasion of interaction and briefing on recent events in the Anglican Communion, where by the divine providence, I serve to lead and lead to serve.
I congratulate and thank you for the effective coverage of the just concluded 8th General Synod of our Church, held at the Cathedral Church of All Saints, Onitsha. An informed press which cannot be taken for granted contributes to the building of the person and the nation.
The Church of Nigeria upholds without restriction the authority of scripture and is unreservedly committed to mission and evangelism that results in conversion of people to the Lord, church-planting and the caring ministry.
We believe and teach that a person sanctified in word and deed, through faith in Jesus the Christ, is capable of performing his civic duties more responsibly, in the awareness that he is accountable to God, the Creator and owner of Life.
Two weeks after our meeting in Onitsha, a lot of misconstrued information has been making the waves around the world particularly in the western media, concerning some of the decisions reached by the General Synod of the Church.
To refresh your memories, in Onitsha we took a number of actions to clarify our commitment to the apostolic faith. One of the things we did to strengthen this position was to amend our constitution.
Our amended constitution deleted all such references that hold colonial intonation defining us with the See of Canterbury and replaced them with a new provision of Communion with all Anglican Churches, Dioceses and Provinces that hold and maintain the Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
This action has been largely misrepresented by those who think that schism in the Anglican Church has become inevitable following the disarray the United States and the Canadian Churches brought on the Communion because of their revisionist agenda on homosexuality. And most recently the House of Bishops of the Church of England’s apparent double-speak on the Civil Partnerships Act that comes into force by December 5, this year.
We want to state that our intention in amending the 2002 Constitution of the Church of Nigeria was to make clear that we are committed to the historic faith once delivered to the Saints, practice and the traditional formularies of the Church.
The triennial Synod of the Church amended the language of our constitution so that those who are bent on creating a new religion in which anything goes, and have thereby chosen to walk a different path may do so without us.
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is Evangelical. We want to reiterate that adherence to the Holy Scripture is not only paramount, it is also for us, non-negotiable. Furthermore in matters of faith and practice, the Holy Scripture provides sufficient warrant for what is considered right and what is judged to be wrong. The word of God cannot be compromised.
We treasure our place within the worldwide family of the Anglican Communion but we are distressed by the unilateral actions of those provinces that are clearly determined to redefine what our common faith was once. We have chosen not to be yoked to them as we prefer to exercise our freedom to remain faithful. We continue to pray, however, that there will be a genuine demonstration of repentance.
We are Anglicans and have done nothing or ever think of doing anything capable of breaking up the Communion. Some find the historic tenets of our common beliefs old fashioned and unacceptable to their modern culture. They are introducing new religious practices unknown to scripture and our history and are the ones tearing apart the very fabric of our Communion.
At our meeting in Onitsha, we also decided to make constitutional provision to extend pastoral care and Episcopal oversight to those of our people and others who are geographically separated from us but who share our convictions through the establishment of Convocations and Chaplaincies beyond our shores.
Other provinces have had such pastoral arrangements notably in Europe. Our earnest desire is to see the fabric of our beloved Anglican Communion restored and our bonds of affection renewed through our common commitment to God’s Word written as expressed in Article XX of our common Articles of Religion.
Back home, we reminded ourselves at the Synod that though tribe and tongue may differ, we are one body in Christ as long as our belief in God is the same. We condemn in strongest terms divisions borne out of ethnicity and nepotism in the Church.
We also resolved to live together and focus on evangelism as we spread out to reach all parts of Nigeria with the saving gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We hope that the unity demonstrated by our Church will be a paradigm of the unity desired by our nation.
Come October 2, 2005 after almost 16 years of ‘inactivity’ the National Ecumenical Centre, Abuja will be dedicated to the Glory of God. The Church appreciates the efforts of the President of Nigeria, His Excellency, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, towards the completion of the edifice. This construction reminds us all, particularly Christians of the unity of the body of Christ and by extension, the unity of our nation.
We urge all Christians to see the dedication of this symbol of unity as an opportunity for us to know one another better as fellow pilgrims in this fleeting world. We should begin to see ourselves as people of one faith, one church, under one God?
No matter our tongue or tribe, we must resolve to work together toward the total emancipation of this great nation by sharing and demonstrating the gospel principles in all areas of our endeavour.
Lately, our nation has been impaled with rumours of chaos and the political class are not helping matters as scheming for the 2007 elections seem to override every other consideration. The Church is also impaled with the complaints of the wretched of the earth- the poor, the jobless, the oppressed and millions of Nigerians who continue to groan under abject want and poverty in the midst of plenty.
The brokenness of our entire society including the Church of God, calls for urgent action from all and sundry. The suffering of the vast majority is as glaring as the ostentatious living of a privilege few.
While urging Nigerians to heed government’s appeal to make more sacrifices for the good of the nation, the church also calls on our government functionaries and public officers to do the same by watching their ostentatious life style.
Though we appreciate the wisdom of the makers of our Constitution in providing immunity for our leaders, what is obtainable now, does more harm than good to the nation.
The public office holders who enjoy immunity under the constitution should live above board and appreciate that immunity from prosecution does not mean immunity from investigation.
When leaders are clearly living beyond their means, or where there is evidence of funds being transferred outside the State into foreign bank accounts, if the immunity clause should be called to their aid, it makes the whole idea ridiculous. We therefore call on all stake-holders in this nation to set in motion the Federal Government machinery to remove this “dubious cover” from all public office holders.
Thank you for honouring our invitation, we pray that God that has given you the opportunity to communicate to millions of people will uphold you with his truth. Amen.
The Most Rev. Peter J. Akinola DD, C.O.N.
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria.