The House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) met under the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit and the leadership of the Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh, Archbishop Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria for their Annual Retreat at Ibru Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State from January 8 -12, 2018. 145 serving Bishops and 6 retired Bishops were present. We were blessed with the opportunity to fellowship together in prayer, worship, and learning, addressing our minds to the responsibilities and the roles of Bishops in advancing the Kingdom of God, prophetic ministry to the nation, maintaining Church discipline and ensuring resolution of conflicts with the theme: “The Episcopate and the Future of the Church of Nigeria”.
Rising from the retreat, the House of Bishops issued the following communique:
- The Bishops commend the Federal Government on the prompt response and the evacuation of Nigeria immigrants from Libya who are being enslaved.
- Similarly the Bishops salute the sustained efforts of the Federal Government and the Armed Forces in curbing the activities of Boko-haram and other insurgent groups across the country.
- The retreat x-rays the current situation of the Church and observes that Biblical standard has been compromised and that the Christian heritage is fast being eroded. The Bishops, therefore, called on Church leaders to provide leadership based on the examples of the Apostles and to be alive to their responsibilities of daily walk with God, soul-winning, discipleship, mentoring and obediently serving God without minding the cost, highlighting Christian virtues such as humility, self-denial, sacrifice, service and servanthood and righteous suffering.
- It was also observed that homes, institutions, Churches and the society are crisis ridden. The Bishops call on secular and religious leaders at all levels to nip conflict in the bud before it escalates to crisis. Furthermore, government is hereby called upon to be proactive at the incipient stage of conflict and thus prevent it from developing into a crisis. This is safer than applying force as the life of every Nigerian matters.
- The House of Bishops sympathises with the families of victims of Fulani herdsmen attack all over the country, notably Kaduna, Plateau, Taraba, Adamawa, Kwara and Benue States. The Bishops observed that as a result of the continuous inaction of the Government, people are beginning to suspect that there is complicity of the Federal Government in these despicable acts. We therefore call on the Federal Government, as a matter of urgency to address these ugly trends and ensure that the culprits are brought to justice. However, the Bishops strongly believe that the permanent solution to the killings by herdsmen lies in the establishment of ranches in line with world best practices and not grazing colonies. Besides, the young herdsmen deserve a better opportunity for education and advancement in life. The Bishops believe that it is unkind to design a life of perpetual wandering for these class of youth.
- In addition, the Federal Government should use Federal establishments and Institutions, especially the Armed Forces and Nigerian Police for national interest and wellbeing of all Nigerians and not for personal, sectional or political interests.
- As the tempo of political activities begins to rise in view of 2019 General Elections, the Bishops call on all politicians to exercise restraint in their pronouncements and actions; call on all Nigerians to register and obtain their permanent voter’s cards in order to exercise their franchise; and also call upon INEC to avoid actions that might frustrate the enthusiastic voters.
- The political office holders are also reminded of their responsibility to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in making appointments, to maintain federal character, equity, fairness, Justice, to enhance the unity of the Nation.
- The House of Bishops calls on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency initiate a constructive dialogue on the restructuring of Nigeria.
- The current scarcity and high cost of Petroleum products have brought untold hardship on Nigerians. We therefore call on NNPC and all those concerned to resolve their issues in the overall interest of all Nigerians. Furthermore, the clamour for increase in the pump price of these products by the marketers must be jettisoned, as this will aggravate the enormous sufferings of the hapless Nigerian citizens.
- As Bishops of the Church of Nigeria, we commend and applaud the work of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) under the leadership of Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria, The Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh and especially for the plans to hold the third Global Anglican Future Conference in Jerusalem, Israel in June this year, 2018. We further commit ourselves to the continuation of the Global Anglican Future Conference. We uphold the Jerusalem declaration which affirms “the Holy Scripture of the Old Testament and New Testament to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation” and call upon Christians everywhere to declare and defend the faith once for all entrusted to the Saints.
- The Church of Nigeria which is Bible based, will continue to maintain fellowship with Churches, whose faith and practice are agreeable to and based on scriptural foundations, not necessarily on the basis of history. We reaffirm our theological position that same-sex marriage, homosexuality, lesbianism, bi-sexuality and trans-gender are unbiblical, unethical, un-natural, anti-reproductive, and against the progress of human society.
Finally, the House of Bishops on behalf of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) commiserate with the family of the former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Dr. Alex Ekwueme in particular and entire Nation in general on his demise. It is our prayer that God may grant them the fortitude to bear the great loss.
The Most Rev’d Nicholas D. Okoh, MA, Fss, Mss, LLD, DD
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria