By Hon. Femi Kehinde
Anglicanism is a church rooted in protest. It was founded in 1534 by king Henry VIII’s Act of supremacy, which pronounced the church of England independent of the catholic church in Rome.
The first phase of the Anglican Reformation (1531 – 1547) began over a personal dispute when King Henry VIII of England was denied Papal support for the annulling of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon.
Today, the Anglican Church consists of more than 86 million members worldwide in over 165 countries. Collectively, these national churches are known as the Anglican Communion, meaning all are in communion with and recognize the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the United States, the American church of the Anglican Communion is called the Protestant Episcopal Church, or simply the Episcopal Church. In most of the rest of the world, it is called Anglican.
Samuel Ajayi Crowther (1809 – 31st December 1891) was a clergyman, and the first African Anglican Bishop of West Africa, he also translated the English bible to Yoruba language in 1843. He was also, a pathfinder that brought in the Anglican church and place it on a firm ground in Nigeria. He was born with the name Ajayi in Osogun, near Oyo in present day Oyo state, Nigeria. On a certain morning, his native town of Osogun was surprised and overwhelmed by slave captors. Crowther and his compatriots fled but “were seized by the enemies with a noose of rope thrown over the neck of every individual to be led in the manner of goats tied together.” In Crowther’s gripping narration, “a family was violently divided between three or four enemies who each led his preys away to see one another no more.” On that tragic morning, the last view Crowther had of his “unhappy, comfortless father” was when he came to give his family the signal to flee.
Samuel Ajayi Crowther, the slave boy who became the first African bishop of the Anglican Church, was guided by the hand of God which turned the tragedy of violent enslavement into immeasurable blessing. In those harsh days of mindless savagery, men were displayed as merchandise in slave markets, tied and manacled, and exported to distant lands.
Crowther was an embodiment of a true Christian, a servant of God and His gospel, for even as bishop, he was constantly marked out for detraction; but he took it all in his stride.
In 1864, Crowther was ordained as the first African bishop of the Anglican Church; he was consecrated a Bishop on St Peter’s day in 1864, by Charles Longley, Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral, England. By 1857 the CMS was fully engaged in Nigeria and a diocese in 1864 with the consecration of Samuel Ajayi Crowther as the first diocesan Bishop.
Anglican faithfuls resident in North America took the Anglican faiths and models of practice and worship to America with the usual Nigeria rumbles and tumbles. The Church of Nigeria Anglican communion, is the second-largest province in the Anglican Communion worldwide, as measured by baptized memberships, after the Church of England. As of 2016, its membership has “over 18 million”, out of a total Nigerian population of almost 200 million.
Since 2002 the Church of Nigeria has been organized into 14 Ecclesiastical Provinces. It has rapidly increased the number of its dioceses and bishops from 91 in 2002 to 161 as at January 2013; and has certainly increased exponentially from that number. The administrative headquarters are located in Abuja, Federal Capital of Nigeria. Archbishop Henry Ndukuba became its Primate in 2020 succeeding Archbishop Nicholas Okoh.
However, the acquit rumbles and tumbles in Anglican church in America has brought in despair, disdain, anguish and bewilderment to the entire members of a fully incorporated diocese – Anglican diocese of the Trinity (ADOTT) in North America. Anglican diocese of the Trinity (ADOTT) that had existed for well over 10 years was dissolved by fiat and reduced to the status of a Mission by His Grace, Archbishop Henry C. Ndukuba, Archbishop, Metropolitan and primate of the church of Nigeria. The announcement of the dissolution of the Anglican Diocese of the Trinity (ADOTT) by fiat at the Church of Nigeria (CON) general Synod held in Nnewi in September 2023 after eleven years of the ADOTT diocese existence cut the entire members of Anglican diocese of the Trinity (ADOTT) in America completely off guard and flustered.
According to the elders, Laity, Diocesan members of Anglican Diocese of the Trinity (ADOTT) in their letter of protest dated 23rd October 2023 said……… “As a diocese that was duly incorporated in America, we should have been consulted by the Primate before the General Synod, even if that decision was to be taken to the general house. The General Synod of the Church of Nigeria and discussion of the issue should have been after our own deliberations, which was not what happened. Perhaps the most egregious and disturbing part of this saga was that just before the General Synod a few highly placed clerics here in North America, who were privy to this premeditated conversation, boasted openly that once the Nnewi meeting was concluded, there would be no ADOTT Diocese! True to it, the Primate announced the dissolution of ADOTT without due consultation with members of this Diocese, particularly the House of laity. These remarks before the meeting suggest that deliberation was not a part of the proceedings; a final decision had already been made unilaterally, and the announcement reflected a process that is unfair to rank and file of our membership. It is also noticeable that while the General Synod in its wisdom gave a period until February 2024 in their recommendation for this dissolution, the Primate, in a hurry, dissolved the Diocesan Board, which has paralyzed its functions, while people here in North America were still pondering what the proposed dissolution would mean for them, their faith community, and their families. It is indeed a sharp sword because the Primate waited for the commencement of the three-day women’s conference to make his announcement, a conference for which they had prepared for months but was brought to an abrupt end. This of course expectedly was followed by heart-felt sorrow of women and mothers at the conference who did not understand this shocking pronouncement, and chaos ensued.”
The elders of ADOTT further said……… “As a result of the dissolution, the Primate now began to give orders from the secretariat in Abuja to individual Clergy and Rectors and instructed them to act without the consent of their Diocesan Bishop. It was very disturbing to see the wife of the bishop and convenor of the Women’s Conference was almost forbidden from entering the Cathedral because of the order from above.
While we recognize that politics and faith have been inextricably linked in our society, this action is antithetical to the governance of the Anglican Church. It is an unprecedented move.”
According to the elders…… “We were thriving as a Diocese and the joyous celebration of our tenth-year anniversary showed our strength and success. Our book titled Anglican Diocese of the Trinity: – Formation and Building of a Church of Nigeria Mission’ clearly illustrated our history and God’s benevolence and grace in the mission of the church.
The last Primate, His Grace Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, who paid several visits to us, was very understanding and supportive of our status, presence, and our growth in North America so much that on his retirement, he was recognized at a big reception by all of us hosted in Harvard where he was accorded the respect and honor that are normally given to a Head of state.”
“The question then is why this letter to the House of Bishops and the Nigerian Anglican faithful? First, there is no record in the history of the Anglican Church in Nigeria or any part of the world where a well instituted and thriving Diocese would be suddenly disbanded and reduced to mission stations. As if with a military fiat without recalls to all democratic norms and practices and global best practices. The motive of the white-controlled Anglican Church that has always sworn to see us kicked out of America except we come under their authority and control, is the key to this crisis. As American/Canadian citizens this runs contrary to the law of the land that fully guarantees freedom of worship to all. Second, by our faith, we believe in the word of God that says that God himself will not allow his community to meet in error. Therefore, we know that our diocese was not created in error, as we know that God does not make mistakes. On the contrary, we believe as true Anglicans that our Diocese was created in response to genuine cry for justice and freedom.
On May 31, 2020, Prof. Jacob Olupona penned a letter to His Grace outlining the serious concerns our community has had with Archbishop Foley Beach, the prejudicial way he has treated and spoken about our community, and how he and ACNA (Anglican Church of North America) have no right under US law to influence how our internal church affairs are run. The letter further stressed the importance of our status as a diocese, so it is important that all should know we have been deeply involved in this issue for many years and have attempted as much as possible to be active participants in the process.
Since we have made it clear that our status as a diocese particularly independent of the ACNA (Anglican Church of North America) is of the utmost importance to us and that we have well-organized thoughts and experience on the matter, we are hurt and troubled by the fact that we were never consulted about this decision.
To our surprise, our clergy have been ordered to provide a statement of their Assets; assets which through our commitment, hard work and faithfulness, we contributed to the coffers of the Church without receiving or asking for any financial support from the Church of Nigeria. We give glory to God for the passion of the Late Rt. Revd. Dr. Peter Adebiyi of blessed memory, pioneer Diocesan of Lagos West (DLW), regarded as a renegade, who was determined to see the survival of our mission. Through him, DLW rendered considerable help to the pioneering Diocesan Bishop of ADOTT in the early years and partly to All Saints Anglican Church, Hyattsville during their building project in 2010.
The elders of ADOTT further noted that ……. “It is worth mentioning that the appointment of Bishop Felix Orji as Supervising Bishop of ADOTT was a deep trauma to the diocese. This caused unimaginable divide among the suffragan bishops and clergy! We are not aware of any other diocese where a diocese is left so shattered before the election of another diocesan, in the history of our Church. Of course, the Primate’s relationship with Bishop Orji was very tight until recently when things fell apart. Bishop Orji left the Church of Nigeria completely and joined ACNA (Anglican Church of North America), where he had always wanted to drag the rest of us to.
On July 24, 2021, the Primate came to Indianapolis, which is the headquarters here, to address the Church and he made a promise and said publicly that no diocese would be dissolved. He also said publicly and stated in clear terms that our diocese would not be joined with another diocese. What has now transpired runs contrary to his promise”.
The elders of ADOTT, further bewildered by the primate action said…… “As we try to call the attention of a few Anglican Church leaders in Nigeria to this crisis, one thing that was clear from our conversations was that the Primate has not listened to anyone, but we hope he listens to God’s still, small voice and counsel to allow us to continue the good work He has begun in us.”
We are hoping that the House of Bishops and those who matter in the Anglican Church will put a stop to these happenings to prevent further escalation. We, as elders in the Anglican Church, are men and women of
peace who believes in the integrity and freedom to practice in our sacred faith tradition. No number of abusive notes we have been receiving from the agents of the Church of Nigeria in North America, will dissuade us from the path of truth and justice, as outlined by our faith. We also believe it is important for us to consider the issue of precedence. If the Church of Nigeria were to bow to external pressure regarding how our ecclesiastical structure is established, it does not hold well for our global missions and operations. We do not believe the House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria would want to send the message that parishioners and congregants may, at any time, be subjected to ecclesiastical authority that they do not appreciate or of which they do not approve, although this is certainly the message that we have received.
We are troubled by the precedent set of a complete lack of consideration or dialogue of any kind before sweeping measures with massive implications for the clergy and laity alike are taken. If we are not careful, such precedent may undermine our ability to function as an effective mission and draw people away from our churches. Instead, we humbly request, that a precedent be set of clear, respectful, and honest communication in which the perspectives, experiences, and concerns of all in our diocese are taken seriously to inform a decision taken in everyone’s best interest, as we have previously come to expect from a venerable institution such as the Church of Nigeria.
This letter was signed on behalf of the Anglican Diocese of the Trinity (ADOTT) North America by some of His elders – Sir Festus Obafemi – Ajayi, Dame Dorcas Imasuen, Prof. J.K. Olupona, Folashade Awoola and David Oladele.
It is apparent that the bedrock of this crisis is rooted in financial evangelism and the church of Nigeria having not been financially responsible to the operation of Anglican diocese of the Trinity (ADOTT) North America, should allow ADOTT to stand, flourish and nourish in preaching the gospel of Christ through Anglicanism and continue to play a supportive role for its mother church – The Anglican church of Nigeria without fear of undue pressure, unjustifiable crisis and intimidation.
In fondest memories of the valiant and gallant effort of Anglican Bishops, Clergymen and Pathfinders of Anglicanism in Nigeria – Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther and the 4 subsequent Bishops after him; Bishop James Johnson, Bishop Phillips, Bishop Oluwole, Bishop Tugwell (who made peace with the Delta Pastorate and reconciled them with the CMS in 1898), Archdeacon Dandeson Crowther (son of Samuel Ajayi Crowther), Rev. David Hinderer, Rev. James Johnson, Rev. Henry Townsend, Rev. Thomas Davey, Rev. T. B. Macaulay, Archbishop Vining, Archbishop Akinola, Archdeacon H. Johnson, Bishop Alexander Babatunde Akinyele, Rev. J. J. Ransome Kuti, Bishop Timothy Omotayo Olufosoye, Bishop Scot, Bishop Odutola, Archdeacon Emmanuel Alayande, Bishop Seth Runshewe Kale, Archbishop Abiodun Adetiloye, Archdeacon Micheal Olupona, Bishop Awosan, Rev J. M. S. Adejumo, Canon Ogunbanjo, Canon Olunloyo and so many others would applaud in their graves, if the general synod of the Anglican Communion coming up on the 24th of February 2024 would revisit its Nnewi decision of September 2023 synod by allowing the Anglican Diocese of the Trinity (ADOTT) North America to stand with its full diocesan status in the spirit of Christ, Anglicanism and Evangelism. The general synod will certainly lose nothing by so doing.
Hon. (Barr.) Femi Kehinde, former member House of Representatives, National Assembly, Abuja 1999-2003 representing Ayedire/Iwo/Olaoluwa Federal Constituency of Osun State.
Disclaimer: This piece represents the opinion of the writer not that of CityMirrorNews
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