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Gambia down to its last four priests: CEN 9.19.08 p 8. September 20, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of the Province of West Africa.

The Diocese of Gambia is down to its last four clergymen, after the Rev. Jacob Okiki Cole renounced his orders last week, following a clash with the bishop, the Rt. Rev. Tilewa Johnson.

In a sermon to the congregation to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Banjul on Aug 31, Mr. Cole said he was leaving the church after the bishop ordered him to move to a mission station in Farafenni, in the country’s interior.

Mr. Cole told the congregation the bishop had treated him unfairly during his 14 years of service in the diocese, and that he had already spent time in the provinces. “Enough is enough,” Mr. Cole told the congregation, saying the bishop’s highhanded treatment of the clergy of his small diocese was unconscionable.

Apart from the bishop, the diocese of the Gambia has only one other full time priest, the Rev. Sarah Sock-Taylor. The diocese’s three other priests are non-stipendiary, the Rev. Priscilla Modu Johnson (the bishop’s wife), the Rev. James Cole and the Rev. James Yaw Odico.
Traveling in England, Bishop Johnson was unavailable for comment.

Gambia covers three nations, Senegal, The Gambia and the Cape Verde Islands and has five congregations.

Growth in the Province of West Africa has been uneven in recent years. Civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone destroyed most church properties and scattered congregations and clergy, while the Cameroon is a missionary diocese only recently established. A Muslim-majority nation, The Gambia has not witnessed an appreciable growth in the number of communicants.

The church in Ghana however, has seen sustained growth with a concomitant rise in the number of clergy and dioceses and in recent years has sought to form its own province and in 2003 the non-Ghanian dioceses—Gambia, Cameroon, Guinea, Liberia and the two dioceses of Sierra Leone (Bo and Freetown)-began talks with the nine Ghanian dioceses over division of the Province.

A fact finding commission of the Anglican Consultative Council asked the Province to “put on hold indefinitely” a division until there was “clear evidence” that the non-Ghanian dioceses could function as a province “with adequate provision for a provincial secretariat, synodical structures, the Archbishop’s expenses of office and financial contribution to the needs of the wider Anglican Communion.”

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