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The Independent vs. Complementarity: The Media Project, November 21, 2014 November 21, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Roman Catholic Church, The Media Project.
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Nicholas Okoh with Pope FrancisPope Francis’ luster has begun to fade outside the Catholic Church. While the papal honeymoon with the secular media has not quite ended, some newspapers have discovered the pope remains Catholic.

An example of this shift comes in an article in this week’s Independent from London. It is written in a tone of suffused anger, disappointed that Francis is not the man they thought him to be.

Entitled “Pope Francis declares union between man and woman ‘at root of marriage’ in blow to gay rights,” the story is written in an advocacy style. The author presents an argument, and then the facts are marshalled in support. The lede opens with this proposition:

Pope Francis has apparently spoken out in defence of marriage as an institution between a man and a woman, hurting the hopes of those who see him as a liberal driving force in the Catholic Church.

Note the “apparently” offered in a “can you believe this” tone. The following sentence indicates what the Independent thought the pope was doing.

Last month the Pope warned Catholics not to fear change following an angry synod backlash against a softening of the Church’s stance towards homosexuality.

But the Independent admits it may have been wrong as the pope appears to have changed course (in its view).

But in his address at the opening of a three-day conference on traditional marriage hosted at the Vatican yesterday, Francis called family “an anthropological fact… that cannot be qualified based on ideological notions or concepts important only at one time in history”.

The Humanum Colloquium on the Complementarity of Men and Women appears to be the best kept secret in religion reporting. The media hype (really hysteria) that surrounding the Synod on the Family is all but absent this time round. While not a gathering of specially invited bishops, this gathering has equal significance in that it, too, will advise the pope on the contentious issues of divorce, remarriage, same-sex marriage, civil unions and the like.

The Synod on the Family saw a push by some to bring the church’s moral teachings in line with the liberal or secular worldview on marriage and the family. The Humanum conference saw the traditionalists — supported by non-Catholic scholars from a variety of denominations and faiths — reaffirm existing moral teaching.

The Independent notes that at this conference, Pope Francis made his views on gay marriage clear.

And though he did not refer to gay unions directly, the Pope said: “It is fitting that you have gathered here to explore the complementarity of man and woman. This complementarity is at the root of marriage and family.”

Francis said: “Children have the right to grow up in a family with a father and mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity. Today marriage and the family are in crisis,” he continued. “We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. The revolution in mores and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”

In the pope’s emphasis on the necessity of a mother and father and in his rejection of the “revolution in mores and morals,” the Independent saw a “declaration in support of traditional marriage”. And the Independent found this to be utterly appalling.

The balance of the article consisted of comments from outraged gay activists, and it closes with the Independent’s view of what happened in Rome.

Francis’ comments seem to represent a shift towards placating conservatives in the Church from a Pope who once asked “who am I to judge gay people” and whom Elton John described as “my hero”. In March, Cardinal Timothy Dolan reportedly claimed that the pontiff had paved the way for support of civil partnerships at some point in the future, saying it was time the Church studied same-sex unions “rather than condemning them”. But in October the Vatican was forced to backtrack on liberal new guidelines of openness toward gay people by the intransigence of a majority of bishops.

Judging by the standards of traditional journalism, this story comes up short. Only one side of the story is presented. No supporters of traditional marriage appear in the article, apart from Pope Francis. There is no balance of views. Instead we get shallow slogans from the supporters of change, but no intelligent arguments in support of or opposition to these moves. Emotion and narcissism are offered as reason enough.

Nor does the article tell us anything about the Humanum Colloquium. Why does the colloquium matter? What is its relevance to the debate? From a theological or sociological perspective the Independent appears confused over the term “complementarity”. It may think it understands what the word means, but from what little it has written on this point, it appears to be speaking in ignorance.

In short, as a traditional news story this piece is unbalanced, lacks context, makes unverified assumptions as to the meaning of words, and is short on facts. An editor could rescue this piece however, by altering it to a story about the reaction of gay activists to the pope’s words.

Rearranging the story’s paragraphs by placing the comments and responses at the top might make this piece work. It would also allow the Independent to discuss openly the issue at the heart of this piece: “Who is Pope Francis and what does he believe?”

However, if you are seeking actual information on what happened at the Nov 17-19 Humanum Colloquium in Rome – what was said, who said it, and why it matters – then you are better off looking elsewhere.


Half a million driven from their homes by Boko Haram: The Church of England Newspaper, March 28, 2014 April 11, 2014

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The insurgency in Northeastern Nigeria waged by the Islamist terror group Boko Haram has forced nearly 500,000 people from their homes and threatens the stability of West Africa, U.N. High Commissioner for Human rights Navi Pillay has warned.  “With thousands of refugees fleeing from Nigeria, and arms and fighters reportedly flowing across international borders in the other direction, this terrible conflict is no longer solely an internal matter,” she said last week during a tour of the country. Human Rights Watch reports that 2014 is on track to becoming the deadliest year of the insurgency with 700 people reported  dead so far.  Speaking to the media following a service commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Archbishop Vinning Memorial Cathedral in Lagos on 8 March 2014, the Primate of Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh warned that no one was safe, adding “As we pray for God to help this nation, we also call on the Federal Government to double their effort.” The Bishop of Lagos West, the Rt. Rev. James Odedeji added “government should take full responsibility of securing the life and property of its citizenry which it took an oath to do.”

Uganda plea to the CoE: The Church of England Newspaper, March 7, 2014 March 20, 2014

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The Primate of the Church of Uganda has urged the Church of England not to follow the Episcopal Church into the abyss by endorsing gay marriage or blessing gay unions.

The Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali told The Church of England Newspaper that while the Church of Uganda “has had no discussions about breaking away from the Church of England or the Anglican Communion,” it was troubled by its apparent indecision over sin and sexuality.

“It’s true that the fabric of the Anglican Communion was torn at its deepest level in 2003 when the American Episcopal Church consecrated as Bishop a gay man living in a same-sex relationship. Not only was this against the Bible, but it went against the agreed position of the Anglican Communion. Our current concern is that the Church of England seems to be drifting rapidly in the same direction,” he said.

In a sermon delivered on 1 March 2014 the archbishop stated the Western churches appeared unaware of their double mindedness. “Many people have spiritual blindness but let us not mix issues. One hundred and thirty six years ago, the Church of England sent graduates from Oxford University to Africa to evangelise. America is a super power built on Christian principles… but in all this money is involved,” he said.

In a note of clarification to his sermon, the archbishop told CEN: “We are very grateful to them for sending missionaries who told us about the good news of Jesus Christ. Ironically, they seem now to be reversing themselves. Fortunately, we no longer need to be directed by them. We can read and interpret the Bible for ourselves, and we know what it says about sexual behaviour belonging between one man and one woman in holy matrimony.”

“Homosexual practice is incompatible with scripture, and no one in the leadership of the church can say legitimise same sex unions or homosexuality,” Archbishop Ntagali told AFP, urging the “governing bodies of the Church of England to not take the path advocated by the West”.

Last week the Church of Nigeria congratulated the Church of Uganda for standing strong against overseas pressure for it to accomodate Western cultural practices to its preaching of the Gospel. In a letter dated 21 Feb 2014, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Primate of All Nigeria, commended the Church of Uganda for “uphold the authentic Gospel and the historic heritage of our Church, by rejecting the erroneous teaching and practice of homosexuality.”

Nigerian church support for sodomy laws: The Church of England Newspaper, February 21, 2014 March 20, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Marriage.
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Faith leaders in Nigeria have unanimously applauded the revisions to the country’s sodomy law, and have denounced as imperialist, racist and condescending Western pressure to change the country’s attitude towards homosexuality.

Leaders of the Muslim community as well as the head of the country’s Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches applauded President Goodluck Jonathan for signing a law banning same-sex marriage, gay clubs and public displays of same-sex affection into law on 7 January 2014.

While overseas Catholic and Anglican leaders including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have expressed reservations about the new law, their Nigerian counterparts have endorsed the ban on gay marriage.

In an open letter written to President Jonathan published by the Catholic News Service of Nigeria, the press arm of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Kaigama called the new law “a bold and clear indication of the ability of our great country to stand up for the protection of the highest values ​​of the Nigerian and African cultures around the ‘ institution of marriage and the dignity of the human person, without giving in to international pressure to promote unethical practices of homosexual unions and other related vices. ”

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh stated his church also opposed the introduction of gay marriage into Nigeria. In a speech given at a banquet honouring retired Archbishop Peter Akinola, Archbishop Okoh was reported to have said the underlying issue was not homosexuality itself, but man’s rebellion against God’s law.

“Many people do not realise that what is referred to as the homosexual trouble is not the homosexual or lesbian trouble but people’s refusal to accept the Scripture for what it is, authority for life and practice following God.”

“In the beginning, man questioned the authority of God in the garden by saying did God actually say that you should not eat the forbidden fruit. That challenge to God’s authority dethroned God’s power and enthroned man’s power. So they concluded that God has no right to tell man what to do and that they were the people who knew what to do. So man set God aside and took over the command. Consequently, disaster followed,” he said according to Channels TV in Lagos.

The question for Nigeria was not merely government sanction for sexual sin, but the decision Adam and Eve faced in the Garden of Eden to defy God, he argued.

The controversy over gay rights and gay marriage in Nigeria has also been played out in the national legislatures of Uganda, Tanzania and Cameroon which are in the process of adopting laws banning gay marriage.

Both Nigerian prelates were sharply critical of overseas political pressure to adopt Western sexual mores.

Archbishop Kaigama  thanked President Jonathan for his “brave and wise decision” to sign the bill into law and prayed that God would protect his “administration against the conspiracy of the developed world to make our country and continent as a dumping ground for the promotion of all the unethical practices, that destroy God’s plan for man.”

Bible supports capital punishment, Archbishop declares: The Church of England Newspaper, July 21, 2013, p 7. July 18, 2013

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The Primate of the Church of Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, has reaffirmed the morality of capital punishment telling reporters last week the execution of convicted criminals by the state did not contravene Christian ethical teaching.

On 21 June 2013 four men were hanged in Benin, Edo State after they exhausted their appeals following their convictions for murder. In a statement signed by Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of Jos, president of the Nigerian Roman Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the bishops described the executions as “a clear departure from modernity to savagery”.

“We believe that the actions aimed at reforming criminals will do better good to the society than capital punishment,” the Catholic archbishop said.

Overseas organizations led by Amnesty International also condemned the hangings. However Archbishop Okoh told reporters on 5 July 2013 “government should not allow anybody or organisation to teach it what morality is. The law of capital punishment for those who rightly deserve it should be enforced.”

The convicts executed last month were part of a criminal gang that had been found guilty of robbing a woman then raping and murdering her, the archbishop said. “Where is the human right of this woman? Meanwhile, the armed robbers involved had been executed, and people are crying for the human rights of the armed robbers,” he noted.

“Anybody who has degenerated to that level of depravity deserves capital punishment and it should be enforced,” said Archbishop Okoh, adding that it was “not true to say that punishment does not deter crime, it does.”

One of the duties of government is to administer justice. “Punishment must be effected and that is the essence of government, the Bible supports it, and the government cannot abdicate from punishing crime in the name of Amnesty International,” he said.

“No amnesty for Boko Haram” says the Church of Nigeria: The Church of England Newspaper, May 5, 2013 p 6. May 5, 2013

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The Archbishop of Nigeria Nicholas Okoh has warned that a blanket amnesty for the terror group Boko Haram would see Christians driven from Northern Nigeria. In a position paper prepared by the church in response to the creation of an amnesty commission by President Goodluck Jonathan, the archbishop warned that amnesty without reconciliation would not solve the problem.

“If the Federal Government goes ahead through the amnesty committee to make peace on BH’s terms, it would have inadvertently and effectively banned Christians and Christianity from the North. In the amnesty committee, who will speak for the right of the church, not to be tolerated, but as Nigerian Christians to exist side by side with Islam and Muslims, build churches, worship freely, move about freely without being hunted down with all sorts of weapons?,” said the document entitled “’The rough edges of the amnesty proposition”.

According to extracts published by the Vanguard newspaper on 29 April 2013 the Archbishop asked: “Will the amnesty committee ensure that Christians are not merely tolerated in the north but are allowed to live abundant life as Muslims as Christians do in other parts of the country?”

In the most recent clash between the Army and Boko Haram, aid agencies report 187 people were killed after two days of fighting in the town of Baga near the border with Chad.

Easter messages from across the Communion: The Church of England Newspaper, April 7, 2013 p 6. April 9, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand & Polynesia, Anglican Church of Australia, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Church of Kenya, Anglican Church of North America, Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church in Wales, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Church of Nigeria, Church of the Province of Uganda, Church of the Province of West Africa, Scottish Episcopal Church, The Episcopal Church.
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Easter messages from the overseas leaders of the Anglican Communion sounded a common theme this year of hope and joy. While the archbishops of the church touched upon issues of local concern, each spoke to the victory of Christ over death and the grave.

The Archbishop of Uganda Stanley Ntagali urged Christians not to lose heart in the face of economic and political uncertainties. “There could be social pressures in the country and many people might have lost hope. Many people no longer trust fellow human beings, but let the risen Lord Jesus whose victory over death we are celebrating this Easter give us a new hope.”

He also warned of the dangers of alcohol. “I urge our people not to celebrate [Easter] by drinking. They should go to church and worship the Lord and return home. This a time to repent and make our homes, offices, schools and business places more enjoyable and suitable to glorify God who gave us the greatest gift of salvation through his Son Jesus Christ,” he noted.

Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya, Chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council, also spoke of the joy found in life in Christ. “In his resurrection from the dead there is the glorious ‘yes’ of the fulfilment, actual and yet to come, of the promises and purposes of God. Through repentance and faith we share in his risen life and at its heart, our calling is to simply say the ‘Amen’ and glorify the God who has triumphed over sin and death.”

The GAFCON leader also urged Christians to reject the “ungodly innovations” coming from Western liberal churches which seek to “substitute human effort and speculation for divine grace and revealed truth.  It is a profound contradiction to say this ‘Amen’ and then go on, as some do, to deny the real physical resurrection of Jesus.”

When Christians say ‘no’ to false teaching it is for the sake of truth. “There can be no more positive a movement than one which gives an unqualified ‘Amen’ to the fulfilment of all God promises in Jesus Christ.”

The Archbishop of West Africa Dr. Tilewa Johnson said the Christian’s response to the sufferings was to turn towards God. “Where to start? We have tools and guidelines to hand. One of the greatest tools we have is prayer. Prayer is a means of communication with God.”

“As with so many things, it requires practice. We know what it is like when we become close to another human being – a husband, wife, brother, sister or close friend. In time it is possible to read their thoughts, and know what they are going to say before they say it. It is the same with God. To sit in the presence of God – maybe in silence; maybe with a few words – it is possible increasingly to come to know God and the will of God. Gradually we know the way to go,” the Gambian archbishop said.

The Primate of All Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said that when celebrating Easter it was “important” to “re-emphasize the incontrovertible fact that Jesus has risen from the dead and He is alive for ever. Through His resurrection power, therefore we can overcome all sorts of challenges we might have as an individual, as the Church of God and as a Nation.”

The Archbishop called on “all Christians and Nigerians as a whole to reaffirm their trust in God, and in corporate Nigeria.”

“Let us remain resolute and resilient, having our hope in the strength and power of the Almighty God. Our prayer for our country, Nigeria is that we shall overcome the present challenges of lingering insecurity: bloodshed, destruction of lives and property; poverty and political squabbles. We should keep hope alive of a corporate Nigeria,” he said.

Preaching at the Easter Vigil at the Cathedral of St. George the Martyr in Cape Town, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba told the congregation he had just returned from a retreat in “frozen rural North Wales”, staying in an attic room overlooking the Irish Sea in the mountains of Snowdonia.

“I was there to follow the 30-days Full Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola,” he explained “to explore what God was wanting to do in my life.”

But even found that the spiritual journey did not end there as God was leading him “to integrate all I’ve experienced and learnt into my ministry and life” –  “And I certainly came back to find an awful lot had been going on,’ he said.

“The over-riding lesson of my retreat is that God, in his redeeming love, is everywhere. Nothing is beyond his care, or his desire to bring healing and new life to you, to me, to everyone,” the archbishop said.

“If you truly want to know what Easter is all about, look at the places where there are tough challenges, difficult issues, hard wrestling, painful contexts – and where God’s people nonetheless dare to go, and to stay for as long as it takes, witnessing to light and hope and life.” Archbishop Makgoba said.

In in his final Easter message before he retires in July the Archbishop of Sydney Dr Peter Jensen reflected on his tenure in office. “As I think on my time as Archbishop, naturally I look back and try to judge myself – not with much success!” he says. “Like you, I have a real judge. Think how much more God, who knows all the secrets of our hearts, must be able to hold me to account. It should make us tremble.”

But Easter filled him with hope. “What happened at the first Easter reminds me of the love of God. Through the death of Jesus even I, and all of us, can have forgiveness as we turn to him in sorrow and trust him for our lives” he says.

“Our failures are not the last word over our lives. And, through the resurrection of Jesus I have a great and undeserved hope of my own resurrection and future,” Dr. Jensen said.

Archbishop-elect Philip Richardson of New Zealand reminded Kiwi Christians that “life comes out of death; the horror of crucifixion bears the fruit of redeemed and renewed humanity; the worst that we are capable of becomes the access way to that intimacy of relationship with God that Christ makes possible; it is in the bowl and towel of the servant that true power is expressed; it is in losing ourselves that we are found.”

The “heart of the message of Easter,” he observed was not the “passion or the suffering, but the resurrection.”

“As Martin Luther King rightly reminded us, ‘Hate begets hate, anger begets anger, killing only begets more killing. The only thing that can turn an enemy into a friend is the power of love’,” he said.

In a joint message released with the leader of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canada celebrated the bonds of friendship between the two denominations and also urged Christians to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori the Episcopal Church stated: “Easter celebrates the victory of light and life over darkness and death.  God re-creates and redeems all life from dead, dry, and destroyed bones.  We are released from the bonds of self-obsession, addiction, and whatever would steal away the radical freedom of God-with-us.”

At Easter “our lives re-center in what is most holy and creative, the new thing God is continually doing in our midst,” she said, “practicing vulnerability toward the need and hunger of others around us” thereby cultivating “compassionate hearts.  We join in baptismal rebirth in the midst of Jesus’ own passing-over.”

The Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America, writing from Juba where he was standing holy week with Archbishop Daniel Deng of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, wrote: “This Easter I am looking back,” he said – “I am asking, ‘What does it all mean?’ Whether in Juba or in Pittsburgh – and wherever you find yourself – what I testify is that the Gospel is my strength and my song, and that Jesus has become my salvation.”

“Easter is the day that lights and gives meaning to all the others, wherever I – we – spend it and with whomever I – we – spend it.  The tomb is empty.  The world, the flesh and the devil are defeated.  Jesus is alive.  In Him, the alien becomes familiar, loss becomes gain, sorrow becomes joy, and death becomes life.  This Easter I am also looking around and looking ahead,” Archbishop Robert Duncan wrote.

The Archbishop of Armagh Dr. Richard Clarke said what Ireland need this Easter was “confidence – a full–blooded confidence – that we actually want to allow Christ to run loose and dangerous in the world around us. We need to recover that spirited confidence to assert that Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, is not our private property as churchy people, but is truly for the whole of society and the entire world.”

Dr. Barry Morgan the Archbishop of Wales in his Easter sermon preached at Llandaff Cathedral stated that: “If you wanted to sum up God’s work, He is a God who is in the rescue business.  That is the root meaning of the word ‘salvation’ – it means being saved from something or someone.”

“Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we too as members of His body, are rescued from sin, despair, meaninglessness, disaster, and death,” he said, adding that “this offer of rescue, of salvation, by Jesus, is for all people not just for the select few – a bit like being rescued by a lifeboat.   When a life-station receives a distress signal, no enquiry is made about the social status of those who need rescuing, or whether they can pay for the service, or whether they are at fault for having got themselves into danger in the first place by being careless in going out without life jackets when a storm was forecast.  Lifeboats simply go to the rescue.”

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church Bishop David Chillingworth of St Andrews, Dunkeld & Dunblane stated: “We greet with joy the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We look forward to welcoming many people to worship in our churches at Easter.  We hope and pray that they will experience joy and hope in our congregations.

“As disciples of Jesus Christ, we believe that we are people of the resurrection.  We are Easter people – shaped in our baptism through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We feel deeply the pain of the world and its people.  We bring compassion and care to the ministry which we exercise in our service of others.  We have a passion for justice.  We are also people of hope.  Because of the resurrection, we believe that good will triumph over evil and life over death.”

Soft judges encourage crime Archbishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, February 17, 2013 p 7. February 22, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Nigeria, Corruption.
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A two year prison term or an option of paying a fine of £3000 for stealing £9.3 million from the Nigerian Police Pension Fund was an invitation to politicians to steal, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh told members of the Church of Nigeria Standing Committee in Benin City last week.

On 6 Feb 2013 Archbishop Okoh said he was appalled by the lenient treatment given by the Abuja High Court to convicted thief John Yusuf. “Nigerians are unhappy with the kid-glove treatment given to a man who, by his act, must have killed many pensioners. It is a great encouragement to looters of government treasury. Whatever is responsible for such encouragement of evil, government should act promptly to show the people where its sympathy lies.”

The Washington, DC-based NGO, Transparency International, gave Nigeria a score of 27 out of a possible 100 in 2012, placing the country among the most corruption plagued countries in the world, earning the same score as Azerbaijan, Kenya, Nepal and Pakistan.

Denmark scored a 90 in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) edging out New Zealand for first place. Somalia edged out Afghanistan and North Korea to came in last of the 176 nations surveyed, scoring 8 on the CPI. Among the nations of West Africa, Nigeria ranked 14th while Cape Verde was ranked 1st in the region with a score of 60 and Ghana second with a score of 45. Africa’s highest ranking nation on the CPI was Botswana which was ranked 30th world wide with a score of 60.

The CPI ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. A country or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 – 100, where 0 means that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and 100 means it is perceived as very clean.

While the government had taken steps in recent months to confront the terrorist violence of Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria, “equal attention should be given to the insecurity created by armed robbers, kidnappers, and human trafficking across the country,” the archbishop said.

On 5 Feb 2013 the Archdeacon of Ogidi, the Ven. Obi Ubaka reported the vicar of Umunachi in Awka State had been kidnapped and was being held for ransom. The archdeacon said the Rev. James Achigbu and his wife were driving home from visiting a neighboring church when their car was stopped at a road block by a criminal gang.  The archdeacon reported the gang has demanded money, but the parish has stated it will not pay a ransom and has appealed to the kidnappers for the release of their priest.

In his address to the standing committee, Archbishop Okok called upon the government “to do more to address the sore issues of unemployment for young graduates and general poverty in the country.   In addition, we wish to advice government at all levels to make corruption unattractive to both the rich and the poor.”

A spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State, responded to the archbishop’s call by noting the church’s role in transforming Nigeria. “The theme of the meeting, overcoming the challenges of the time is apt and divinely inspired. As leadership and representatives of the entire membership of the Church of Nigeria you will take up the challenge of re-invigorating the Church in the vanguard of our national transformation efforts,” Gov. Oshiomhole told the gathering.

African outrage over civil partnership decision: The Church of England Newspaper, January 20, 2013 p 7. January 25, 2013

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Howls of outrage and disbelief from the Anglican Churches of Africa and Asia have greeted last month’s decision by the House of Bishops to end the ban on clergy in gay civil partnerships from being appointed to the episcopate.

Archbishops representing a majority of the active members of the Anglican Communion have urged the Church of England to pull back, saying the bishops’ decision violates international Anglican accords, creates moral confusion over church doctrine and discipline, holds the church up to ridicule, and will provide Islamist extremists a further excuse to persecute Christian minorities.

The 12 Jan 2013 statement by the nine primates of the Global South Coalition follows critical responses from the Archbishops of Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria.  Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria said the bishops of his church had agreed to break with the Church of England should the English bishops’ decision be implemented.

“Sadly we must also declare that if the Church of England continues in this contrary direction we must further separate ourselves from it and we are prepared to take the same actions as those prompted by the decisions of The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada ten years ago.”

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda said the decision “to allow clergy in civil partnerships to be eligible to become Bishops is really no different from allowing gay Bishops.  This decision violates our Biblical faith and agreements within the Anglican Communion.”

The decision to permit partnered gay clergy to serve as bishops “only makes the brokenness of the Communion worse and is particularly disheartening coming from the Mother Church,” he argued.

The Archbishop of Kenya, Dr. Eliud Wabukala concurred, saying the announcement “will create further confusion about Anglican moral teaching and make restoring unity to the Communion an even greater challenge.”

The “proviso” that clergy in civil partnerships remain celibate is “clearly unworkable. It is common knowledge that active homosexuality on the part of Church of England clergy is invariably overlooked and in such circumstances it is very difficult to imagine anyone being brought to book,” the archbishop said on 6 Jan.

However, “the heart of the matter is not enforceability, but that bishops have a particular responsibility to be examples of godly living,” he argued.   “It cannot be right that they are able to enter into legally recognised relationships which institutionalise and condone behaviour that is completely contrary to the clear and historic teaching of Scripture” and the teaching of the church.

“The weight of this moral teaching cannot be supported by a flimsy proviso,” Archbishop Wabukala said.

African objections were not to the appointment to the episcopate of men who had a same-sex sexual orientation, but to those clergy who had contracted a gay civil partnership being appointed to the episcopate. The proviso that such relationships were celibate only when they involved the clergy of the Church of England was preposterous, one African bishop explained.

The Global South archbishops added this decision was “wrong” and had been “taken without prior consultation or consensus with the rest of the Anglican Communion at a time when the Communion is still facing major challenges of disunity.”

“The Church, more than any time before, needs to stand firm for the faith once received from Jesus Christ through the Apostles and not yield to the pressures of the society,” the archbishops said.

Church of Nigeria threatens to break with Canterbury over gay British bishops: Anglican Ink, January 10, 2013 January 11, 2013

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Archbishop Nicholas Okoh

The Church of Nigeria will break with the Church of England should it appoint clergy living in gay civil partnerships to the episcopate.

In a statement released under the signature of the Archbishop of All-Nigeria, the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh at the close of the bishops’ annual retreat this week, the Anglican Communion’s largest church: “Sadly we must also declare that if the Church of England continues in this contrary direction we must further separate ourselves from it and we are prepared to take the same actions as those prompted by the decisions of The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada ten years ago.”

The 20 Dec 2012 announcement by the House of Bishops and clarification issued on 4 Jan 2013 that the church had ended its moratorium on the appointment to the episcopate of clergy who had contracted civil partnerships but who had pledged to remain celibate has sparked sharp criticism from within Evangelical ranks within the Church of England and from the overseas church.  The claim that clergy who had entered a relationship that mimics marriage for same-sex were living a godly and moral life by refraining from consummating the relationship left some archbishops nonplussed.

The African church’s objections were not to the appointment of men to the episcopate who had a same-sex sexual orientation, but to clergy who had contracted a gay civil partnership being appointed to the episcopate. The proviso that such relationships were celibate only when they involved the clergy of the Church of England was preposterous, one African bishop told Anglican Ink.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Fast for Nigeria: Anglican Ink, November 1, 2012 November 1, 2012

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National Christian Conference Centre, Abuja Nigeria

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh has issued a call that on 7 Nov 2012 Christians fast and pray for a week, seeking divine intervention in aid of Nigeria.

Speaking at a press conference on 31 Oct 2012 in Abuja publicizing the Church of Nigeria’s second Divine Commonwealth Conference at the National Christian Centre in Abuja, the Primate of All Nigeria – Archbishop Okoh – told reporters prayer should be the first response in the battle against terrorism.

John Wesley wrote that fasting as a form of righteousness was vain. If done without love, it was a form of godliness without the power, since an inwardly motivated religion of the heart was necessary. Fasts proclaimed by the Church of Nigeria were motivated by love of God, love of country and love of “our fellow Nigerians”, the bishop said.

The Church of Nigeria believed that the natural grounds of fasting were sorrow and the burden for sin and as an aid to prayer.  By fasting believers might avert the wrath of God’s judgment, or seek his blessings. It was in this spirit the church called Nigeria to fast and pray, he explained.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

“Don’t print money, fix the economy” Archbishop says: The Church of England Newspaper, October 6, 2012, p 6. October 10, 2012

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The Primate of the Anglican Church of Nigeria has criticized his government for seeking to address the country’s fiscal crisis by printing higher denomination bank notes.

Speaking after the consecration of the new Bishop of Ifo the Rt. Rev. Nathaniel Oladejo Ogundipe, on 8 Sept 2012, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said he was unpersuaded by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) assurances the new notes would not spark inflation.

“We don’t need N5000 notes,” he said, saying most Nigerians do not have any money anyway. “I think if we have something else we can do with money, let us do it, not printing N5000 notes.”

While the CBN believes it will not cause inflation, “the ones they introduced before actually caused problems. And it has reduced our lower denominations to nothing. For me, I don’t think higher denomination of money is our problem today. Nigeria has many other problems to face” first, he said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Boko Haram violence a threat to the “Nigerian project”: The Church of England Newspaper, August 26, 2012 p 6. August 29, 2012

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The Archbishop of Nigeria has called upon the government of President Goodluck Jonathan to stop the drift towards anarchy as more Christians were killed last week by Islamist terrorists.  Attacks on churches and Christians were reported across Northern and Central Nigeria, with 19 worshipers attending a Pentecostal service in Okene in the central Kogi state murdered by gunmen.

In an interview with Punch, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said that at the “rate we are going, the country is drifting fast into anarchy and if people now capitalise on that situation, it will degenerate to dog eat dog.”

Anti-Christian violence has prompted some Christians to flee the North, while many churches report sharp decreases in worship attendance.  The Bishop of Kaduna, the Rt. Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon told his synod last week that the latest outbreak of violence had caused a 30 per cent drop in attendance.

On 6 August 2012, gunmen attacked a Bible Study held at the Deeper Life Bible Church in Okene.  Local press accounts of the attack say that the attackers shut off the generator plunging the church into darkness and then sprayed the building with machine gun fire.  Nineteen were killed in the attack, and two soldiers were killed in a firefight the following morning with the suspected gunmen.

In a communique released at the close of the 19th Kaduna Synod, the diocese warned Nigeria was sliding towards anarchy. Nigeria could soon see its own version of the Rwandan and Bosnian “ethnic cleansing” of recent years.

The Muslim militant group Boko Haram posed a threat to the “98 year old Nigerian project”  the synod warned by its “acts of bombing, shooting and other forms of destructive attack on the Nigerian state.”

First posted in The Church of England Newspaper.

Archbishop Okoh urges Nigerians to keep the faith in the face of terror: Anglican Ink, June 4, 2012 June 4, 2012

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Archbishop Nicholas Okoh

A lone suicide bomber killed at least 15 people last Sunday in a terrorist attack on a church in Nigeria’s Bauchi state. On 3 June 2012 a terrorist drove into the compound of the Harvest Field of Christ Church, Yelwa, Bauchi State, detonating a car bomb as worshipers began leaving the morning service.

While no group has so far taken responsibility for the attack, police believe the attack was the work of Boko Haram, the radical Islamist sect whose name in Hausa means “Western education is sacrilege.” At least 500 people have been killed in mass terror attacks in Northern Nigeria so far this year – church leaders in Nigeria report the death toll is much higher as sectarian murders in the countryside are seldom reported in the media.


“This synod called the whole of the country not to lose faith.  Because of the bombing and insecurity people were beginning to lose faith in God as if God is not able to protect them,” the archbishop said to the 2nd Session of the 8th Synod of the Diocese of Abuja meeting at St. James’ Church Asokoro, Abuja.

People were also “beginning to lose faith in the entity called Nigeria,” he said. “Individuals also are beginning to lose faith — losing courage in themselves, they feel that everything is collapsing.”

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Archbishop rejects corruption charges: The Church of England Newspaper, April 22, 2012 p 5. April 26, 2012

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The Primate of the Church of Nigeria has denounced as “satanic” the calls for the impeachment of the President of Nigeria after an Italian construction firm refurbished a church in the president’s home town.

Speaking to reporters last week, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh said the claim put forward by the opposition ACN party that there was an element of corruption in the refurbishment of a church was nonsense.

“The call for the impeachment of the president over the renovation of the church in his town is satanic and it is capable of causing religious bigotry which we don’t want. The ACN should apologise and retract the statement. We call on the National Assembly to disregard the call,” the archbishop said.

The ACN was wasting its time by pursuing a political vendetta against the president.  The Muslim-dominated party’s actions would serve only to flame religious tensions and did nothing to address the major issues facing the nation, he argued.

Speaking to reporters in Abuja after Easter services, the Archbishop said:

“It is not an issue, that church, I can renovate it myself, it was already built and the renovation of church can be done by either [the Italian construction company] or anybody.  People are looking for problem where there is none. The President doesn’t have to have a friend to renovate that church, since if anybody volunteered to do it, those people will receive blessing from God.”

“Those who are pointing to the renovation of the church, let them search their midst, there are logs in their eyes, not the speck in somebody’s eye,” the archbishop said.

In a statement published in the country’s major newspapers, the Italian construction firm noted that they had rebuilt the church as part of a The company said its act “of Corporate Social Responsibility is an established practice in our Mother country (Italy) and Italian firms in Nigeria have engaged in this practice rendering free construction, medical and advisory services as well as providing scholarships to various communities within Nigeria” since 2005.

It had refurbished the church in response to a “request by the Otuoke Community.”

It had not been “induced to do this act neither where we compensated for it by the Federal Government,” it said, adding that it had not been “awarded any major contracts under the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan rather nearly all the projects being executed by the Company are from the previous administrations which are ongoing.”

Overseas reactions to Dr. Williams’ resignation: The Church of England Newspaper, March 22, 2012 p 7. March 28, 2012

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News of the resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury has prompted reactions ranging from sadness to glee across wider the Anglican Communion.

The 16 March 2012 announcement that Dr. Rowan Williams will leave office by year’s end prompted the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Bishop David Chillingworth to write: “Archbishop Rowan’s time as Archbishop of Canterbury has been marked by great difficulty.  To be the person who is called to foster and to embody unity will always be a costly ministry.  He has fulfilled that ministry with a wonderful grace and personal warmth.”

The Primate of All Ireland, Dr. Alan Harper concurred.  Dr Williams was “held in high affection across the Anglican Communion and, on behalf of the Church of Ireland, I offer him prayerful good wishes as he decides to step down from the hugely demanding role as Archbishop of Canterbury to take up his new responsibilities – and enter a new phase of his life.”

The Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba wrote the church had been “inordinately privileged to have such an able theologian and deeply spiritual thinker, as Archbishop of Canterbury over the last decade,” adding that “I …  will miss him very much.”

However, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria said he was not sorry to see the archbishop go.

When Dr. Williams assumed office, the Anglican Communion was a “happy family. Unfortunately, he is leaving behind a Communion in tatters: highly polarized, bitterly factionalized, with issues of revisionist interpretation of the Holy Scriptures and human sexuality as stumbling blocks to oneness, evangelism and mission all around the Anglican world.

Since Dr. Rowan Williams “did not resign in 2008, over the split Lambeth Conference, one would have expected him to stay on in office, and work assiduously to ‘mend the net’ or repair the breach, before bowing out of office. The only attempt, the covenant proposal, was doomed to fail from the start,” Archbishop Okoh said.

For Nigeria, the “announcement does not present any opportunity for excitement. It is not good news here, until whoever comes as the next leader pulls back the Communion from the edge of total destruction.”

American Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote that she was “grateful for Rowan Williams’ service as Archbishop of Canterbury during an exceedingly challenging season. We can all give thanks for his erudition and persistence in seeking reconciliation across a rapidly changing Anglican Communion.”

The Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Peter Jensen observed that Dr. Williams was “universally admired for his intellectual stature and his personal warmth.  In his time as Archbishop, the Anglican Communion has been subjected to unprecedented stresses which have hastened an inevitable tendency to regional independence and decentralisation. With the majority of Anglicans now from theologically conservative churches of the Global South, the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the future will demand a deepening appreciation of their place in the Communion.”

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Resist Muslim aggression, Archbishop tells Nigeria: The Church of England Newspaper, February 24, 2012, p 6. March 1, 2012

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh has urged Christians in Northern Nigeria to hold fast and not abandon their homes in response to attacks by the Muslim terrorist group Boko Haram.

The archbishop’s plea for peaceful resistance comes amidst heightened anti-Christian persecution in Northern Nigeria.  The Barnabas Fund reports that 95 per cent of the Christian residents of one northern state have fled in fear. However, the Bishop of Dutse, the Rt. Rev. Yusuf Lumu, told reporters the insurgency had evolved from an anti-Christian to an anti-government campaign in recent weeks.

Nevertheless the Rev. Garba Idi, chairman of the Yobe State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) told the UK-based Christian aid organization the situation in Yobe state was “terrible.”

“Churches were burnt and attacked while many Christians lost their lives in the course of this mayhem,” Mr. Idi said.  “We have to leave because the sect is hunting us; that is why we had to flee… Many Christians have left Yobe to save their lives from these attacks.”

In Yobe approximately 20 churches have been set alight since November and 15 Christians have been murdered over the past six weeks by Muslim militants, Mr. Idi reported.

Speaking to members of the Church of Nigeria’s Standing Committee meeting at St Faith Cathedral Church, Awka on 17 Feb 2012 Archbishop Okoh warned that unless the government acted quickly, a civil war leading to the unraveling of Nigeria was in the cards.

“We call on Boko Haram, their sponsors and admirers to have a rethink; in fact, all of us have a lot to lose in the event of a breakup of the country, if pushed too hard,” the Primate told the meeting, according to the Information Nigeria website.

The unity of Nigeria was “non-negotiable”, the primate said, as were its people. “We are all one,” Archbishop Okoh told the 170 members of the provincial standing committee.

But the government must ensure that the life and liberties of its citizens were safeguarded.  Northern Christians must be protected by the government, he said, but Northern Christians must also stay and resist the attacks of Boko Haram.  He also charged the church’s clergy and parish leaders to ensure that security arrangements were in place so as to prevent attacks on worshipers.

Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the attacks upon Nigeria’s Christians and has mounted a campaign of violence with the aim of imposing Sharia law on the country.  On Christmas Day 35 people were killed in one attack upon a Catholic Church in Madalla, near the capital of Abuja, when terrorists threw bombs into a crowd leaving the church after a service.

Bishop Lumu told the Nation newspaper that he believed the terror campaign was evolving.  Boko Haram had been “hijacked by politicians,” he charged, bent on destabilizing the government so as to provoke a military coup.

Meet murder with love, archbishop tells Nigeria: The Church of England Newspaper, January 27, 2012 p 7. February 2, 2012

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Archbishop Nicholas Okoh

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh has urged Nigerian Christians not to seek vengeance for the wave of anti-Christian and ethnic violence sweeping across Northern Nigeria.  The archbishop’s peace plea follows a series of bombings carried out by the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group, Boko Haram, which last week killed over 200 people.

The plight of Nigeria’s Christians was also raised in Parliament last week, with MPs pressing the Church of England and the government to use their influence to end the violence.

Reporters from the Leadership newspaper in Kano counted 185 bodies in the mortuaries of the city’s main hospital following four apparently coordinated bomb blasts on the evening of 20 January 2012.  The death toll is expected to rise, the newspaper said, as other bodies are brought to the hospital, while several people were severely injured in the blasts and are near death.

Following the attack by the radical Islamist group, police imposed a 24-hour curfew on the city, which was modified to a dusk to dawn curfew on Monday.  The Kano bombings were followed by an attack on a Christian community in North-Eastern Nigerian town of Tafawa which left nine people dead and ten wounded.

President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, condemned the Islamist attacks, protesting the fact that “honest Nigerians were brutally killed by terrorists.”

“We will not sit here and watch while enemies of democracy spread terror across our land,” he said.

In a statement released on 23 January following the visit of the Bishop of Durham to Nigeria, Archbishop Okoh warned the violence in the North posed a “very serious challenge” to the government and was giving President Jonathan many “sleepless nights.”  However, the outbreak of “religious strife” was unnatural as Christians and Nigerians sought “to continue to live together peacefully as before.”

He stated that Christians were “facing serious temptation” as the “intense attack” by the Islamist radicals was “tempting the Christians whether to continue to maintain peace, always turning the other cheek, or fight back to find their safety.”

The archbishop called upon government and Muslim leaders to “reach out to Boko Haram to dissuade them from dastardly acts.”

He called upon Boko Haram to “leave the Church alone,” and to “dialogue with government if they have any axe to grind with her.”

However Christians would not meet violence with violence.  “The attempt to drag Nigerians into militancy is something Nigerians must resist,” Archbishop Okoh said.

Civil War looms in Nigeria: The Church of England Newspaper, January 6, 2012, p 7. January 6, 2012

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Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma

Action, not talk is needed from Muslim leaders if Nigeria is not to fall into civil war, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria said last week in the wake of Christmas Day terror attacks mounted by the Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh appealed to Nigeria’s Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs to exercise leadership, saying “it is not enough to condemn the act. It is not enough to dissociate itself from it.”

Muslim leaders “must take some pragmatic steps in the interest of all of us to bring about an end to this matter. There is no other body in a better position to speak to Boko Haram,” the archbishop told reporters last week during a visit to St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla in the Niger State.

On 1 Jan 2012 Boko Haram issued an ultimatum to Christians living in the Muslim majority areas of Northern Nigeria to leave within three days, or face their wrath.  The terror group has claimed responsibility for a series of bomb and gun attacks on churches and the police stations across five states on Christmas Day.  At St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla near the capital of Abuja, 35 people were killed when a bomb was tossed into the congregation as the service was ending.  A half dozen other Christians were killed in related attacks across the North also.

Archbishop Okoh called upon Nigeria’s political and traditional leaders to take immediate action to prevent the country from falling into civil war.  The governors of Nigeria’s northern states must come together, he said.  “They meet to discuss national issues and I don’t see any national issue that is more critical than this one; the issue of the security of the nation.”

“If they can meet on other things, this is a critical issue that should engage their attention. They should find a solution to it. They are in a better position to find a solution to it.”

“I also make my appeal to the political elite in the National Assembly and those of them in the states,” the archbishop said.  “They should find a solution to this matter as a matter of urgency, because if there is no Nigeria, there will be no political office holders.”

The spectre of sectarian war loomed, the head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, the Rev. Ayo Oritsjafor told AFP. “The consensus is that the Christian community nationwide will be left with no other option than to respond appropriately if there are any further attacks on our members, churches and property.”

In a speech given on 30 Dec 2011 Bishop Emmanuel Chukwuma also warned that the Ibo people of the South-East would not hesitate to follow the example of the late Ikemba Nnewi – the leader of the short-lived Biafran Republic which attempted to break away from Nigeria in the 1960’s – and take up arms to protect themselves.

“If the Federal Government fails to do something urgently, we shall declare war in Nigeria. Our quietness should not be seen as cowardice. If the issue is not addressed, we will resume [Ikemba Nnewi’s] fight against injustice. Enough is enough.”

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

National week of fasting and prayer for Nigeria: The Church of England Newspaper, December 2, 2011 p 6. December 1, 2011

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Archbishop Nicholas Okoh

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, has called upon citizens of the West African nation to begin a season of fasting and prayer for their embattled country.

Plagued by sectarian strife in the North and separatist violence in the Niger Delta, political stagnation and economic uncertainty, Archbishop Okoh told the 2011 Carnival for Christ conference last week in Abuja the church’s general synod had approved the  “seven-day prayer and fasting” for “the president and the whole country” from 28 Nov to 3 Dec.

Nigerians should “pray for peace; to pray for the cessation of attacks; that God should intervene in our affairs because this new dimension of throwing bombs we have never seen it before and it’s almost killing the psyche of the people of the country.”

The troubles facing Nigeria would find their solution in prayer and in faithful obedience to God, he said, citing Joel 2:25. “So, I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”

It is not certain whether President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria will give the government’s blessing to the fast, as the state has sought not to become embroiled in religious issues so as not to favor any Christians or Muslims.

Fasts were proclaimed by the British and American governments during the Nineteenth century – President Abraham Lincoln authorized the last national period of prayer and fasting during the American Civil War in 1865.   Five general fasts were authorized by Parliament in the Nineteenth century in response to a cholera epidemic, the Irish potato famine, two during the Crimean war and the last proclaimed in 1857 during the Indian mutiny.

While the Church of Nigeria draws upon the reformed Catholic tradition of the Church of England in its understanding of the purpose of fasting, its doctrine and discipline was molded by the Church Missionary Society (CMS) and draws heavily upon the teachings of Evangelical revival.

Like the Church of England, the Church of Nigeria promotes fasting as spiritual discipline.  Nigerian churchmen tell CEN their church draws upon Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiæ who held that fasting was a tool in defeating temptation in the flesh.  But it has also been informed by the Protestant reformers teachings that fasting was not an end or virtuous in itself.

John Wesley wrote that fasting as a form of righteousness was vain. If done without love, it was a form of godliness without the power, since an inwardly motivated religion of the heart was necessary. The fast called for by the Church of Nigeria was one motivated by love of God, love of country and love of “our fellow Nigerians”, CEN was told.

The Church of Nigeria believed that the natural grounds of fasting were sorrow and the burden for sin and as an aid to prayer.  By fasting believers might avert the wrath of God’s judgment, or seek his blessings. It was in this spirit the church called Nigeria to fast and pray, the spokesman noted.

Nigerian winter over, ACNA says: The Church of England Newspaper, November 18, 2011 p 6. November 17, 2011

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Bishop Julian Dobbs

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The chill in relations between the Church of Nigeria and the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is over following a meeting of the churches’ archbishops in London, senior ACNA leaders tell The Church of England Newspaper.

A breakdown in communications was blamed for the frost in relations between Nigeria and the conservative province-in-waiting in the US, which complained it had not been consulted about the creation of a new Nigerian outreach in America.

Last month the head of CANA, the Church of Nigeria’s missionary jurisdiction in the US, Bishop Martyn Minns announced the formation of the Diocese of the Trinity, to be headed up by CANA suffragan Bishop Amos Fagbamiye.  On 12 Oct 2011 Bishop Minns said Trinity had been formed “in order to strengthen our missionary focus and provide enhanced support for local clergy and congregations, especially for Nigerian Anglicans living in North America.”

While the new diocese received warm public words of welcome, its creation had come as a surprise when it was proposed earlier this year, as it had been initiated by the Church of Nigeria and not by CANA.

However, CANA suffragan Bishop Julian Dobbs denied there was any discord between the ACNA and Nigerian House of Bishops.  CANA had been successful, he argued because its “members reflect a broad and complex spectrum of complimentary ethnic and racial identities and maintain a healthy equilibrium between the historic spiritual streams of Anglicanism: Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical and Charismatic.”

“As a missionary outreach of the Church of Nigeria, CANA maintains our unimpeachable connection with authentic Anglicanism in the Anglican Communion; with our partners in the Anglican Church in North America we are building a future for faithful Christians,” Bishop Dobbs wrote.

“Therefore, we are appalled by the suggestion that we have created a conflict,” he added.

A spokesman for the ACNA was distressed by characterizations of the Diocese of the Trinity as race-based, telling CEN the new diocese was centered-round culture and worship styles.  On 31 Oct 2011 Archbishop Duncan stated there had been a “desire among many Nigerian nationals, some of whom have been part of CANA and some who have been waiting for a development like the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity, to come together as a Nigerian diocese in North America.”

The “provision for affinity dioceses” within the ACNA structure made possible the formation of the Trinity Diocese, he said.

A spokesman for Archbishop Duncan stated that Archbishops Okoh and Duncan met in London during the week of Oct 24-28 adding that relations were amicable and there was no tension between the churches.

Prosperity Gospel is a false gospel, Nigerian archbishop warns: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 9, 2011 p 6. September 12, 2011

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First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

The ‘prosperity gospel’ that equates material blessings with spiritual holiness is a false gospel and a corruption of Jesus’ teaching, the Archbishop of Nigeria said last month in an interview with an African website.

An interview with Sahara Reporters published on 21 August, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh stated that “what is being presented as prosperity gospel, if not properly defined, can mislead innocent people. More so in a society that already has its values devalued, we could have a moral failure in society.”

Arising from the Wesleyan holiness movement, the prosperity gospel is subset of the pentecostal- charismatic movement. Its theological roots can be found in Wesley’s doctrine of entire sanctification, Florida-based Pentecostal scholar Charlie J Ray notes, coupled with teachings drawn from Christian Science and the “Word of Faith” movement.

Wesley taught that entire sanctification was a gradual process that culminated in a state of sinless perfection or entire sanctification. This was updated by the ‘Holiness Movement’ of the 19th Century that held that an instantaneous experience of entire sanctification could be achieved by the believer. The prosperity gospel builds upon these beliefs coupled with teachings taking from Christian Science, Ray notes. However he believes its reliance upon experience and personal revelation over Scripture has led to a movement that “is really a different gospel and completely foreign to biblical theology.”

Nigeria has become the epicentre of the prosperity gospel movement in Africa, with its leaders planting churches across the continent. However, the spread of prosperity gospel mega-churches with flamboyant leaders flaunting their wealth as a sign of God’s favour has caused a backlash from the established churches. In his book Foxes in the Vineyard, Insights into the Nigerian Pentecostal Revival, Sean Akinrele quotes Bishop Mike Okonkwo, former president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), as saying that “money has sadly become the yardstick for success in the Church.”

“Prosperity messages have therefore taken centre stage of most preaching at the expense of full gospel messages. This has degenerated to the extent that people now come to church primarily to get rich outside the richness in their souls. Pastors, too, have cashed in on the gullibility of unsuspecting members as symbolism in oil, mantle, honey, palm-leaves, sprinkling of blood, and other mediums are now evolved to build the faith of the people unto materialism,” Bishop Okonkwo wrote.

In his interview with Sahara Reporters, Archbishop Okoh stated “whether you talk about political parties, the church or the people there is a moral failure. The people are now uncomfortable with the kind of affluence that is canvassed in the name of God. Many people commit crimes now to acquire wealth so that people do not say God has not blessed them.”

Archbishop Okoh stated that he believed the “prosperity gospel is a half truth. In the sense that God is the owner of all wealth as Psalm 24 tells us. The oil wealth Nigeria has is God’s. In every sense God is rich because everything belongs to him.

“But the scriptures also say that we will always have the poor with us. So it looks like a mirage trying to organize the world without a poor man. We must realize that money is not gospel or faith,” he said.

Jesus warned “that the life of a person does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. So while talking about God being rich and that his children too should be rich it must be properly presented to avoid confusing the innocent because if it is wrongly presented it can lead people astray,” he noted.

However, Archbishop Okoh added that “poverty is not a blessing” either. What the church teaches is that from our “legitimate labour and hard work” we can “earn income so we can give to others who do not have. The essence of Christian labour is to provide for yourself and to have surplus to give to those who do not have.”

The archbishop stated that while “riches are from God and they are meant for his children” we should not “deceive ourselves that everybody who has wealth is righteous or approved by God. Or that if you go to church that in six months you must ride a Mercedes Benz. That kind of preaching is misleading.”

The way to combat the pernicious influence of the prosperity gospel is through sound biblical exposition in preaching and scholarship for the clergy, Nigerian church leaders tell CEN. From 13-17 June the Langham Preaching programme held an expository preaching conference for Nigerian pastors in Owerri and the errors of the prosperity gospel were one of the meetings key themes.

The Rev Emeka Egbo, the Langham Preaching programme Nigeria coordinator, told the 128 clergy in attendance the “the root of the prosperity gospel is to say the Bible is all about me, me, me. We want to say the Bible is about God, God, God.”

Anglican Unscripted, Sept 10, 2011 September 11, 2011

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This week’s episode of Anglican Unscripted looks back at 9/11, discusses the recent developments in Zimbabwe and explores the Church of Nigeria’s response to the ‘heresy’ of the prosperity gospel.