Church Of Nigeria Anglican Communion, Abuja, Nigeria
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Christianity came to Nigeria in the 15th century through Augustinian and Capuchin monks from Portugal. The first mission of the Church of England was, though, only established in 1842 in Badagry by Henry Townsend. In 1864 Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a Yoruba and former slave, was elected Bishop of the Niger. Lagos became a diocese of its own in 1919.
Leslie Gordon Vining became Bishop of Lagos in 1940 and in 1951 the first archbishop of the newly inaugurated Province of West Africa. Vining was the last Bishop of Lagos of European descent.
On 24 February 1979, the sixteen dioceses of Nigeria were joined in the Church of Nigeria, a newly founded province of the Anglican Communion, with Timothy O. Olufosoye, then Bishop of Ibadan, becoming its first archbishop, primate and metropolitan. Between 1980 and 1988, eight additional dioceses were created. In 1986, he was succeeded by J. Abiodun Adetiloye who became the second primate and metropolitan of Nigeria, a position he would hold until 1999.
From Left- Right; Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh
In 1989 the Diocese of Abuja was created on the area of the new capital of Nigeria with Peter Akinola as first bishop.
The 1990s was the decade of evangelization for the Church of Nigeria, starting with the consecration of mission bishops for the mission dioceses of Minna, Kafanchan, Katsina, Sokoto, Makurdi, Yola, Maiduguri, Bauchi, Egbado und Ife. Between 1993 and 1996 the primate founded nine dioceses; Oke-Osun, Sabongidda-Ora, Okigwe North, Okigwe South, Ikale-Ilaje, Kabba, Nnewi, Egbu and Niger Delta North. In December 1996 five more mission dioceses in the north; Kebbi, Dutse, Damaturu, Jalingo und Oturkbo. In 1997 and 1998 four more dioceses were established; Wusasa, Abakaliki, Ughelli and Ibadan North. In 1999 the Church of Nigeria added 13 new dioceses; four in July (Oji River, Ideato, Ibadan South and Offa), eight in November (Lagos West, Ekiti West, Gusau, Gombe, Niger Delta West, Gwagwalada, Lafia and Bida) and Oleh in December. So within 10 years there were 27 new regular dioceses and 15 mission dioceses created. The Archbishop of Canterbury declared the Church of Nigeria to be the fastest growing church in the Anglican Communion.
In 1997 the Church of Nigeria was split into three ecclesiastical provinces (see below).
In 2000, Archbishop Peter Akinola succeeded Archbishop Adetiloye as primate of the Church of Nigeria. One of his first actions as primate was to get together 400 bishops, priests, lay members and members of the Mothers' Union to elaborate a vision for the Church of Nigeria under the chairmanship of Ernest Shonekan, a former President of Nigeria. The vision elaborated was:
- "The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) shall be; Bible-based, spiritually dynamic, united, disciplined, self supporting, committed to pragmatic evangelism, social welfare and a Church that epitomizes the genuine love of Christ."
The program of action included among others additional translations of the liturgy, establishing a lay fundraising team, establishing a legal support to ensure freedom of religion and worship, establishing theological colleges and universities, internet access for all dioceses, training evangelists, priests and their wives, social welfare programs, hospitals, secondary schools, literacy courses and setting up cottage industries.
In 2005, as one of the goals of the Vision of the Church of Nigeria, the church-owned Ajayi Crowther University in Oyo was granted license to operate as a private university in Nigeria on 7 January 2005.
Structure and leadership
In 1997, as a result of rapid expansion, the Church of Nigeria was split into three internal ecclesiastical provinces:
- Province One, consisting of the dioceses in the West, headed by Archbishop Adetiloye who remained Primate of All Nigeria, and metropolitan archbishop.
- Province Two, consisting of the Eastern dioceses, headed by Ben Nwankiti, Bishop of Owerri as metropolitan archbishop.
- Province Three, consisting of the Northern dioceses, headed by Peter Akinola, Bishop of Abuja, as metropolitan archbishop.
In 2002 the Church of Nigeria was again reorganised, this time into 10 ecclesiastical provinces.
The rapid expansion has continued, and as of 2012 there are 14 metropolitan archbishops, heading 14 ecclesiastical provinces, with a total of 161 dioceses.
The fourteen ecclesiastical provinces are:
- Lagos - Dean: Ephraim Ademowo
- Nigel Delta
The fourteen archbishops each hold metropolitical authority within their respective provinces. One of them is additionally the Primate and bears the title "Primate of All Nigeria". The primates of the Church of Nigeria have been:
Timothy O. Olufosoye (1979- 1986); J. Abiodun Adetiloye (1986- 1999); Peter Akinola (2000- 2010); Nicholas Okoh (2010-)
Anglican Communion conflicts and realignment
The former primate of the church, Peter Akinola, has become prominent in recent years as a leader of conservatives within the Anglican Communion. After the 2003 ordination of a noncelibate gay man, Gene Robinson, as a bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA), he threatened that it might split the Anglican Communion.
As a first step, the church declared itself in "impaired communion" with the ECUSA on 21 November 2003. In September 2005 the Church of Nigeria reworded its constitution to redefine, from its point of view, the Anglican Communion. No longer would it be "Provinces in communion with the See of Canterbury" but instead "all Anglican Churches, Dioceses and Provinces that hold and maintain the ‘Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church’".
On November 12, 2005 the church entered into a "Covenant of Concordat" with the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America, two groups outside the Anglican Communion which do not recognize the ECUSA. In October and December 2006, several churches in Virginia declared themselves out of communion with the ECUSA due to their opposition to the ordination of Robinson and the election of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and joined the Church of Nigeria through the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a mission originally started by the Church of Nigeria to support Nigerian Anglicans in the United States. It now mostly consists of non-Nigerian, theologically orthodox American Anglicans, and initially began under the oversight of two bishops; (Bishop Martyn Minns and a suffragan bishop, David Bena), who are simultaneously bishops of the Church of Nigeria.
The Church of Nigeria is currently in full communion with the orthodox Anglican Church in North America, founded in June 2009, of which the CANA is an affiliate jurisdiction. The first of four new American dioceses for the ACNA to be established by the Church of Nigeria, under the oversight of the missionary bishop of CANA, is the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity which was inaugurated in 19 August 2012 by Archbishop Nicholas Okoh.
In October 2009, the Nigerian church's leadership reacted to the Vatican's proposed creation of personal ordinariates for disaffected traditionalist Anglicans by saying that although it welcomed ecumencial dialogue and shared moral theology with the Roman Catholic Church, the current GAFCON structures already meet the spiritual and pastoral needs of conservative Anglicans in Africa.