The Archbishop of Nigeria speaks to the Church of England

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The Archbishop of Nigeria speaks to the Church of England

The Archbishop of Nigeria speaks to the Church of England

L to R: Bishop John Ellison, Mike Penny, Rev David Holloway, Canon Andy Lines, Dr Joy Holloway, Rev Hugh Palmer, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Brian O’Donoghue. Not in the picture Rev Paul and Mrs Christine Perkin, Rev Robert de Berry, Canon Dr Chris Sugden

At the Church of Nigeria’s first ever all Nigeria Conference for teaching and spiritual renewal, the Divine Commonwealth Conference, the Primate, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh stressed the importance of the presence of those from the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (UK and Ireland) in Church of England who stood for the faith that the missionaries brought to their church in the nineteenth century.

He said “We value your presence and your friendship. On our part we will do our best to connect with you in England.”

In the last few years the Church of Nigeria has been shunned and occasionally vilified for its orthodox stance on central matters of Christian faith and practice by those who are seeking “progressive Africans” to work with on their social agenda. The Church’s orthodox stance has been patronised as due not to any convictions about the truth of the Bible but the pressures of their Islamic context.

The Archbishop continued. “We have no hatred for anybody in the UK, USA or Europe, nor for Muslims even when they kill and harm us. Our only desire is to live in peace and serve God. We do not think it right for anyone to harm anyone. It is not human to do that, not only ungodly. ”

This was significant since within a few days of the beginning of the conference a bishop had been chased from his cathedral which along with all the Christian churches in the town was burnt down. Those Christians who were “immigrants” from southern Nigeria all returned south.

The Archbishop said that when he and his church saw good people come to them they were highly encouraged. “We have very fond memories of CMS Missionaries. We cannot forget that God sent them to us and gave us the Bible. We are now giving it back to you.”

He recalled that some of the early missionaries who came to West Africa died, either on the high seas, or from malaria. Some never married. And all of this because of Africa. He said his church was grieved that the children of the people who suffered and died to bring the bible to them have disinherited their inheritance.

He continued: “Great Britain is what it is because of the Word of God. The USA is what it is because of what Britain gave her. When people abandon their roots, they are bound to fall into terrible error. You are our friends, brothers and sisters. This demonstrates that we are all one family.”

His choice of words is most revealing. The DIVVCON Conference Statement had strong words to say about the neo-colonial attitude of Prime Minister David Cameron:

“We were shocked by the recent statement from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Right Honourable David Cameron, to the effect that his Government would aid only those countries that adhere to ‘proper human rights’. It is clear that his true agenda is to force the normalization of homosexuality and gay marriage as a ‘human right’. While acknowledging the sacred worth of every human being we reject this erroneous notion as contrary to God’s intention for humankind and harmful to those he claims to protect. Another implication of this is that the ‘Commonwealth of Nations’ is still being treated as a body of unequal partners, where, because of economic status, some nations are still vulnerable to manipulation. ”

In sharp contrast Archbishop Okoh called us friends, brothers and sisters. He saw us as equals, not as those seeking his endorsement or co-operation as part of a western agenda. This equal non-colonial relationship is a fruit of the gospel because all parties are subject to the Lord and the gospel, not to an ideology.

The Divine Commonwealth Conference will be an annual event and is open to all who stand with the Jerusalem Declaration of 2008.

Canon Chris Sugden is a canon of Jos in the Church of Nigeria


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