Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Nigerian bishops ask for help in England

The following passage comes from Archbishop Okoh’s opening address to the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria held on 3 March 2011. (It has only just come to my attention.)

Visit to the UK: In our meeting in Lagos, we were mandated to visit the UK to ascertain the condition of Nigerian Anglicans, and how to help them. Our first attempt was on 17th December 2010, which failed because excessive snow fall, led to the closure of Heathrow airport. We rescheduled for 16th February, 2011. Thank God we were able to go. It was a full delegation. The Group was made up of:

The Most Revd Nicholas D. Okoh - Primate
The Most Revd Joseph Akinfenwa - Ibadan
The Most Revd Michael Akinyemi - Kwara
The Most Revd Bennet Okoro Owerri
The Most Revd Ignatius Kattey Niger Delta
The Most Revd Emmanuel Egbunu - Lokoja
The Rt. Revd David Onuoha - Secretary
Barr. Abraham Yisa - Registrar

The delegation was well received by the Nigerian High Commission in London. There was a brief meeting and an interactive section. The group also visited the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace. Our message:

The need to allow Nigerians to worship “the Nigeria way” in abandoned Church buildings or allow them a scheduled time in parish Churches where they could express themselves unreservedly in worship, to save us from the unceasing and intense bleeding of our young executive Anglicans moving over to the New Generation Churches due to what they describe as “cold” worship style. Our request was viewed positively by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England. We also visited the Lord Bishop of London and the Bishop of Southwark. Other places visited include Manchester and Birmingham. In summary the Archbishop requested us to put our proposal into writing. He assured us that it is a practical proposal. We addressed a group of Nigerians of different age brackets in London, Manchester and Birmingham and had a special session with representatives of Nigerian Clergy in the UK. Our visit was said to be timely. But a few had their reservations.

Another issue which has emerged in this visit is the status, sponsorship and future of the Nigerian Chaplaincy in the UK. At the moment they are enjoying the last part of the generosity of the CMS, and the grace and benevolence of St. Marylebone. These are issues requiring urgent attention.

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Comments

It's interesting that all these big names have the time and money to travel in the UK just before Easter. reading between the lines, they want to establish their own parishes where the "Nigeria way" can be emphasized. Does this way include homophobic preaching and denunciation of the "western churches" for their moral laxity? Or is to establish an Anglicanism for right-wing groups? The Virginia experience does not bode well. A foot in the door.

Posted by: Richard Grand on Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 1:59pm BST

I don't understand this enough to comment.
What stops largely Nigerian congregations from having Nigerian-style Services now, either in churches or in school halls etc?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 4:11pm BST

I find it interesting that the C of E bishops involved didn't think it worth looking at just see what this "Nigerian way" might be. Is it simply a more lively service, using hymns in Yoruba or Igbo? Is it that clergy and people in C of E parishes might need more coaching in hospitality? We've certainly dealt with these things in the Episcopal Church, and at our best we've been able to adapt and accommodate practices. There are, for example, congregations where a more Caribbean flavor distinguished some most African-American congregations from others. We make accommodations for various languages and cultures without losing the Prayer Book tradition.

Wouldn't it have been interesting if the C of E bishops had offered to assist with that sort response? And wouldn't it have been interesting at that point to see how the Nigerian bishops answered?

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 5:02pm BST

I'm sincerely conflicted about this.

To what extent is "the Nigeria Way"---while a perfectly valid Christian charism---simply not Anglican? To what extent should Anglicanism be inculturated, and where? (i.e., should Nigerian-inculturated Anglicanism be for Nigeria, whereas Anglicans in the UK, whatever their particular inculturation/origin, adapt to UK Anglicanism, in all its varieties?)

I think we need to resist easy answers here (and try to not to conflate it w/ "The Present Difficulties" in sexuality, as difficult as that may be to do).

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 5:31pm BST

It does seem rather divisive - we want to be inthe C of E ( or at least use C of E buildings ) but we want our own services.

Posted by: Simon Bravery on Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 5:39pm BST

This does sound rather familiar.

Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria on 7 April 2005 announced the formation of "the Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America". This was the beginning of "CANA". It was ostensibly designed, like the British initiative, to provide a church for expatriate Nigerians more like the one at home.

By 15 September 2005, the Church of Nigeria was referring to "the Convocation of Anglican Nigerians in Americas".

A letter from Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria dated 16 November 2005 made the change to "a Convocation for Anglicans in North America".

This became the breakaway group of conservative Anglicans, headed by British born and US based Martyn Minns, which made no pretence of limiting itself to Nigerians, but which became a founder member of the Anglican Church in North America which is apparently trying to supplant the mainstream Episcopal Church as the official expression of Anglicanism in the USA.

More details from Father Jake at http://frjakestopstheworld.blogspot.com/2010/07/convocation-of-anglican-nigerian.html

Posted by: badman on Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 6:16pm BST

The other thing to consider are the Nigerian Christians who are in this country because of their sexuality and the dangers they would face at home.

I am sure that Archbishop Okoh did not have them in mind when he made his appeal.

Posted by: Benny Hazlehurst on Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 6:53pm BST

I freely admit I only read Simon's summary.
Richard Grand, it could mean what you state. It could also mean something else. A local TEC church here in Denver has literally and figuratively opened its doors to the Sudanese Anglican community. The Sudanese are free to worship at the regularly scheduled services, but the Sudanese also host their own Sunday services and major holiday services in the Sudanese style of worship.
So, while you might be correct, maybe that's all the Nigerians are seeking. Although, ... I would certainly hope that such a large high-powered delegation wouldn't be needed to grant that request. However, I know not the customs and practices of what is and is not allowed as proper worship in CofE churches and cathedrals.
As far as the youngsters practicing New Ways, isn't that the lament of transplanted communities world-wide? That the younger generation seemingly abandons the ways of The Old Country?

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 7:09pm BST

These congregations would be subject to the area Anglican diocesan or to the Church of Nigeria?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Wednesday, 6 April 2011 at 10:51pm BST

I find it interesting that these folks want to worship in the "Nigerian way"...but had a conniption when a diocese in California introduced Native American concepts into the ceremony to consecrate their suffragan bishops.

Sauce for the goose...?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Thursday, 7 April 2011 at 12:03am BST

Notably, one of the places where the Sudanese met in Denver was the quite liberal and open cathedral (they were somewhere else before and moved somewhere else later I think?). But the trick seems to me to be to offer them space in existing (underused) CofE buildings (the rector has discretion on this I would think, and there are *plenty*)--particularly more Liberal ones. And make the offer publicly, which gives the ABC an easy option for his response. That will draw out the real intentions. No problem with preserving individual ways of worshipping, but if they're with a congregation, then everyone has to get along. If the groups are actually wanting to start a break-away church, then I think this would slow them down, actually. After all, if it's anything, the CofE should be a big tent...

Posted by: Scot Peterson on Thursday, 7 April 2011 at 8:59am BST

With Reform Anglicans wondering if the future lies in the formation of an independent Province of Confessing Anglicans,the concerns of badman and Lapinbizarre are pertinent.
If there was episcopal care from outside England it would be handily placed to service these dissident congregations. Worth keeping an eye on SPREAD, Charles Raven's blog. He has been hoping for an "orthodox" mission from GAFCON to establish a "true" Anglican Church in Britain for a while.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Thursday, 7 April 2011 at 9:24am BST

Looking beyond the atmosphere of mounting suspicion, it might be worth attending these New Generation Churches in the spirit of ecumenism and also to discover how significantly it differs from a more prescriptive participation of traditional liturgy. I'm sure they're not trying to syncretise shamanism with Christianity, but we never really know the real agenda, do we? ;-)

There may indeed be little common ground between, on the one hand, traditional liturgy that emphasizes uniformity of expression and quiet personal stoic reflection and, on the other, the interspersing of excited impromptu personal testimonies and impassioned exhortations from the laity that characterise New Generation churches. Both forms are valid. They are neither mutually exclusive, nor the preserve of any nationality.

The need for separate space and services is doubtful. Services could be extended to accommodate both styles of expression. Perhaps, this will stanch the outflow of Nigerians to New Generation Churches. More worryingly, perhaps, those who leave for them won't really be missed.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Thursday, 7 April 2011 at 6:56pm BST

Worth keeping an eye on SPREAD, Charles Raven's blog. He has been hoping for an "orthodox" mission from GAFCON to establish a "true" Anglican Church in Britain for a while.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Thursday, 7 April 2011 at 9:2

Ah, yes, the True Faith !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Thursday, 7 April 2011 at 7:06pm BST

Scot Peterson, the Sudanese still meet at St. John's Cathedral in Denver. Whether they also meet elsewhere, I don't know.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Thursday, 7 April 2011 at 7:36pm BST

When a rector in Nashville, TN, we began hosting Sudanese refugees. They used our space for their own type of services and have now their own Sudanese Anglican clergy. My experience of these wonderful folk goes back to about 1995. These folk were very different from us in their worship style BUT they were Anglicans. This was a case of offering Anglican hospitality to folk who were culturally very different and needed their own cultural style of worship. It was a blessing to receive them and to foster their development into a true Sudanese Anglican community of faith.

My first point is that we needed to show hospitality to our Anglican brethren and sisters. They were of a different culture and in a different land.
Second - we often confuse what is cultural with what is Anglican. As often as not it is different culturally while yet using Anglican liturgical norms. As I am now in South America I find the same thing as we grow as a culturally Andean Anglican Church - for instance guitars and not organs to accompany our songs and hymns (decidedly not Ancient and Modern!)
Third - the fear (that I read in the comments above) of culturally conservative as well as theologically conservative folk does not bode well. Sadly, as these folk do have something that we need to pay attention to in the Western Church.

The centre of gravity in the AC has shifted hugely to Africa. If we turn our backs upon these Anglican family members then we not only create division ourselves (as the TEC did in 2003 and onward) but also have the effect of creating a western Anglican ghetto.

FWIW, my South American Anglican perspective.

Posted by: Ian Montgomery on Friday, 8 April 2011 at 12:02am BST

My parish is about half white Anglo and half West Indian (with a scattering of a few dozen other ethnicities). Over the years, the influx of the West Indians (and an English-born anglo-catholic priest ordained in the WI) raised the churchmanship of the parish, but the older members were slow to welcome them. Some of the first wave of immigrants, cradle Anglicans, tell of being "encouraged" by white Anglicans to go to a black United church.

I can imagine the same forces at work in England. English dioceses and parishes need to examine themselves closely and see if they are really welcoming to immigrants -- and true hospitality means being open to being transformed by the guest. If English dioceses and parishes are truly open to the newcomers, there should be no need for "Nigerian" parishes, except to foment schism.

Posted by: Jim Pratt on Friday, 8 April 2011 at 4:02am BST

If I described the Nigerian way of worship as chaotic, shallow, unseemly or ireverent I would be accused of cultural imperialism or applying western standards to a very different peoples. So how come that the Bishop Okoh's description of Anglican worship in the UK as 'cold' is allowed to stand unchallenged? I could accuse him of cultural insensitivity, lacking understanding of the Anglican tradition of 'reserve', and ignorance of Anglican liturgy and of the English people. I shan't because to do so would be impertinent to say the least. It's an interesting use of words. I forget where but St Paul talks about those whose worship is 'cold' (or is it lukewarm?). I do wonder whether this is another attempt to separate out the righteous Gafcon/Global South churches from the degenerate and feeble West.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Friday, 8 April 2011 at 8:41am BST

I posted the following on a different thread but it may be applicable here in thinking about what the Nigerians have in mind:
On the Nigeria CANA connection and ACNA. I have the following from an interview of David Virtue with newly appointed/elected Bishop Dobbs http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=14076

"DOBBS: The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) continues to endow the Convocation of Anglicans in North America with a great gift - direct and unimpeachable membership in the Anglican Communion. As, the Communion does not yet recognize a 39th Province in North America and the other constituent jurisdictions of the ACNA are not members, only the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) through CANA offers an authentic, orthodox connection to the Anglican Communion. We hold two passports; remain effectively 'dual citizens,' of both the ACNA and the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). If by the grace of God I am elected as the Diocesan Bishop in May, I will serve as the ACNA Diocesan Bishop while maintaining Standing Orders in the House of Bishops in Nigeria [Anglican Communion]. A number of ACNA bishops serve under the authority of Archbishop Duncan with identical connections to the Communion: Bishop Bill Attwood is the ACNA Bishop of the International Diocese and a member of the House of Bishops of Kenya and Bishop Roger Ames is the ACNA Bishop of the Great Lakes Diocese and a member of the House of Bishops of Nigeria.

VOL: Why is connection to the Anglican Communion so important?

DOBBS: It is important for spiritual, evangelistic and legal reasons. The Convocation of Anglicans in North America is irrevocably committed to a cross-cultural vision of ministry. Our 'Nigerian passport' dynamically underscores our vital engagement with global Christianity and specifically, global Anglicanism. With Courts examining the nuances of 'who was invited to the last Lambeth Conference and who was not' when ruling on parish property rights, it is not prudent for those congregations engaged in litigation to cut the ties that grant our parishes 'clear credentials' within the Communion. At best, it is premature at this point in our continued growth through this contentious process; at worst, it seems irresponsible to voluntarily surrender internationally recognized, relevant credentials in the midst of legal appeals. There is also the question about our history. We are Anglican Christians and as such, we cherish and value our unbroken connection with 77 million Anglicans around the world through our relationship in the Anglican Communion which is the third largest Christian communion in the world.

VOL: Does "dual citizenship" between ACNA and Nigeria ever cause a conflict of interest?

DOBBS: Dual citizenship' is not 'divided loyalty. Since its foundation, our bishops, clergy and congregations have energetically supported the foundation and growth of the ACNA while remaining faithful members through CANA of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). The establishment of the new Diocese in Virginia neither substantially alters nor addends this relationship."

Make of it as you will...
Posted by: EmilyH on Tuesday, 5 April 2011 at 3:05pm BST

Posted by: EmilyH on Friday, 8 April 2011 at 1:11pm BST

I found the following comment in the Bishop's address quite telling:
CANA

The ministry of CANA under the able leadership of Bishop Martyn Minns and his wife is going on well, within the obvious limits of funds, facilities and manpower. At the appropriate time issues of additional manpower and the whole range of issues about finance vis-à-vis the desire for additional grouping (emerging “dioceses”) will be discussed. We repeat our appeal to our Lord Bishops to apply restraint in granting preferment to clergy abroad, especially in the USA as it has really made the clergymen there quite unruly. We also repeat the appeal for Bishops to respect CANA as a jurisdiction and avoid tendencies that are un-Anglican."

1. It seems clear that Nigeria expects to control CANA and that CANA, despite Windsor will continue to grow and expand.

2. The comment that clergymen are becoming "unruly" is an interesting one and begs the question: In what way?

3. What does tendencies does Nigeria consider to be "un-Anglican?"

4. What role does +Minn's wife play? as co-bishop? co-clergy etc.?

Posted by: EmilyH on Friday, 8 April 2011 at 1:20pm BST

"With Courts examining the nuances of 'who was invited to the last Lambeth Conference and who was not' when ruling on parish property rights."

?? Which courts?

Posted by: Lapinbizarre on Friday, 8 April 2011 at 7:14pm BST

If the Church of England doesd not want to committ suicide, it will earnestly resist the attempt to Nigerianise the worship of English parish churches. This would lead the way open to a clear manadfate for another CANA Institute, which has already created havoc in North America.

English people in Nigeria are expected to worship in the 'Nigerian Way'. Why should it be any different for Nigerians in the U.K.? I would be very loth to do any sort of 'deal' with Nigerian Church officials from that country who advocate homophobia. This may be OK for Nigeria, but not for the U.K. We don't want another ghetto church!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Saturday, 9 April 2011 at 6:13am BST

Following on from Erika's point, I am rather confused. In London, there are many Nigerian Anglicans, including some priests, though some Nigerians worship in other denominations. Where the vicar is Nigerian, the whole congregation (Nigerian, other African, white, African-Caribbean etc) may worship in a more 'Nigerian' style. Elsewhere, there may be varying styles of worship - for instance, in a church I go to often, there is both a singing group and choir.

More still needs to be done in the C of E to make sure that people of different etbnic groups feel welcomed and included, but generalisations should be avoided - for instance, people can be gay or straight, Anglo-Catholic or evangelical whether they are black or white.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Saturday, 9 April 2011 at 11:55am BST

It should hardly be surprising that style of worship raise the hackles are ardent American and English Anglicans. Because style of worship is really what it's all about, is it? Is the Nigerian Way such a threat?

Read the wonderfully nuanced preface to the declaration of assent which is a modernised version of the foundation of the CofE. Our faith is uniquely revealed in the Scriptures, set forth in the catholic creeds, and we bear witness to Christian truth in our historic formularies of 39 Arts, BCP and Orders. As the CofE bears witness to our Scriptural faith, so the churches which became the Anglican Communion bore witness with their own liturgies... which ARE Anglican.

Now that we all live in a globalised culture turf wars based on differing worship style cannot threaten because each style has been developed from the Scriptures and creeds, in order to bear witness in different cultures. Surely we need all these worship styles to continue to bear witness to the multi-cultural societies in which we live.

If we cannot have a picture of Revelation 7 in our minds in a culture of diverse nations when we come together to worship with people of different races, languages and tribes then we're in for shock when earth is recreated and we find we're in heaven.

Posted by: Mark Collinson on Saturday, 9 April 2011 at 7:37pm BST

I don’t understand what Archbishop Okoh mean by the Nigerian way? My north London parish is diverse with members from all parts of the world including me and other Nigerians worshiping along side other members of the congregation every Sunday. The gospel reading today reminds me of Lazarus who was called out from death and darkness into light and life. That same voice is calling Nigerian Anglicans who are trap in church politics and influence of control freaks to come out and see the light.

Posted by: Davis Mac-Iyalla on Sunday, 10 April 2011 at 10:56pm BST

Some 20 years ago PBS did a series on Africa which, in a cultural commentary, pointed out that American black churches had worship styles derived from African traditions, and then showed high Anglican services in Africa that were as formal as England. The women wore hats and kid gloves. We are not called the Frozen Chosen for nothing.

Here in the Washington DC suburbs, the Episcopal Church has only held steady numbers because of the influx of immigrants from former English colonies.

I find it fascinating that the Nigerians are having the same problem we are in retaining youth and current church members, though one set of churches is liberal and the other very conservative, on opposite sides of the world.

Posted by: Roger on Monday, 11 April 2011 at 3:47am BST

Mark Collinson, your argument is pretty persuasive - except that, when Archbishop Okoh and his fellow Nigerian Bishops made their approach to the ABC and other UK Bishops for an accommodation to the 'Nigerian Way' of worship; we need to understand exactly what that - from the Nigerian perspective - implies.

In Nigeria, the 'Nigerian Way' of Church is strictly homophobic; so that, for congregations in the UK to worship in the 'Nigerian Way' is to represent what Abp. Okoh and the Nigerian Church advocates as to it's scornful opposition to any L.G.B.or T. members of your UK local churches.

Music and liturgy is one thing. Church polity is another. I strongly suspect that what Abp.Okoh and his collegaues really want is a clone of the present organisation of CANA in the U.S., which is in direct opposition to TEC, the resident home of Anglicanism in the United States.

The big question here might be: Does the Church of England want a homophobic, schismatically-intentional clone of CANA on it's doorstep? This is something that Leaders of the C.of E. need to consider very carefully before acceding to the siren call of Abp. Okoh and his fellow bishops.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 11 April 2011 at 4:23am BST

The Nigerian government and the Anglican Church of Nigeria (by endorsement) have indeed demonstrated homophobia in its criminalisation of homosexuality. Although, the extreme penalty has no comparison in modern Western legal history, it was only a few decades ago that our own societies treated homosexual acts as criminal. Our hands are not clean.

While we may view Archbishop Okoh with suspicion, I think we should not extend this guilt by association to every Nigerian who wants to worship in the Nigerian Way.

In England, it would be like viewing ex-pat New Zealand churchgoers with suspicion because the church there historically capitulated to the terrible mistreatment of racial minorities.

And that really wouldn't be fair, would it?

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 12 April 2011 at 8:57am BST

David:

But doesn't it speak volumes that those seeking a "Nigerian way of worship" in CoE churches are using Archbishop Okoh as their spokesperson?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Tuesday, 12 April 2011 at 11:24am BST

Pat:
I'm not sure whether the archbishop's advocacy of those favouring the 'Nigerian Way' is based on their unequivocal support for his endorsement of homophobic policies.

Admittedly, there is a need to view Archbishop Okoe's plea in the light of his previous statements. However, I'm uneasy with viewing an unfamiliar style of worship with suspicion on that basis.

As I mentioned previously, I don't think that separate venues or services for Nigerians are justifed. The regular liturgy should be flexible enough to accommodate a variety of expressive styles. It's not easy, but it's key to encourage a measure of lay involvement in developing a style of worship that is authentic and true to church tradition. One that still accommodates the cultural participation of the various nationalities that make up the entire congregation.

Any insistence on worship segregation along nationalist lines should be resisted.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 13 April 2011 at 12:30am BST

All the Nigerian parishes will be free of women clergy. In Nigeria they do not have women deacons or lay readers.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Wednesday, 13 April 2011 at 6:39am BST

RIW:
Women are leaders in many of the New Generation churches that Archbishop Okoe fears that young Nigerians will embrace in escaping from 'cold' worship.

A significant number of the high-profile ordained Nigerian pastors cited below are women:

http://www.onlinenigeria.com/links/adv.asp?blurb=110

Perhaps, only Nigerian Anglicanism is out of step in the ordination of women.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Wednesday, 13 April 2011 at 8:49am BST

Colin Coward commented on this matter at
http://changingattitude.org.uk/archives/3422

Posted by: Simon Sarmiento on Thursday, 14 April 2011 at 3:43pm BST
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