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Ten New Bishops Consecrated for Church of Nigeria

Source: The Anglican Communion News Service March 15, 2005

From Peter Onwubuariri in Abuja, Nigeria

The Cathedral Church of the Advent, Abuja, seats 3,5000 and is usually about half-full on an ordinary Sunday.

But on 13 March, 2005, an ‘unusual’ human presence filled the once idle pews and overflowed into white plastic seats stationed outside the periphery of the church. The reason? Ten new bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) were being consecrated. And they came with some of their parishioners from the length and breadth of the over 17-million Nigerian Anglican Congregation.

The new bishops and their dioceses are the Rt Revd Edafe Emamezi (Elected Bishop of Warri), the Rt Revd Ezekiel Awosoga (Bishop of Ijebu), the Rt Revd Matthew Osunade (Bishop of Ogbomosho) and the Rt Revd Joseph Adeyemi (Bishop of Badagary).

Others are the Rt Revd Duke Akamisoko (Bishop of Zonkwa), the Rt Revd Samuel Chukuka (Bishop of Isikwuato), the Rt Revd Joseph Musa (Bishop of Idah), the Rt Revd Solomon Gberegbara (Bishop of Ogoni), the Rt Revd Johnson Onuoha (Bishop of Arochukwu/Ohafia) and the Rt Revd Chigozirim Onyegbule (Bishop of Ikwuano).

Nigerian Primate, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, presided at the service that would be remembered for consecrating the largest number of bishops in one sitting (since his presentation in 2000).

Radio Nigeria, with more than 50 radio stations on its network around Nigeria ran a three-hour live broadcast of the event. Also Crowther Radio, the Abuja-based radio station funded by the Church of Nigeria, beamed the consecration service to listeners around Abuja, the Nigerian capital, Lagos, and other satellite towns within its coverage.

Long and Colourful Procession

A Radio Nigeria commentator described as colourful the procession into the Cathedral Church of the Advent, dedicated in 1999 by the former Nigeria Primate, the Most Revd Joseph Adetiloye.

A 30-minute procession comprised the choir clad in red; the clergy in white vestments, the legal luminaries and the grandeur of red cassocks nestled in white richly embroidered garments announcing the bishops.

Interestingly the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, the Most Revd John Olaiekan, processed into the Church with the bishops to the delight of most Anglican faithful who described it “as good for the universal church.’”

Three hymnals served their slow march to the altar including “Lift high the cross! The cross of Christ proclaim”, “Ye Servants of God” and Psalm 122, which ushered in the primatial procession led by the crucifer and closely followed by the Bishops elect (attended by their chaplains). The Bishops elect looked solemn in their black cassocks.

Archbishop Joseph Akinfenwa of Ibadan Province celebrated the Holy Communion while Bishop Samuel Oke of Ekiti-West led the litany. The Bishop on the Niger, the Rt Revd Ken Okeke, preached the sermon. The presentation of the 10 bishops elect was done by 20 different bishops.

God’s Hand

The homily entitled ‘In God’s hand’, said by the Bishop on the Niger, the Rt Revd Ken Okeke, was to a large extent directed at the new bishops. Bishop Okeke focused his sermon on four pegs namely “Call, Concentration, Continuity and Consequences.”

Describing the call of God, he said “God’s call is always definite and many times when He calls someone He ‘strips’ the person bare. In the case of Moses, from whom we shall learn a lot today, He took away all the trappings and comforts of Egypt’s one and only palace.”

He used the analogy of Moses to explain the need for the new bishops to concentrate on their ministry. “Moses sought God and found Him. He desired an intimacy with God and God humored him. He spoke to God face to face. The good news is that whenever we seek God, we shall find Him.

2 Chron. 15: 2 — If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.”

On continuity, the preacher who spent one week with the bishops-elect as their retreatant, charged them to seek the Lord always. “Moses always sought the Lord’s face in every situation. And the result was that he always sat back and saw God take full control. God said to him — The Lord will fight for you and you shall hold your peace — Exodus 14. That was the experience of King Jehoshaphat many centuries later. It was also the experience of other men of faith like Gideon, David arid Paul.”

The preacher also warned on the consequences of choosing to obey or disobey God. Using the experience of Saul he explained “Saul became yesterday’s man and degenerated to consulting a medium — one in a group of people he zealously wiped out of Israel when his heart was in the right place and he was following God faithfully. Who do you consult in times of crisis or alienation?”

He warned the bishops elect: Beware that you do not return to unwholesome methods you have previously rejected! Beware of the tyranny of the urgent! Beware of the pomp and arrogance of office!

New Missionary Dioceses

The consecration ceremony in practice marked the beginning of nine new missionary dioceses in the 26 year-old Church of Nigeria, bringing the total number of dioceses to 91. On 12 March, the eve of the consecration service, the Most Revd Peter Akinola presided at inauguration of one of the missionary dioceses, Kubwa. Kubwa was carved out of the Diocese of Abuja, where Archbishop Akinola doubles as Bishop. The new Bishop of Kubwa is Simon Bala who was translated from the Diocese of Gusau. By 19 March 2005 the inauguration of other dioceses nationwide (involving a road trip over 1500km) will have been completed.

Growing Church

The creation of additional dioceses has been a major thrust of the leadership of the church under Primate Peter Akinola. At the occasion of his presentation in 2000, Archbishop Akinola described his tenure as a timely opportunity to chart a new future for the church.

Having inherited three provinces, 76 dioceses and 76 bishops from the former Primate, Archbishop Joseph Adetiloye in 2000, Archbishop Akinola has gone ahead to create an additional 14 dioceses, five years into his primacy.

The slogan “the Anglican Church shall be growing, spiritual, dynamic, responsible, united, disciplined, and self-supporting” has become a permanent emphasis on Bishops charge at synod meetings, church gatherings and even youth outings. The dragnet of evangelism for the bishops is the villages. The Primate has admitted that most of the churches are located in urban settings with thousands of villages yet to be reached by the gospel of salvation.

The juxtaposition justifies the creation of additional missionary dioceses, which are mostly located in rural areas. Taking the gospel to the villages will contend with raw paganism, Islamisation, syncretism and spiritual shallowness, which have continued to threaten the Church in Nigeria.

Missionary efforts have seen the planting of new dioceses in places considered hostile and insecure for evangelism particularly in the northern part of Nigeria. The present primate, at a recent public gathering, hinted that the possibility of the dioceses swelling to 100 before he retires cannot be ruled out. Whatever the motive, most Nigerians have welcomed the development as favourable to taking the gospel to the unreached.

Posted at 12:00 am 3.15.2005 | Permalink