BACKGROUND TO THE CHURCH OF NIGERIA (ANGLICAN COMMUNION)

Precisely, John Wesley and William Carey originated the revival in this part of Europe, which resulted in the formation of missionary societies in Britain to carry the message of the cross to nations beyond the nation of England. One of those societies was the Church Missionary Society (CMS) formed in 1779. It was this CMS that brought the Anglican Church to Nigeria in 1842, in response to the request of the ex-slaves for missionaries to be sent to them for their spiritual needs.

 


 

Origin of The Anglican Church

The Anglican Church began in the year 597AD, when Pope Gregory the Great sent the Monk Augustine to England, as the first Archbishop of Canterbury, to reorganize the Church and put it on a stronghold of apostolic succession. However, that was not the arrival of Christianity in that part of the world, as it was on record that the first Christian martyr in Britain, Alban was killed as early as 2O9AD. It shows that Christianity must have been planted in Great Britain earlier than the stated date. Moreover, British Bishops were present in the Council of Arles in 314 AD. When Augustine arrived in England with his 40 companions, with the intention of making Christ known to the English people and reorganizing the already existing Church, he met the English King, Ethelbert and his wife, Bertha, who was already a Christian. The King was later converted, which had great impact on his subjects and other Kings. Although in later years, the Anglican Church broke away from the Roman Papacy, it has maintained its apostolic succession in as much as the line of ascendancy to the Bishopric of Canterbury remains intact.

The breakaway of the Anglican Church from the Roman Catholic Church is rooted in the 16th Century Reformation pioneered by Martin Luther. It is anchored on the refusal of Pope Clement 111 to grant King Henry V111’s divorce from Catherine, the Spanish princess of Aragon and his late elder Brother Arthur's wife, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. King Henry, who considered himself not legally married to Catherine, had wanted to marry again with the hope of obtaining a male heir to the throne. This refusal contributed significantly to the separation of the Church of England from the Church of Rome. Consequently in 1534, the British Parliament proclaimed King Henry VIII, the Supreme earthly head of the Church of England, thus severing all ties with Pope and the Church of Rome. This marked the origin of the Anglican Church, although it was rooted in the spirit of the Reformation that desired great changes in the political and religious aspects of the Roman Catholic Church. However, it was not until 1562 during the reign of Elizabeth I, that the Anglican Church had a formal structure.

It is pertinent at this junction, to define “Anglican” and then ‘Anglicanism”. The word “Anglican” comes from an ancient Latin name for the Church of England, ecclesia Anglican” (the English Church). Thus Anglicans represent a group of Churches which arose and took off from the Church of England.

Anglican Communion is the body of Churches which share fellowship with the Church of England. These churches share common apostolic tradition and order with the Church of England. These

Anglican Churches are in a relationship or communion with one another, meaning that an Anglican member in one country can go to another country, and participate freely in the Holy Communion, once he or she is a communicant. However, in the present time due to the scriptural deviance of the West, this Communion has been linked to those who hold and maintain the Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church as Jesus Christ has commanded in the scripture. Consequently, Anglicanism is the tradition and practice of the Anglican Communion. It is the Church system of belief, faith and order within the Churches in the Anglican Communion.

 

Origin of The Anglican Church In Nigeria

The directive of Jesus Christ in the primary assignment for the church as stated in the Great commission in Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” was not given the required push in England, as the Church did not move beyond the European territories. Rather it consumed itself in unparalleled immorality, and spent time in administrative bureaucracy with its attendant squabbles instead of embarking on evangelism, which is the core of the Church work. However, the 16th Century Reformation had a re-awakening impact on the Church.

Precisely, John Wesley and William Carey originated the revival in this part of Europe, which resulted in the formation of missionary societies in Britain to carry the message of the cross to nations beyond the nation of England. One of those societies was the Church Missionary Society (CMS) formed in 1779. It was this CMS that brought the Anglican Church to Nigeria in 1842, in response to the request of the ex-slaves for missionaries to be sent to them for their spiritual needs.

The CMS sent Henry Townsend, who landed in Badagry on 17th December, 1842 and proceeded to Abeokuta, where he arrived on 4th January, 1843. Townsend had to go back to England for his ordination, and came back to Badagry on 18th December, 1845, with Rev.  & Mrs. C.A. Gollmer and Rev. & Mrs. Samuel Ajayi Crowther, a Yoruba ex-slave who had been ordained a Priest. Their mission in Badagry did not yield much fruits due to the people's strong hold on traditional religion, which prompted them to move to Abeokuta, where they arrived on 3rd August, 1946. After much efforts and support from the royal leadership, a Church was opened on 21st March, 1847 in the Ake District of the town. This marked the formal beginning of the Anglican Church in Nigeria.

 

DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHURCH OF NIGERIA (ANGLICAN COMMUNION)

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) officially began as a Church under the Diocese of Sierra Leone, with the formal commencement of the CMS Yoruba Mission on 3rd October, 1852. A similar body, CMS Niger Mission, which started missionary work at Onitsha on 27th July, 1857, was established for evangelism in the eastern areas of Nigeria. Rt. Revd. Samuel Ajayi Crowther, who was consecrated Bishop on 29th June, 1864 (St. Peter's Day), was assigned episcopal jurisdiction for the Diocese of Nigeria Territories later renamed the Diocese of Western Equatorial Africa in .1893. This Diocese was later divided into two: Diocese of Lagos on 10th October, 1919 with Rt. Revd. F. Melville Jones as the first Bishop and Diocese on the Niger on 5th March, 1920 with Rt. Rev. Bertram Lasbery as the first Bishop. On 17th April, 1951, these two dioceses with those at Sierra Leone, Accra and Liberia were constituted as the Province of West Africa by the Most Revd. Geoffrey Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Bishop of Lagos, the Rt. Revd. L.G. Vining was elected the first Archbishop of the Province.

By 1977, the dioceses in Nigeria had grown to be sixteen that a desire was expressed to form a separate Province. On 24th February, 1979 (St. Matthias’ Day), the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) was inaugurated as a Province by Most Revd. H.N.C.O Scott, the Archbishop of West Africa. The Most Rev. Timothy Olufosoye, was the first Archbishop and Primate. The second and third Archbishops and Primates were the Most Revd. Joseph Adetiloye (1988-1999) and the Most Revd. Peter Akinola (2000-2010).

The present Archbishop, metropolitan and Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is the Most Revd. Nicholas Okoh, who began his primatial functions in 2010.

 

FEATURES OF THE ANGLICAN CHURCH

These features are:

  1. The Anglican Tripod:

The Anglican Tripod of the Scriptures, Tradition and Reason has a stronghold expressing Anglicanism. The Anglicanism place a high premium on the study of the scripture and to them, anything that cannot be substantiated in the scripture is to be discarded. Article VI of the Articles of Religion places emphasis on the sufficiency of scripture, while Article VII states the compatibility of the Old and New Testaments. The Bible has its root in the Apostolic Fathers, which were partakers in the ministry of Jesus Christ. These fathers were witnesses of the apostolic traditions, which were passed down the line to the present Church. The third is reason which has to do with the principle of perception of right and wrong, rooted in the divine revelation of God.

  1. The Historic Episcopate

The Anglican Church is synodically governed and episcopally led. The episcopal authority, which is apostolic, is a delegated messianic authority. As the original twelve apostles were appointed by Jesus Christ to lead the Church, in the Anglican Church, the Bishops are elected to lead the Church in a particular area. He is the supreme authority in the faith and order of the Church within that diocese.

  1. Anglican Ingredients

Colin Buchanan, a foremost Anglican Liturgical Scholar, lists the following as Anglican Ingredients:

  1. The principles of a Church Year, Lectionary and Bible
  2. The principle of liturgical structure and direction

iii.        The recognizable preservation of baptism and communion as biblical

  1. Congregational intelligibility and participation
  2. Certain set forms, like the Lord's Prayer

 

  1. The Sacraments

The Anglican Church recognizes only the Baptism and Eucharist as the sacraments directly instituted by Jesus Christ in the Bible. The Anglican Church does not recognize the other five sacraments as they came out of the practices of the Church, but not instituted directly by Jesus Christ.

The other five sacraments: confirmation, penance, matrimony, ordination and extreme unction, are recognized in addition to the earlier two mentioned by the Roman Catholic Church.

  1. The Three-fold Ministry

The Anglican Church recognizes three holy orders of ministers, namely the bishops, priests and deacons.

  1. The Vestments

Dressing, distinguishes a person, group of people or professionals. The Anglican clergymen have their own approved dressing or vestment, won in the performance of their priestly or sacerdotal functions.

 

 

STRONG POINTS AS ANGLICANS

  1. The Anglican spirituality

The Anglican spirituality is embedded in the Anglican Churchmanship, which is defined as "the style of worship which is characteristic of our liturgy, a means of enjoying fellowship with God and one another in the cause of corporate worship. This spirituality is rooted in the recognition of the authority of the scripture. This is reason behind the compulsory public reading of lessons, most times from the Old and New Testaments in Anglican Services. Anglicans are encouraged to also privately read their bible. This makes a good number of Anglicans biblically literate and scripturally sound. Right from the Sunday school, the bible is made a companion.

Another aspect of the Anglican spirituality is the Book of Common Prayer. According to Adrian Chatfield "the pages of the Book at Common Prayers are full of either pages of scriptures or deductions made from it, guiding all prayers, hymns, songs and ceremonies contained therein for the public use.

The strength of the Anglican Church has been enhanced by the Book of Common Prayer as it has a value of uniformity for the Anglicans namely;

  • giving Anglicans a sense of common identity
  • avoiding individualism
  • providing a disciplined structure for worship
  • preventing careless and badly constructed liturgy

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) realizing their strength in the Book of Common Prayer, produced a Nigerian edition, aimed at evolving a worship that is not only culturally relevant, but one that expressed the Biblical and doctrinal teachings which are rooted in the centrality of Jesus Christ, the Word of God and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in the lives of all who believe as held in the evangelical heritage. That remains the cornerstone of the strength of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). It is being translated into the major languages of Nigeria and any Anglican Church in Nigeria one enters, he or she feels at home. This is a great strength for the Church.

Another strength of the Anglican Church in the area of spirituality is the Creeds which are the living relics of the fierce battles ancient Christianity waged against false doctrines. These Creeds are the Apostles' Creed, Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed, which contain basic beliefs of the Anglican Church, which Anglicans are expected to confess and subscribe to. These Creeds have enhanced the Anglican belief system and ensure that the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) remains committed to the centrality of the gospel and focused on maintaining the basic theological and doctrinal truths.

Doctrine remains a key to the spiritual direction of any group of Christians. A systematic presentation of what we believe and why we believe them is articulated in the 39 Articles of Religion. It is a balance of theology and doctrine. The strength, of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) lies in part to knowing what its basic doctrines are and remaining committed to them. This has made the Church to stand in defense of the basic doctrines of Christianity.

  1. Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON)

Article 6 of the 39 Articles of Religion states of the sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures.

The Bible speaks of the marriage of one man to one woman, not man to man, or woman to woman. Fundamentally, the Anglicans hold tenaciously to the scripture. John Stott states that the Anglican Faith revolves around three indispensable B's

(i)  Believe the Bible   (ii) Behave the Bible   (iii) Bear the Bible

So when the leadership of The Episcopal Church of United States of America (ECUSA) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) decided to go against the basic tenets of the Bible by ordination of practicing homosexuals and blessing of same-sex marriage, the Church of Nigeria led then by Primate Peter Akinola, mobilized the evangelical Anglican world to stand against this scriptural deviance. This scriptural disobedience had its peak in 2003, when Gene Robinson, an unrepentant homosexual priest was consecrated a Bishop by ECUSA. In order to uphold the authority of the scripture, Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) was formed to defend the faith once delivered to the saints. The strength of the Church of Nigeria came to the fore front in the battle against scriptural revisionism, being undertaken by these proponents of homosexuality.

Originally, as slated earlier, the Anglican Church is a Church in full communion with the Church of England and recognizing the Archbishop of Canterbury as the head of the Church. However, due to the compromising attitude of Canterbury led then by Archbishop Rowan Williams in not opposing unscriptural behavior of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, the Church of Nigeria, in obedience to scriptures, redefined its membership of the Anglican Communion. In the General Synod held in September 2005 at Onitsha, its membership was stated as "the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) hereafter called 'The Church of Nigeria' or 'this Church' shall be in full communion with 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 as the Lord has commanded in His holy word and as the same are received and taught in the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal of 1662 and in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion”.

The strength of the Church of Nigeria to succeed in firmly defining its membership to the Anglican Communion and mobilizing scripturally based Anglicans worldwide to defend the scriptures deserves to be commended. Further to that, the Church of Nigeria established the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) in 2006 to provide Episcopal oversight to Anglicans in that area who were opposed to such biblical revisionism and consecrated a bishop to that effect.

  1. The Anglican Structure

The administrative structure of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) gives it strength in executing its policies. It is a well ordered structure, that breakaway and dissensions are not easily possible. Everyone knows his or her level and limit, and operate; within that. The Anglican Church is episcopally led and synodically governed. The Primate is the national head of the Church, while the Bishops superintend over the Dioceses, as spiritual and administrative heads. Within the dioceses, there are archdeaconries and Parishes for administrative convenience. Each of these organs has governing bodies to oversee the units within each organ. This enhances the strength of decision making and makes the Church strong and formidable.

  1. The Anglican Polity

Another factor that gives strength to the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is the constitution, rules and traditions that govern the Provinces, Dioceses and Parishes.

There is an orderly way of governance. No one, no matter, how highly positioned, can come up to take an awkward decision. Such a decision could be challenged within the system and overturned. No one is above the law in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). There are laid down rules for every aspect of the Church life. The General Synods, Standing Committees and Episcopal Synods at the national level, Diocesan Synods and Boards, Archdeaconry Boards and Parish Church Councils, are all geared towards an orderly Church, which indeed have helped the Church of Nigeria, maintain orderliness and discipline within the system.

  1. Evangelism Drive

Another giant strength of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) lies in its evangelism drive to plant the Church in every nook and cranny of the nation. Evangelism is at the core of the apostolic work of the Church. Before 1990, there were only thirty-seven dioceses, most of them in the urban areas of southern Nigeria. In order to consider the possibility of having at least one Bishop in every state of the federation as the Church's contribution to the unity and well being of the nation, as there will be responsible officers of the Church who are able to act as to act as spiritual advisers to the authorities of the states. The missionary Dioceses were inaugurated in 1990. Over the years, many more Dioceses have been created, which has enabled the Anglican Church to penetrate most hidden parts of this country. In a great number of towns in Nigeria, whether urban or rural, there is the presence of the Anglican Church. This has strengthened otherwise isolated congregations and given impetus to planting Churches in hitherto unreached areas.

  1. Communication Skills

Communication is an essential tool in the dissemination of information to the world. This skill has been adequately implored by the Church of Nigeria, with the establishment of Crowther Radio in Abuja and the Anglican Church Cable Network (ACCN). With these, the voice of the Church is heard outside its confines and its views properly explained to the world.