West & Central Africa

Nigerian Archbishop rejects Canterbury meeting

Archbishop Nicholas Okoh preaching at the opening service of the sixth conference of Global South Primates in Cairo. Credit: GAFCON

Divisions in the Anglican Communion were exposed this month, after the Archbishop of Nigeria, the most populous Anglican Church, rejected an invitation from the Archbishop of Canterbury to a high-level meeting in Canterbury next month.

In a letter to the GAFCON network (Global Anglican Futures Conference), Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, said that after attending the last meeting of Anglican Archbishop’s called the Primates’ Meeting in 2016, he had decided that attendance at the next meeting would give “credibility to a pattern of behaviour which is allowing great damage to be done to global Anglican witness and unity.”

The Anglican Communion has been badly split since the 2003 consecration of a practising homosexual clergyman, Gene Robinson, as Bishop of New Hampshire in the United States. In spite of the repeated efforts of two Archbishops of Canterbury, Rowan Williams and now Justin Welby to heal the division, global south church leaders are increasingly at odds with what they see as a betrayal of Biblical authority in the western churches.

Archbishop Okoh argues in his letter that the liberal US episcopal Church (TEC) has not repented and is continuing to take legal action to seize the church buildings of conservative and traditional congregations which have rejected its authority over them.

“My disappointment was shared by the other Global South Primates,” he explained referring to a meeting in Cairo last October. “We concluded in our communiqué  that the ‘Instruments of Communion’ (which include the Primates Meeting) are “unable to sustain the common life and unity of the Anglican Churches worldwide” and do actually help to undermine global mission.”

Archbishop Okoh complained, “There is endless debate, the will of the orthodox Primates is frustrated and misrepresented, false teaching is not being corrected and nothing is being done to halt orthodox Anglicans in North America (and maybe soon elsewhere) being stripped of the churches that have helped form their spiritual lives.”

He said that the energy of the Anglican Church of Nigeria would be devoted instead to “hope and promise for the future, not to the repetition of failure”.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Credit: Lambeth Palace

He faced down objections from the Archbishop of Canterbury himself who has said that the church should not be split by issues that are not ‘creedal’.

“The authority of the Creeds is derived from the Bible,” he retorted. “And it is the Bible which is the Church’s supreme teaching authority,” he declared.

He argued that the Anglican Church which had come into being during the great European tumults of the 16 and 17th Centuries was now in the midst of a “next great Reformation”.

“In our day also there is broken fellowship over homosexual practice, same-sex marriage and the blurring of gender itentity, none of which are mentioned in the Creeds, but all of which contradict fundamental biblical understandings of marriage and human identity.”

He said that ‘orthodox’ Christians should reject ‘a false unity’ that includes those who persist in rebelling against the Bibles authority”.