Anglican revolution – The Black “Anglicans” Awaken!
• Non-Briton to head church as faithful move to shift spiritual home from England
Thursday, December 25, 2008
The retired Anglican Bishop of Akure Diocese, Ondo State, Bishop Emmanuel Gbonigi told Daily Sun that the possibility of a non-Briton, especially a Nigerian becoming Archbishop of Canterbury could not be ruled out. He spoke at his residence, Oba-Ile Housing Estate, Akure, Ondo State.
He disclosed that the issue first came up during the Lamberth Conference in 1978, pointing out “When people start to talk of something, it shows it will happen. We started to talk about this as far back as I know in 1978. It was mentioned briefly towards the end of Lamberth Conference in 1978.”
Of the possibility of a Nigerian heading the Anglican Church, he responded: “Of course, by the Grace of God, in the future. There are more Anglicans in Nigeria than in America (USA), England, and more than Canada and News Zealand put together.”
Lamberth Conference is a conference of Anglican Bishops throughout the world. The Anglican Church in each country is called a province and within that province there may be internal provinces. Like the Anglican Church of Nigeria is a province, but within it, we have 10 internal provinces, and the Church of England has two provinces. America has nine, Australia, Canada, and the rest of them. It was in 1867, if I remember correctly, that the first Lamberth Conference was held.
And there were very few Bishops at that time and they just felt it was necessary to meet and discuss certain issues, primarily doctrinal issues; issues that relate to the doctrine of the Church, based on the Bible. The Anglican Church derives some three important deals with the Scriptures. We have the Bible, which deals with tradition, based on the history and practices and so on. We have reasons, because God wants us to use our minds. But the most important of the three is the scriptures of the Bible.
At that time, there were certain things that were happening, which made it necessary for the Bishops to look critically at what they were doing. What they believed, what were preaching and what they were teaching and practicing. They wanted to know, if all these were d one according to the Bible, because the number one business of the Bishop is evangelizing. They should be in defence of the apostolic faith. What we called the Apostolic Faith are the 12 Disciples of Christ, the faith that Jesus Christ committed to their charge, before He ascend into heaven. That is what we call the apostolic faith. These are contained in the Bible, particularly in the Gospels.
In the Anglican Church, whatever belief and preaching and teaching, must of necessity agree with what is in the Bible, including the Old Testament. So, if anybody in the Anglican Communion worldwide believes, preaches, teaches or practices anything that is contrary to what is in the Bible, we call it heresy. It is wrong belief. Wrong teaching. The Archbishop of Canterbury since then, until today is the leader of the Anglican Church throughout the world. So, that is the first Lamberth Conference and they decided that they would meet once in 10 yeas. As time went on, they set up committees that would consider emergency situations and so on that could take care of period in-between Lamberth conferences.
The most recent one is the one held in July/August 2008. Before then, there was one in 1988 and I was priviledged to be part of that. Then in 1998, I was also there and we still used Canterbury area, but Lamberth palace became too small. The one held in 1978, 1988, 1998 and this year, were all held on the campus of the University of Kent. Kent is very near where we have the Canterbury Cathedral and the official residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The primary concern of Lamberth Conference is for the Bishops, who are often referred to as the fathers of the church to ensure that the church keeps to the faith committed to the early Church, by our Lord Jesus Christ and that the Church does not deviate from that. Sometimes, people want to substitute human reasoning for what we call divine revelation. Divine revelation is what God said, and is recorded in the Bible. You remember, I said the Anglican Church stands on three legs, Scriptures of the Bible, tradition and reason. God has given us brains to reason well, but whatever we reason, must agree with what is in Bible.
Protest by African Bishops
The Lamberth Conference of 1978, the issue of Lesbianism and homosexuality came up a little bit, and it was a subject of human sexuality. They just examined human sexuality, that God created human being, men and women. They looked at the Bible on how family life, the place of the family in human society. These, they considered at the conference in 1978. IN 1988, they became more pungent. They found it more necessary to look at, not just human sexuality, but what was happening in certain countries, say, in some provinces of the Anglican Communion and in America.
They also looked at Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In these countries, we were hearing that some Bishops were allowing homosexuals to marry – A man to marry a man, a woman to marry a woman. So, the church became concerned.
It became a prominent subject more than it was in 1978 and 1988 that the primary concern of Lamberth in1988 was evangelism and we passed a resolution, which we called Decade of Evangelism. We had four motions that were debated and passed on evangelism, that it appeared as if we were becoming lazy, careless, and forgetful.
The number one business that Jesus Christ gave to the Church is evangelism – To evangelise the whole world for Him. It is in Mathew Chapter 28, in Mark, chapter 16, in Luke, John, Acts 1Vs 8, Jesus commanding the Church to go and make disciples of all nations. In Acts 1, verse 8, He said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses to the whole world.” So, the number one business Jesus gave to the church is evangelism, because He came to save the whole world. So that was the primary concern of Lamberth and we passed the motion that the Anglican Church should concentrate more than ever before on preaching the gospel, evangelising and converting non-Christians to Christianity by preaching what is in the Bible, delivering the message of Christ to the world.
From 1991 to the end of that decade, the focus was to be on evangelism. That is why we called it, ‘decade of evangelism.’ Of course, we also added nation. That is, as we preached the gospel and win convert to Christianity, what do we do? We have to make disciple of them and teach them how to live as Christians in their society, starting from the home of the family to the wider society and the world and get them to play their roles as good and loyal citizens. There was also the need to look at the problem of homosexual in that year, but not much was done.
Apart from evangelism, the other big subject of Lamberth ’88 was on ordination of women. This had become a big subject in America, little bit in Australia, Canada, New Zealand. I think there was one in the Southern part of Africa. That was also discussed at length and that took a lot of our time in Lamberth ’88. But in1998, the big subject was homosexuality, which was based on the whole subject of human sexuality that was mentioned, particularly in Lamberth 78. In 1998, it was a big thing, because it has become a world problem.
The provinces in the Anglican Church in African countries, felt that we should debate it in order to educate one another and that we should put it to vote. That anything that is in the Bible is the word of God. T hat you don’t put to vote what God says. So, they now said we should put it to vote to know whether we should accept it or not. You only accept what God says to your salvation. You reject it to your perdition. So, that was our stand. The week before Lamberth 88 started, we Bishops in Africa, Asia, and Latin America had a retreat somewhere in America, between the city for Fort Worth and Dallas.
I participated in that and we prepared very well because we heard and we could see through writings that the people in favour of homosexuality were prepared and were s pending a lot of money in America, publishing all sorts of books and booklets. So, we too went there prepared. We fasted, we prayed, we looked at the Bible very closely to ensure that we are solidly based on the Bible. Then of course, we prepared what we would do during Lamberth Conference. And it was battle royale, because those in favour of homosexuality were in minority. They made a lot of noise, in order for the whole world to hear them.
That year, if I remember very well, there were 842 bishops who attended Lamberth 98. Finally, when it was put to vote, primarily to show them that they were in the minority, because if our stand, I mean those of us from Africa, we had a retreat called a retreat of black Bishops – Black Bishops in Africa and America – because we met a week before the conference started in1998 at the campus of Cambridge in England, and passed a resolution that it should not be put to vote and we took that resolution to the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is the president of Lamberth Conference.
He was able to convince us that it was necessary to put it to vote, to show them that they are in the minority and that if it was not put to vote that they might even say that we are afraid that was why we did not want to put it to vote. So, it was put to vote and I think they had 78 votes, out of 800 plus that wee there. So, that was the problem and it was becoming more and more serious as the years went by, to the extent that they were now ordaining homosexuals, lesbians.
Archbishop of Canterbury has soft spot for gays
So, because of the consecration of homosexuals as bishops in America, that was why the Bishops at Lamberth conference met and asked what to do. There was this man who was married and had two daughters. He separated from his wife and went to join himself to another man. They now took the man and consecrated him Bishop. And so, he became Bishop and the case be became a serious matter. The Bishops in the South-South area in the Anglican world, that is, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, met and said, they could not be part of this.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, as president, had to say that the doctrine could not hold. That it became clear to even we, who are not homosexuals, that he has some soft spots for them. He led one of the cross-sections of Lamberth 98, and it happened that as a member of the planning committee and also of the editorial committee of Lamberth 88, which I was a member, within that group, which was made up of six of us in the editorial committee, they made sure that there was one member of the editorial committee in each of the four sections. So, the section that I was in, was held by the present Archbishop of Canterbury; very brilliant man and a first class brain, from Oxford University – William Rowan.
I noticed in 1998 when I was monitoring his group as member of the editorial committee, it became clear that he had soft spot for the homosexuals. I was not surprised when they were preparing for Lamberth 2008 that he was saying, “well, let us tell them that what they are doing is wrong, but allow them to be part of us.” He was speaking in favour of people, whose attitude is where homosexuality is another style of living. The majority of Bishops in America doesn’t agree with them. That is one thing that people don’t know. It is not all the bishop in America. The Bishops in America, who favour homosexuality, are in minority.
The same thing in Canada and Britain. That it became a big thing when we now have a Bishop, who is homosexual. So, the Bishops from South-South said they were not going to attend the same conference with a man who is married to a man. How do you explain that? And the basis of the Bible, right from Genesis, God created Adam and Eve (a man and a woman).
If it was God’s intention that a man could marry a man, He would have created another man from Adam. As He didn’t do that, when you come to the whole of the Old Testament, you go to the whole of the New Testament, and Jesus confirmed what God said in Genesis chapter 2, “that is why a man will leave his father and mother and join himself to his wife and the two will become one.”
That is what God says. So, how can a human reason that it is an alternative way of life and that we should accept it? That is to put human reasoning in the place of divine revelation. Divine revelation is one man, one woman. And we thought that they should listen because the South-South bishops said very strongly that the Archbishop of Canterbury should see that those who favour homosexuality should not attend this year’s conference.
They should stay away because they are not acting on the basis of the Bible and the Anglican Church throughout the world stands on the Bible. Take away the Bible; the Anglican Church doesn’t exist. So, they said, for these people who now are doing things that are contrary to the Bible, for us to attend the same conference and sit down with them and go forward to be receiving holy communion with them and so on, is wrong. It became obvious that we are not one. Communion means together, as one.
It is a pity that it went the way it went and it was a pity that we were unable to come to an agreement. Since the Archbishop of Canterbury and others could not persuade them to stay away, we, from the South-South felt we cannot attend with them. It is rather unfortunate that some few black bishops in East Africa and South Africa went ahead to attend the conference. But all the Bishops in Nigeria and mind you, Nigeria has the largest population in the Anglican world.
There are more Anglicans in Nigeria than in America, England, and more than Canada and New Zealand put together. So, they know that the Anglican Church is very strong numerically and that secondly, we take the Bible serious. We have what we call Bible Study outlines. We have 62 Sundays in a year. In every Anglican Church in Nigeria, we take one hour to study the Bible. Not for a clergyman to stand and teach, but we use discussion methods. And people like it because they are able to ask questions.
What does this portend for the Anglican Church generally?
Well, as human beings, we might feel that the Anglican Church has broken into two. We don’t feel like that. We feel that it is God’s power and grace to still keep us together. Even though the Bishops in the South-South did not attend the last conference, they went to Jerusalem to hold a conference before Lamberth. They were still hoping that by going there just before Lamberth, the Archbishop and the others would say they could afford to see the Church broken into two and allow the homosexuals not to come. They allowed them to come.
But in the address that was given by the chairman of the South-south Bishops, who happens to be our Primate in Nigeria here, Archbishop Peter Akinola, he clearly stated that the thought that we were not attending Lamberth 98 did not mean that we are no longer part of the Anglican Communion. That what we are saying is that we cannot attend the same conference, which is just a conference of Bishops, as they are clergymen, and they are far more in number than bishops with homosexuals and therefore, we are still members of the Anglican communion.
Is ex-communication possible?
I must confess to you that I have not given a thought to that before now. I don’t think it is possible. T he reason is that since the Archbishop of Canterbury is their friend and allowed them to attend the Lamberth Conference, it will be difficult to excommunicate them. You see, another reason is that the Lamberth Conference is not a legislative body.
It is an advisory body. It doesn’t say this is what you must do in your province. It advises and recommends. For instance, when the ordination of women was a big thing, particularly at the 1988 Conference, at the conclusion of the whole thing, what was said is that each province, that is the Anglican Church in each country, should take them back home, that is the resolutions that were passed, and look at it very well before taking a decision. In any country in the world where we have Anglicans, no diocese within the province in the country should decide to ordain women unilaterally. That the entire diocese in a country should go together.
There are Bishops in the Anglican Church in Nigeria, who favor the ordination of women, for instance. But because of that resolution, they have not been ordained. One did it in1989, the year after Lamberth 98. That was in Kwara Diocese. And we all said, no. It was Bishop Herbert Haruna, who did that. I understand he died recently. I think he was 83 or 84 years.
He ordained two women. At that time, I was still a bishop. He was at Lamberth 88. And there they said no Diocese should do it unilaterally, that we should do it together. Think he did that hoping that he would get other diocese to follow suit. Not one diocese did it with him and we said we were going to stick to the resolution that we would do it together. So, it would be difficult to ex-communicate those who are in favour of homosexuality in America and other parts. And we have Bishops who are in favour of homosexuality, who are ordaining clergymen that are homosexuals in England. I think there are one or two in South Africa, and some others, scattered all over. More in Canada. More in Australia.
Let’s come to Nigeria. Some weeks ago, a Bishop was said to have killed 400 witches including children and the man is going to appear in court. How do you react?
There are so many proliferations of churches. There are churches and there are churches in Nigeria today. Not only in Nigeria, but the world over. So, also we have bishops. There are Bishops and there are Bishops. There are Bishops who made themselves Bishops. In the Anglican Church, you can’t make yourself even a catechist. You cannot just wake up and say you are a catechist of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. You can’t.
There are tests to be taken until you get to the Bishop of the Diocese and so on. You have to receive proper training and commissioning. For clergyman, it is ordination. Before you can say, I am a clergyman, there are standards you must have met. So, there are the people that are founders of churches and they became founders, not bishop. So, don’t reckon with them. You remember that one who is now in prison for murder. They are going to kill him. They said even in prison, he had impregnated a lady. IN prison! He is not a servant of God, but servant of Satan. We are told in the Bible that sometimes Satan disguises himself as angel of light.
Is it possible for a non-Briton to become head of Anglica Church?
When people start to talk of something, it shows that it will happen. We started to talk about this as far back as I know in1978 at the conference. It was mentioned briefly towards the end of Lamberth Conference in78. I was a clergyman and I was teaching at Emmanuel College, Ibadan, at that time. I was not a Bishop but I was in England. Just before Lamberth Conference, we had a conference of what we called Suma, which emphasises spirituality in the Anglican Church.
The conference was for a week on the campus where Lamberth Conference was held. We ended our conference and moved out. The Bishops of Lamberth Conference of 78, started to move in two days after. So, I spent about five days extra. So, I know a little bit about Lamberth 78. It was mentioned briefly. It w as mentioned more in 88, and I was at that conference. More emphasis was made in 1998. They said it has to be considered. In the Archbishop Conference, we were asked to pray about it. This year’s conference was almost held outside England. Suggestions were made to consider Nigeria or South Africa. I understand that the committee that was asked to handle it said, for this time left, we consider South Africa, because she had more facilities than Nigeria. So, it was almost held there.
It w as not only said that the conference should be held outside England, it was suggested that the president of Lamberth Conference, who is the Archbishop of Canterbury, can also be held by someone outside England. It will happen, but I don’t know how long it will take, but it will definitely happen, because the large majority of Anglicans is no longer in England. The Anglican Church started in England, but now there are more Anglicans in America than in England. The majority of Anglicans in the world today are here in Nigeria, apart from other countries in Africa.
Is there a possibility of a Nigerian becoming one?
Of course, by the grace of God, in the future.
Should there be retirement age for clergymen especially Bishops?
Yes, everyone should have a retirement age. Apart from self-employed people like traders and farmers, there should be retirement. Leadership work is very demanding, in terms of physical energy, mental energy, time that you have to devote to work among other demands. Like clergymen, if one is a real clergyman, truly called by Jesus Christ, and he is completely devoted to Christ, committed to His cause, his job is very demanding. So, it is not a work that somebody should continue to do until he dies. Right now, because I know I am now approaching 80 years, I can’t see myself doing the work further. It is impossible. Sometimes, I wake up and I don’t feel like doing anything.
So, whenever I feel like that I retire, either lying down, reading magazine or some light reading in the morning. And I usually tell anybody in the house that if anybody asks for me tell whoever that I am sleeping. And I always joke with it that I am retired and therefore, those of us who are retired can sleep when we like.