Virtue-on-line and the Nigerian Archbishop

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Sept. 29, 2017

NIGERIA The 12th General Synod of the Anglican Church of Nigeria, the largest province in the Anglican Communion, met this week and came out with a statement reaffirming its stand to remain firm in the faith.

Led by Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, the Synod renewed its earlier resolutions supporting their declaration of being a church that is Bible-based, spiritually dynamic and committed to evangelism.

“The Bible remains the foundation of our church and the need to uphold its primacy and orthodoxy in every aspect of the church’s life has never been more urgent and compelling than now. It therefore encourages its leadership to be firm and resolute in pursuing this course.

“The General Synod further calls on all Anglicans in the world to return to biblical foundation of the Anglican Church and reject the theological innovations of this present age. It is only by upholding the faith of our fathers that the church will honor God and impact current and future generations.”

Now, you would think this is a call that should be heeded by the Episcopal Church even as it slowly disappears from sight, based on recent figures that show it in serious decline. But no. When 115 bishops met in Alaska recently, their concerns ran to prayerful “listening”, (a much-favored word by liberals who can’t act on anything) about issues like climate change, environmental concerns, race and poverty, but not a word on the faith once for all delivered to the saints, which, regrettably, most bishops have long since abandoned.

TEC bishops are on a pathway to resolve the ills of the planet with endless resolutions, most of which, like General Convention’s resolutions, are soon forgotten, unless, of course, they revolve around sex, in which case they hold front and center stage until they are resolved to the satisfaction of those who wish to change the Church’s teaching about how we ought to behave. You can read my story here about this Alaska gabfest, carbon footprints and more, here, or in today’s digest.

When GAFCON primates meet next week in Canterbury, there will be some notable absentees, including Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and Myanmar. It is still not certain if the Primate of South Sudan will attend.

The Anglican Communion claims it has somewhere between 77 million and 80 million, depending on who you talk to. Now if you add up the numbers for these provinces in Average Sunday Attendance that are not attending, they approximate nearly 31 million Anglicans. Nigeria has 20 million, (though some figures place it anywhere from 18 million to 25 million.) The Episcopal Church in Sudan and South Sudan (New Province): 4,500,000; the Province of the Anglican Church in Rwanda is 1,000,000; the Church of Uganda is 8,100,000 and the Church of the Province of Myanmar: 62,000. TOTAL: 31 million. If you exclude South Sudan, then some 26.5 million Anglicans will not be represented at this gathering of primates, fully one-third of all Anglicans.

According to Archbishop Justin Welby, the primates will be deeply engrossed in serious discussions on climate change. TEC Presiding Bishop Michael Curry can explain why it was necessary to increase his and 115 fellow bishops recent jaunt to Alaska, where they increased their carbon footprint to make the point about Native Americans and climate change.

But what of talk about the moral innovations that stalk the communion? The Scottish Episcopal Church’s recent actions permitting fellow Anglicans to perform same-sex weddings, piggy backs directly on what The Episcopal Church has done.

The Scottish Episcopal Church voted recently to approve same-sex marriages. At the last Primates’ meeting, TEC, which also marries same-sex couples, had to suffer the consequences of its action, including not participating in formal Anglican Communion meetings or voting on decisions related to policy or teaching. Neither of these were enforced, and TEC representatives continued to vote and gabble incontinently to their hearts’ content.

There were no “consequences”, of course. TEC and Curry and Welby went right on doing what they have always done — ignore the will of the primates and, yes, talk about things they can do nothing about.

One story posed this; “It is thought to be a formality that SEC will face the same consequences although conservative bishops from Africa may push for harsher penalties after being dissatisfied at the level of punishment given to American Anglicans.”

Maybe. Welby is the master of schmooze, and please don’t call it reconciliation. It isn’t, and that is why the above primates will boycott this meeting in protest.

The one very bright hope is that the new South American Primate, Greg Venables, is a truly solid evangelical who could openly challenge Welby on his lack of leadership.


I leave my readers to assess the degree of chutzpah being exercised by the Primate of All Nigeria,  Nicholas Okoh, in this rant against the perceived unorthodoxy of all Anglicans – excepting those who live in the Global South (mainly GAFCON provinces. The ministry of David Virtue – former Baptist and current spokesperson for ACNA and GAFCON – seems now to be circumscribed by his disaffection for any Church of the Anglican Communion that is not allied to the GAFCON programme of purification.

To speak of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, as ‘The Master of Shmooze’ is to show little respect for the hard-working Head of the Anglican Communion. And Okoh’s disregard for the homophobia and sexism existing in his own province – together with the multiple problems associated with graft and corruption in the local government of Nigeria – shows little understanding of his own culpability in the growth of discontent on the Continent of Africa.

The growing hostility of GAFCON and Okoh to the Anglican Provinces in the West has all the hallmarks of the need for the degree of separation that has already been signalled by GAFCON’s  intentional setting up of schismatic churches in other parts of the world. This does not augur well for the Anglican Communion of the future.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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