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NIGERIA: Anglicans Elect New Primate

NIGERIA: Anglicans Elect New Primate

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) today elected Archbishop Nicholas Okoh as Primate-Elect of Church of Nigeria.

He is the Archbishop Nicholas Orogodo Okoh, 57, of Bendel Province and bishop of Asaba. He succeeds the Most Rev. Peter Akinola as Primate of the Church of Nigeria.

The news of his election was announced by the Dean of the Church of Nigeria, Most Rev. Maxwell Anikwenwa
immediately following the election by the Episcopal Synod held in Umuahia, Abia State.

Archbishop Okoh was one of several bishops and archbishops who convened the Global Anglican Future Conference. He is a former officer of the Nigerian army and is chairman of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission.

The Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) congratulated the Church of Nigeria on its choice.

"Archbishop Okoh is a Godly leader and CANA is delighted that he will be leading the Church of Nigeria. He is strong supporter of CANA and the Anglican Church in North America, and has been instrumental in helping to advance the orthodox Anglican GAFCON movement. Archbishop Okoh is committed to spreading the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He is a personal friend, and I’m pleased that he is stepping into this leadership role during this crucial time in the life of the worldwide Anglican Communion," said CANA Missionary Bishop Martyn Minns.

About 160 bishops elect the new Primate for the 20-million Anglicans, in Nigeria, inside the Cathedral of St Stephen in the Diocese of Umuahia through secret balloting.


LAGOS: Okoh takes over from Akinola as Anglican Church Primate

From Lawrence Njoku (Umuahia) and Nike Sotade
Sept. 15, 2009

AT exactly 4.15 p.m. yesterday, 57-year-old Archbishop of Bendel and Bishop of Asaba Diocese, Rt. Revd Nicholas Okoh, was pronounced the Primate-elect of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).

Okoh, whose emergence was received with standing ovation from the House of Bishops, will assume office on March 25 next year as the 4th Primate of the Church of Nigeria.

He takes over from Most Revd. Peter Jasper Akinola, whose six-year tenure expires by March next year. He assumed office in 2000.

Before Akinola were Archbishop Abiodun Adetiloye (1988-2000) and Archbishop Timothy O. Olufosoye (1979-1988).

Announcing the election of the new Primate after over six hours congress held behind closed doors at the St. Stephens Cathedral Church, Umuahia, the Dean, Church of Nigeria, His Grace, Maxwell Anikwenwa, said that it followed the constitution and cannons guiding the election of a Primate, stressing that the 146 bishops that participated in the exercise were satisfied with the outcome.

He said: "By constitution and cannons of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), we conducted election chaired by the Registrar of the Diocese, Church of Nigeria and the dean as the convener and Rt. Rev. Nicholas Okoh was duly elected as the Primate-elect.

"His election came by secret ballot; we don't tell you anything about number. More than two-thirds of those present did cast their vote.

"I think Nigerians should come and see and learn from us. It was absolutely transparent, the presentation was superb. That was why there was jubilation the moment he emerged", he said.

Anikwenwa disclosed that his election was witnessed by the bishops present, stressing that though about 146 Bishops were part of the House of Bishops congress, not all of them had the right to vote.

He said that the Bishop of Canna was part of the election and actually took part in the voting, stressing that by the election, the future of the Church of Nigeria has become very bright, viable, strong and stable.

The out-going Primate, His Grace Akinola, while commenting on the election, said that the new Primate would be sworn in, in Abuja, next year, stressing that the way the election was conducted was an indication that the Church of Nigeria was moving forward.

"Let us just say God has been leading and guiding us and we have been following His leading. This election has taken us five hours of serious prayer to come to the stage we are. It is not a child's play and we should see it as what God has done and I feel it is coming with a lot of blessings", he said.

Akinola said he was happy he was leaving the headship of the Anglican Communion when the ovation was loudest, stressing that he was convinced that the new Primate would take the Anglican Communion to greater heights.

"I have no doubts to his pedigree, perhaps which was why this hall erupted in celebration the moment he emerged. I tell you that it put paid to speculations that somebody somehow is trying to impose a candidate. The church of God does not operate in that manner. It functions according to directives from God and that is why it is like this today. All we need do is to continue to pray for the Church, continue to pray for the new Primate and I can assure you, we will get to our horizon", he said.

The Primate elect Okoh, who said he was an apprentice on the job, was full of gratitude to his colleagues for the orderly manner that his election held, stressing that it was an indication that he had received support to succeed.

He said he would rely on the advice of his colleagues as well as those who wished the Communion well to succeed, stressing that the Anglican Church shall continue to take the lead in the spread of the gospel.

The well-attended standing committee meeting started at about 11.00 a.m. yesterday morning with a Communion service, which was strictly attended by the bishops. It later went into a congress, which after five hours produced the new Primate.

Speaking at the service earlier, Bishop of Aba Diocese, Ugochukwu Ezeoke, charged the participants, especially men of God, to shun material and monetary inducement and rely on the directive from God to elect a successor.

He said that only when the will of God was allowed to triumph would the church prosper.

About four bishops were said to have indicated interest in the Primateship of the church.

Okoh, the in-coming archbishop has been preceeded by Archbishop Timothy O. Olufosoye (1979-1988), Archbishop Abiodun Adetiloye (1988-2000) and Archbishop Peter Akinola (2000- till date).

The outgoing primate of the Church, Peter Akinola - who represented by far the largest church with 18 million Anglicans - became prominent in recent years as a leader of conservatives within the Anglican Communion. After the 2003 ordination of the non-celibate gay Gene Robinson as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, he threatened that it might split the Anglican Communion. The former Archbishop of Nigeria threatened that his church would break ties with the Diocese of Oxford if the appointment was not rescinded.

"There are boundaries and you can't go beyond those boundaries. If you do then it means you have chosen to be outside of our fellowship," he had declared.

As a first step, the Church declared itself in "impaired communion" with the Episcopal Church USA on November 21, 2003. In September 2005, the Church in Nigeria reworded its constitution to redefine, from its point of view, the Anglican Communion. No longer would it be "provinces in communion with the See of Canterbury" but instead "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'".

Since one of Akinola's demands, the expulsion of the ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada from the Communion, is considered unlikely (or even impossible), some commentators saw this rewording as a portent of a forthcoming attempt by conservatives to set up a rival Anglican Communion. On November 12, 2005 the Church entered into a "Covenant of Concordat" with the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America, two groups outside the Anglican Communion which do not recognise the ECUSA.

In October and December 2006, several churches in Virginia declared themselves out of communion with ECUSA, due to their opposition to the ordination of Robinson and the election of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, and joined the Church of Nigeria through the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a mission originally started by the Church of Nigeria to support Nigerian Anglicans in the U.S.

It now mostly consists of non-Nigerian, theologically conservative American Anglicans, and has two American Bishops (Bishop Martyn Minns and Suffragan Bishop David Bena) who are simultaneously Bishops of the Church of Nigeria. In March 2007, CANA announced plans to elect additional American bishops in September 2007. These actions do not have the consent of The Episcopal Church and have engendered litigation over property that has yet to be resolved. They have also raised tensions between The Episcopal Church and several other provinces of the Anglican Communion.

The International U.S. based TIME Magazine has named Akinola twice (2006 and 2007) as one of the 100 most influential people who have got the "clout and power" to move the world.

But the Anglican Communion has faced other crises - in particular the row over the ordination of women as priests.

Some parts of the communion now have women bishops; the Church of England does not yet.


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