Amos Fagbamiye and the Anglican Diocese of the Trinity, USA – Part 2
Continued from yesterday
Fagbamiye received the call into ministry and was ordained a deacon and priest by the Rt. Rev. Aderin, the Bishop of Ondo Diocese of the Anglican Church Nigeria on December 10, 1988 and December 11, 1989 respectively. He would then serve for many years as a priest, in the Lagos West Diocese, under the Diocesan Bishop Adebiyi, whose diocese would later become a major benefactor of the new ADOTT Diocese. He rose to the rank of an Archdeacon, and after that, Fagbamiye moved to the United States, where he continued his pastoral work when the newly created Nigerian Anglican Church was emerging.
Here in America, he studied for his Master of Divinity at the Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis. In December 2007, he was consecrated a Suffragan Bishop of the CANA, and later appointed the Diocesan Bishop of ADOTT (formerly MDT) that supervises a large diocese consisting of four regions with four Suffragan bishops Kayode Adebogun, Martyn Anagbogu, Dokun Adewunmi, and Augustine Unuigbe, each serving as the head of each region.
There is no doubt in my mind that as Bishop Fagbamiye retires, he leaves with a full heart and mind of satisfaction and gratefulness to God who has seen him through the heavy labour of serving in his vineyard and hence the impact of his departing lyrics“ Abo re o Jesu.” However, the lingering question is what does the future hold for this diocese, particularly in the uncertain situation of the American society where Nigerian churches operate, and the sometimes authoritarian tenor of the church at home where many a times politics rather than Christian spirituality and reason propel church leadership?
Bishop Fagbamiye’s retirement also provides us an opportunity to have an in-depth conversation with the Nigerian Anglican Communion at home. We need this public conversation when church leaders at home who should recognize the skills and talents of Nigerian Anglicans in the United States and allow them to shape the destiny of their own church movement. Leaders of the Anglican Church would be wise to know that the USA is not Nigeria! And no right-thinking person in the land of the free would allow anybody to tamper into his or her religious liberty.
We hope that our little advice will provide enough forum for the church leadership’s rank and file to be more informed about the status and state of Nigerian Anglicans in the United States and Canada. We agree that the church has ecclesiastical oversight over the diocese, but the church in Nigeria must be mindful of the legal burden we shouldered as a church in America.
Additionally, we hope to communicate with the Nigerian Anglican Church that they should be mindful of the consequences of their decisions and actions, as it affects a large number of Nigerians who are quietly doing their work and serving God in their own way, having no time to waste on meaningless ethnic politics. On no grounds should any action be taken to disrupt the structure of ADOTT, particularly when the church leadership at home has no clear idea of what is going on here.
All attempts that some of us have made to provide insights into the state of things here have been discouraged and, at times, met with insults. It seems to me that the notion of the Nigerian American Church at home is one whose membership is primarily (and perhaps purposefully) made up of those lacking the social capital to afford the agency to have a say in their own church life. The membership consisting of men and women of some eminence, doctors, professors, professionals, engineers, and lawyers, who constitute the laity’s strength is often bypassed and not reckoned with. Unfortunately, this kind of mindset is compromising the trust one should typically have in one’s church. The Nigerian Anglican Church must avoid, at all costs, policies that may have ethnic/ tribal influence on the Nigerian Anglican movement in the United States and Canada.
Furthermore, the ADOTT Church should under no circumstances be asked to become subservient to the white establishment named Anglican Church of North America (ACNA.) Events in the last few weeks in ACNA have further confirmed our view that Nigeria’s church leadership do not understand the American church, its culture, nor its people. The greatest insult you can bestow on Nigerian Anglican Christians here is to decree that we are acquiescent under a church where white people take the lead.
The only reason I can deduce for legislating our membership of ACNA is that we need resources from them. So far, ADOTT is self-sufficient and doesn’t need a dime from the White American Churches. If, however, the Nigerian church at home takes money from ACNA, which I doubt, it certainly diminishes the church and the integrity of an independent body of Christ. All these ideas and theories about mission work in North America and Europe miss the cardinal and social meaning of an African mission in the 21st century.
All over Africa, and particularly Nigeria, churches are embarking on a mission here in the context of “reverse mission,” a term I coined to describe the idea that Nigerians and other Africans are fully committed to a new form of evangelism in the 21st century. It is vital that Africans take the lead in evangelization and not be made to follow the American leadership to avoid the immense humiliation that Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther suffered at the white establishment’s hands, which led to his depression and ultimately his death.
Moreover, events in the last two weeks within ACNA have further confirmed our fear. Ironically, the same body the church of Nigeria considers to be the American overlord Nigerians Anglicans need for proper tutelage is emersed in the very same moral crisis that made them pull out of the Church of England. What an irony and an embarrassment to the body of Christ.
The Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion must prayerfully humble itself to learn about American religious culture and tradition. Unfortunately, the conversation making the rounds in Nigeria among well-placed Anglicans that shows the former President Trump as a devout Evangelical Christian, one who is far better than the newly elected President Biden, is another clear indication of illiteracy and ignorance. The Nigerian outsiders may need the Nigerian American insiders here, who fully experience the policy and polity in compelling issues to reach a fair and informed decision.
Leaders of the Church of Nigeria must be gracious and modest enough to avoid making decisions matters on which they lack knowledge and expertise.
Most of the Nigerian Anglicans here in the USA and Canada are dual citizens, where freedom of religion and freedom of worship is a cardinal secular obligation.
And like Paul the Apostle, who was compelled to declare his citizenship in Rome (Act 22), we believe that no one ought to control our religious expression- especially when those religious expressions conform with the noble tradition, heritage, and legacy of Nigerian Anglican Church movement going back to its historic foundation in Yoruba communities the mid nineteenth century.
In conclusion, the above reflections on the occasion of the retirement of Bishop Fagbamiye are warranted so that the years of struggle and troubles and toil he has made in creating and stabilizing this diocese will not be in vain.
The ADOTT Diocese is courageously marching forward with the spirit of Christ and the progressive traditions of the Nigerian Anglican church which has contributed so much —— certainly more than any religious and social movement —- to the development and growth of Nigeria. Bishop Fagbamiye has kept faith with this glorious heritage. I wish Bishop and Mama Abike Fagbamiye a happy retirement.
Professor Olupona wrote from Harvard University, USA.
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