Contemporary challenges confronting the Church in the 21st century – Part 2
Youth Desertion and General Decline in Church Attendance: The Church of England passed through our road before. We are fast having majority of our congregants constituted of the elderly. Many of their children seldom attend the Anglican church of their parents. Many young Anglicans are attracted to other youth-dominated and youth-characterised new generation church fellowships on campus, and from there, they move on to the parent Pentecostal churches. The ease with which ministerial training and ordination are carried out in these churches also attracts our children and youths to them. Many prominent Pentecostal church leaders were former members of the Anglican Church. We are too clergy dominant. We have little opportunities for upcoming youths to serve without being fully called into ordained ministry. A church that loses its younger generation is on its way to extinction.
• Deviant Sexuality: This tool has been effectively used by Satan and his agents to pollute the vast majority of youths and children throughout the world today. The Internet has brought home easy access to pornographic images and videos, which have contaminated the minds and hearts of many people and lured them to commit fornication, adultery, masturbation and other sexual sins. Worse still are such deviant sexual behaviours as homosexuality, bestiality, incest, ritual sex, and group sex in nightclubs, which now dot many streets all over Nigeria. In the Bible, homosexuality, sex with animals and incest attract penalty of death. God personally rained fire to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Imagine the recent incident where the Assistant Chief of Staff to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Mr. Stephen Knotts got married at John The Evangelist Church Edinburgh in Scottish Episcopal Church on 3rd July to another man, Major General Alistair Bruce OBE (Governor of Edinburgh Castle- under the Queen of England), with whom he had been in homosexual relationship for more than twenty years. The Archbishop of Canterbury cannot claim not to have known about his staff’s homosexual lifestyle, yet he did nothing to remove or reprimand him. According to Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, “If Gold Rusts, what will Iron do?” This singular disclosure indicts both Queen of England and Archbishop of Canterbury, both of whom by law and tradition are heads of the Anglican Communion.
This is height of the embarrassing compromises by errant Bishops and clergy of our Church in America and the West, who have deviated to accept homosexual lifestyle. This is a challenge to us in Nigeria to be careful not to allow these evil people infiltrate our church ranks and Houses (laity, Clergy and Bishops) and to ensure that we stand on the truth of the Gospel based on the Holy Bible, orthodox faith and holy living. Already, our image is dented by the apostate behaviours of our sister Anglican churches in the Western world.
• Dwindling spirituality of the Christian family. The family is the basic unit of society. Charity begins at home, they say. The mature Christians, today, were groomed by Christian parents who practised the concept of the church in the House. Daily Morning/Evening worship, hymn singing, exhortation, prayers, reprimand/discipline of Children and Christian living provided good foundation for raising godly children, who become well-mannered citizens and leaders of the nation. Christian marriage is the starting point in building Christian family and homes. God stated in Malachi 2:15 that one of the reasons He permitted marriage as a covenant is that He desired godly seed. The homes raise the children that will fear God and maintain the good names and reputations of their parents. Such virtues as virginity before marriage, faithfulness to marriage vows, endurance in building the home, prayer and holiness, are fast disappearing among the younger generations. Many ladies prefer to be single parents. Many have pre-marital polygamy experiences, having been exposed to multiple men before marriage. If Christianity will survive, this problem must be corrected. Without holiness, no man will see God.
Autocracy, Financial Burden and Politicking in church
• Autocracy refers to high handedness by church leaders. Many young bishops of our church are experiencing already, complaints about their autocratic attitude towards clergy and laity. We are servant leaders and we do not have biblical mandate for pride, arrogance, wickedness, oppression and exploitation of the sheep under our care. Recall God’s warnings against the prophets of Israel who, rather than cater for the sheep, devour them. We must regain humility, genuine love and brotherliness in Church. Love amongst bishops and clergy is scarce today.
Desperation for wealth may blind leaders from seeing the suffering of the clergy and laity at the parish level, who struggle to raise funds for the church in spite of growing poverty in the land. Transfers should be inspired by God, not done as a punitive measure.
• May we cast a little attention to Assessment methods of funds generation in the Anglican Church? Is it still the best practice to set targets of funds for our priests to strive to get, when we do not know what the future portends? Pastors may be forced to compromise their message as a result. Can we examine methods of other churches or devise better one ourselves, so that like the Early Church, Ministers can give their primary attention to prayer and ministry of the Word of God; not serving tables. Assessment debt and financial levies often drive many members away from the church.
• Elections and Collegiality: We must again prayerfully monitor that election of Bishops are not induced by monetary gratification and lobbying, but as inspired by the Holy Ghost. Can we envisage again in the near future a situation where a Samuel Ajayi Crowther can be bishop in Igboland, as well as Niger Delta and where an Igbo Bishop can be Bishop in Yorubaland, etc? Our sense of Communion is incomplete, when tribalism dictates our choices and preferences, not spirituality or merit. Remember that we are a church and not a political organisation. On collegiality, we are making grave mistakes of procedure. The Synod takes decisions, which the Diocesan Bishop or the Primate implements. Similarly, for matters of faith and order, the House of Bishops must take decisions after deliberating on issues and their resolutions define the actions to be implemented by the Primate. We are getting entangled with a strange un-Anglican tradition, where the leaders decide what they want to do and the church follows without critically interrogating and discussing the decisions. This is autocracy; it is found in Roman Catholic papacy, not in Anglicanism.
• Coming to translation of Bishops. May we kindly look at our Constitution again on this? Translations are to be permitted only at the initiative of the national church leadership, based on peculiar circumstances that suggest that option. No Bishop should ordinarily lobby to leave a diocese to which he is wedded by vows and enthronement because he prefers a richer diocese. We are called to mission and not to business. Theologically and spiritually, a Bishop is wedded to his diocese and wears the ring to symbolise this union. He wears his pectoral cross as a symbol of readiness to serve and to die, if need be for the cross of Christ. For the bishop to, therefore, reject his diocese and translate to another without reasonable cause of the gospel, is tantamount to divorce and remarriage. I make this assertion, not by myself, but repeating the judgment of past church fathers.
(Outline of Lecture delivered by Rt. Rev. Prof. Dapo F. Asaju (Bishop Theologian), at the Annual Conference of Chancellors and Registrars of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), held at Basilica of Grace, Gudu, Abuja on 4th August 2021)
TO BE CONCLUDED NEXT WEEK.
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