‘Creating more dioceses is a decision by House of Bishops, Episcopal Synod and General Synod’
This is the final part of a special interview with Most Rev. Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba
How do you plan to create more dioceses, during your tenure?
Let me put it this way: I believe that my work, in the main, may have to do with consolidation. Along the line, there might be new things being introduced. But sustaining what is there, building up the structures that will make this Church stronger, funding and financing and being self-sustaining and supporting, and being able to carry out our mission to the world will be our focus. Part of that consolidation will be to help the needy dioceses to stand.
But I have also realised that as you engage in church mission, church planting, training of pastors and nurturing the believers, the church grows and there will be the need for us to expand. As of now, I cannot tell you the number of dioceses that will be created. This is a decision the House of Bishops, the Episcopal Synod and the General Synod will take. So, when the time comes, we will do the needful. But we will see that we consolidate, strengthen what is on the ground and build up the structures of this institution that will help the church to function and face future challenges.
What is your view on autonomy of Anglican dioceses/Bishops?
We need to understand the Anglican Church’s structure. It is episcopally-led and synodically governed. The bishop is looked upon as the leader, but he does not operate in isolation. He is not an authority to himself. The authority he is exercising is a delegated authority from the Lord. Because we are synodically governed, the bishops exercise their own authority and leadership in what we call collegiality, which is also part of the synodality. When it comes to taking decisions that bother on the church’s life and ministry, we come as a body with representatives of the clergy and laity, as well as the bishops. We sit together according to Acts of the Apostles Chapter Fifteen.
In Anglican Church, your autonomy is that you have right in your diocese as helped by God and led by the Holy Spirit, as well as led by the authority of God’s Word, to guide your diocese in mission, evangelism, Church planting, development and organising the worship and services. With regard to worship, the bishop is the chief liturgist of his diocese, and he bequeaths his authority to the vicars of the parishes. That is why when he installs a vicar on the prayer desk, he says, “Take this, which is yours and mine.” So, the vicar represents the bishop, who represents the Lord.
So, as far as organising the parish is concerned, the bishop is not expected to be going to the parish telling them what to do every week. They may decide to build, they may decide to contribute, they may decide to establish a school, but they will have to clear with the bishop and the Diocesan Board, and any priest that goes contrary to the bishop’s ratings has already lost his licence. A similar thing applies to us bishops. When we were consecrated, we swore an oath before the Primate and the question is: “Will you take your place in the governing of the Church?” and you say yes.
So, your autonomy is only to exercise legitimate ministry that the Lord has given you. But when it comes to supporting the Church and building together, working together, and taking your place in the Council; you have to be part of the collegiality of bishops. As the African adage says, “I am because we are, and because we are, I am.” Each bishop is made by this Church and the same House of Bishops that elected us as bishops, as provided by the Constitution, also provided the same Constitution that has power by two-third of their votes, to move you, even when you say you cannot move from that diocese.
So, when it comes to autonomy, I would encourage us to take it as the autonomy to do the will of God. Our freedom should not be used to create problems or think that we have arrived, for none of us is sufficient. I am looking forward to working with my brothers and my fathers as a collegiality of bishops, so that we will build the household of faith.
When will ACNN come on popular platforms, such as DSTV and StarTimes, among others?
I thank God that right now, ACNN is not where we started. We are growing and all things being equal, we are trusting God that ACNN will get into these other platforms. We are hoping that we will be able to get to that. Already, work is being done and we are hoping that in due time, we will get them connected. But with what we’re experiencing now, I will want to encourage every Anglican family to own ACNN decoder, which is about N12, 000, and once you pay that, and they install it for you and will not be paying subscription. It will be there and free. I want to encourage our people to get the decoder and install it. You can enquire from your Diocesan Office or Vicar of your Church or you can contact us in Abuja directly, and that will be made available.
Apart from that, there may be other satellite stations to connect us to different parts of the country, which may be worked upon, and I’m hoping that by God’s grace, ACNN will grow more and more and will be able to reach not only within Nigeria, but across the world. It is our desire, just as our motto says, “Proclaiming the undiluted word of God,” that is what we stand for, and that is what we are working on.
But as of now, please tune in, especially in this challenging times, to ACNN and other platforms that you can key in, like VM Africa and follow the services. What is happening now really means that the Church may need to rethink the way we do ministry. We have seen that the pattern of church worship and ministry we have now can easily be disrupted by worldly system. It will only take a decree, a statement by the politician and we are put in disorder. I am believing God also that this is a learning process, and in this new evolving process, ACNN will play a key role in the ministry of the church. Whether, we like it or not, we cannot do without it. So, we ask for your support, we ask for your prayers and we ask that you patronise this station and God will bless you as you do so.
ACNN has, in recent times, faced challenges of disconnect with dioceses, especially rural areas, where ACNN has been calling most dioceses to equip their media outfit and ensure that they feed the station with information from their dioceses.
Do you have intention to educate clergy of the diocese of Abuja to equip churches to ensure that such crises never happen again?
I think COVID-19 came as a surprise; it came as a flood, and we never prepared for this. Be it as it may, I am seeing it as a learning process. We need to train and retrain, and in fact, both the Communication Desk and the Media will have to work out a strategy. If you can give us a proposal to actualise what you are proposing for the dioceses, I will discuss it with brother bishops and we will see how we will get about it because this is real. The experience of not allowed together has shown us that ministry has changed. The pattern and mode of ministry must change and I think that after this experience, we will sit together to work out modalities as to the way forward and your input will be very helpful.
What will be your catch-phrase for the Church during your tenure?
Decade of the reign of God.
What is your finally word?
I want to appreciate all our fathers in God, all bishops and archbishops for their overwhelming support. We are encouraged, whenever we look back and see from across the country, prayers, text messages, encouraging words. We are also encouraged by the clergy across the country from all over: we literarily feel it. We appreciate the Laity. This Church is greatly endowed. In fact, working in this small Committee of Liturgy and Spirituality, we have not even scratched the surface of the endowment that we have: human resources, ministers and ministries in this church, the youths are yet to be tapped. Children ministry is such a virgin land and ministering to family is so important. We appreciate the women ministry. They have been a strong support and pillar for this church and we will always appreciate them. We are looking forward to our mothers, the Presidents of the dioceses working together with the Mama Nigeria and Mama provinces to see that we move forward.
I am looking forward to working with our youths and I believe that they’re ready for the task ahead. We need to challenge them afresh, not only that, also some of them that have left Anglican Church and have founded their own ministries, our hands are open to receive them back with their ministries. There is a place for everyone, and I want to operate an open door administration. I am a team player. None of us is sufficient as our sufficiency is of the Lord. I am looking forward to mobilising everybody unto prayer, unto mission and unto supporting God’s work, not only in Nigeria, but also, the African mission, as well as the world mission. I am praying that the Lord will help us, keep us and move us from one level to another, to the glory of His Name.