My Job Is To Help Africa Understand Europe And Europe To Understand Africa, Says Idowu-Fearon
Most Revd. (Dr.) Josiah Idowu-Fearon is the Archbishop of Kaduna Diocese, Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion, and Secretary General of the Anglican Communion worldwide. In this interview with SAXONE AKHAINE, Northern Bureau Chief, he spoke on his elevation to the new office, which secretariat is based in London and how he intends to use the position to project Nigeria, and Africa’s image.
Can you elaborate on the settings of the global system of the church and your new office? EACH country has a primate. No country has two primates. You can have many archbishops but you only have one primate. So, we have 38 provinces and six extra provincial provinces, though they have not been recognised as provinces. But, if you add them up, you have 44 provinces.
The Anglican Communion is 85 million and we are found in every continent. We have four instruments. There is the archbishop of Canterbury, which is the first instrument.
He is the centre of unity and represents the communion in ecumenical. If we have anything to do with the Roman Catholic Church, he deals with such and not any other primate. He is the face of the Anglican Communion.
Then, we have the Lambert Conference. This is the meeting of all bishops from the entire Anglican world. We meet once in 10 years. Then, we have the Anglican Consultative Council with the current chairman, Bishop Tengatenga from Malawi. The Anglican consultative council is made up of three representatives each from these 38 provinces. You have a bishop, a priest and a layperson.
That is the committee that actually does the day-to-day running in between one Lambert Conference and the other. Then, we have the fourth instrument of the communion, which is the primate meeting. All the 38 Primates meet and their role is to fellowship and also give us advice and for consultation. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, where the Pope would call his cardinals and they will take decision, which remains binding, in Anglican Church, it is not so.
Primate has no right to say this is what must be done. The instrument that passes that right is the ACC because it is made up of bishop, priest and deacon.
That is the difference between the Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion. So, my job as the Secretary General is to serve each of these instruments. I organise the meeting, I invite them in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
I see to the day-to-day running of their meeting. How do I do it? I have an office called Anglican Communion office in London. That is where everything is being run from. I head that office.
I have my executive secretary and we have eight units with about four or five staff. They are all working with me, they are my colleagues and I am the leader of that team. Do you see this elevation to the new office as an honour to Nigeria? It is a big responsibility looking at the situation within the Anglican Communion.
You notice that I always say Roman Catholic Church and Anglican Communion. We are not a church but a communion of 38 independent provinces. Because we are a communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury cannot tell any province what to do. No primate has the authority that he has. The Archbishop of Canterbury is the third to the throne. After the queen, the prime minister, then comes the Archbishop of Canterbury. He is our representative.
So, I believe this honour is done to the people of Africa because we have never had an African occupying that position. Fortunately, we are the largest democratic country on the continent of Africa. It is an honour done to Africa, Nigeria, the Church of Nigeria and Kaduna State, which is where I represent.
How long is the tenure of your new office and when are you expected to resume? It is for an initial period of seven years and it is renewable. You know, the condition of employment or appointment in Europe is not based on age. As long as you are healthy and performing, it can be renewed, but I can check out anytime I like and they can also withdraw me if I don’t perform well.
I will resume July 1, 2015. So, I will have to officially retire as the Bishop of Kaduna on the last day of June. Considering that this is the first time an African is occupying the position, how would the Nigeria Church benefit from this appointment? The thing is that our voice will be heard, not just Nigeria but Africa. The culture in Africa is very different from that of Europe and America.
As an African and a Nigerian, God has given us that opportunity to at least make our voice heard. That is a very important opportunity we now have. The Archbishop of Canterbury doesn’t mince his words. He said he wants the voice of the southern part of the globe, Africa in particular because we have the largest number of Anglicans.
He wants our present felt and our voice heard. God help me, we will do that. It is not to be waving our fingers but to rationally present our position. My ministry is to help Africa understand Europe and Europe to understand Africa. Because of my education, I am opportuned to understand both Europe and America. Sometime last year, there was this issue that the West tried to influence Africa to embrace gay marriage. I hope this will not be a kind of dangling a carrot before Africa and particularly Nigeria to support such thing?
Firstly, I want you to understand that the Anglican Church has a position, which has not changed. The fact that there is part of the Communion, who because of their culture and where they are operating from, tend not to adhere to our position does not mean that the Anglican Communion does not have a position.
Our position is that we cannot accept any marriage that is not Biblical, that is a man and a woman coming together. That is the standard position of the Anglican Church. We call it resolution 110 and it has not changed.
However, there is part of the Communion, not just Europe, but also even South Africa, where the culture is trying to say look, for us it doesn’t matter.
There, the Anglican Church is very much aware of it and our position is that we don’t hate anybody. All we are saying is it is not acceptable to us now. Let me give you an illustration. In the Anglican Church here, we do not allow a polygamist to take communion.
That is in our constitution. But go to some parts of Nigeria, people with multiple wives would sit in front of the church and go for communion and are also given positions in the church. But here, in the north and I am speaking as the oldest bishop in the Anglican Church in the north, we don’t tolerate such. If anyone does it, he is going to do so secretly.
The Church of Nigeria doesn’t allow polygamy, but we know it is done. We don’t give them positions in the church, but we know there are polygamists, who are treasurer, chairmen of various organisations in churches.
That is why I said earlier on that it is a question of understanding. Nobody would get up and say the Church of Nigeria promotes polygamy, we don’t but it is there. I am not trying to escape.
All I am saying is that the communion has a position and Church of Nigeria is with that position. In South Africa, there are sections that accept resolution 110 and there are sections that said well, we cannot live with it, but you can’t drive them out of the church. They are members of the church. Even in my diocese, we have had a couple of such cases. We have a psychologist that is working on that person now. That is the attitude of the church.
Our tradition in Kaduna diocese is not to wag fingers at anybody. How do you intend to use your new office to solve most of the challenges facing Nigeria and Africa? The Anglican Church Communion is small compared to the Roman Catholic Church. In my office, we have what we call the Africa alliance.
Its focus is on reconciliation, poverty alleviation and development. We have a representative at the UN in Geneva, who works with the various aid agencies.
We also have an observer in New York who is also in my office. So, we coordinate. What I plan to do is to liaise with the Roman Catholic because they are big and they have the money and the same concerns as we do, to work together with them. As I said, people will now know the exact situation in the northeast of Nigeria. I came from the north and I know the situation very well.
All I need to do is to pick my phone whether it is the Catholic Bishop, Anglican Bishop, and say ‘hey, brother, what is happening?’ I have up-to-date information and from there, I can move into action.
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