If we do not resolve our conflicts, this Church will end up in chaos — Ndukuba
On March 25, 2021, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, marked one year in office, as Primate of the Church. The second part of the interview conducted by Advent Cable Network Nigeria (ACNN TV) continues today. Here, Primate Ndukuba shares his thoughts.
What are the challenges so far?
I believe that God has His plan and purpose, and knows what He’s doing with us, His people. We came at a time that was quite challenging — the pandemic lockdown, fears and all sorts of devastation around us. But the confidence, assurance and understanding that this is of God helped us to relax and look up to Him. Whatever may be the time or season, I believe that the Lord is in charge and it is His business. All I need to do is to look up to Him and do as much as He gives us the grace. The assurance of God’s presence had such a calming effect on the challenge of that time. The challenges of COVID-19, which was so evident, affected us as individuals, families, a nation, the world and more importantly as a church. We could not meet.
Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama of the Roman Catholic, who took over the mantle of leadership at the same time with me, said he took over when he could not celebrate mass.
It was quite an unusual time. But we thank God that even within that challenge, God opened new avenues and ways of ministering and reaching out to one another. We thank God for the miracle and the gift of new technologies of phone, Zoom, WhatsApp and other platforms, social media and media platforms. Above all, we thank God for the gift of ACNN TV. Because we found it very challenging time to gather, a new mission frontier was opened through which we were able to take our services, Bible study, and even children worship, so as to be able to keep in touch. It helped the pastors to open platforms in which they were able to meet and reach out to the members in prayer.
Because of the lockdown and restriction of movement, food was scarce. It was as if we were in a war. It also affected the Church’s income, just as it affected the income of families, individuals and even the nation. Up till now, we are still battling economically with the impact of COVID-19.
Aside this, we have more issues or challenges that faced us as a Church. The issue of peace, unity and discipline in the church was such that we saw it as a thing that must be tackled with God’s help, His leadership and guidance, so that when we have peace and unity and focus, the church can function effectively.
We also have the challenge of funding the Church’s mission and ministry. You would realise that it is not easy for people to part with their money, especially with the complications of COVID-19, and the hardship of our time. In fact, we are still contending with that, but God is faithful. He is still sustaining, supporting, providing and helping us. The challenges are there, but one thing is very clear: our God is bigger than our questions and challenges. He is always there to help us.
So, we thank God that hitherto, He has helped us and will continue to do so.
Could you expatiate on the church’s new Constitution?
We need to realise that the work of constitutional review is not a day’s job. Leadership at every point is a continued one. I only continued where my predecessors left out or handed over to us. We had been having piecemeal review of the Constitution. But it was set out for us to enable us do a comprehensive review of the Constitution, so that it will be done once and for all, and we’ll be able to use it for a period of time before we can embark on a new review. I believe that the Church fathers, as well as the people of God have realised that the way we are going, if we do not take care of the way we resolve our misunderstandings and conflicts, this church will end up in chaos. This is a situation where individuals take the PCC or the Bishop to court without any recourse to the church. Even Jesus said it: ‘If your brother suffered any challenge in relationship with you, talk to him. If he does not want to hear you, bring another brother to talk to him. If he is not listening to him, take him before the elders.’ So, there is opportunity for you to meet with the person with whom you have problem and resolve it before going to court. Jesus said it, and that’s the legacy the church is following. In fact, we are not reinventing the wheel. The Anglican Church, especially the Church of Nigeria, is Bible-based. All that we do, we are rooting it from what the scripture has taught us. So, that provision in our Constitution concerning resolution of disputes in the church is biblical and practical. Yes, we are citizens but first of all, we are Christians and members of this church. And as Paul told the Corinthians, we cannot be going to court before unbelievers to adjudicate our cases.
If we are to judge the angels, why can’t we settle our issues? And so, we are pleading with every member of this church to be patient with one another. Let us pursue peace with each other, no matter how much you are aggrieved. Let us consider Jesus, Who, for our sake suffered, even in the hands of sinners. Let us be patient with one another and bear with one another. And as God has forgiven us in Christ, let us also forgive one another. You cannot go to court and return as friends. There must be a winner and a loser. The loser will not always take it easy. So, the battle continues.
When it comes to the issue of welfare, the constitutional provision is that as parish, Diocese and the Church of Nigeria, we are bound to make provision to take care of the welfare of members and clergy. That is what Jesus asked us to do, and that’s what the early church did. There is no other way we can go than to do what the Lord wants us to do. For instance, during the pandemic, the Church of Nigeria Relief Committee did so much to help those affected by incidences of attack and hunger. Also, we can see that everything is not about money and food. Though we have asked every church to establish a food bank and help members and those needy ones that are around us, we have seen that a phone call, prayer and visit can also be a way of ministering to the needs of others. So, the church is actually keying into what she should do in order to carry out the mission and ministry that the Lord has committed into our hands – preaching the gospel, teaching the Word of God, and healing the sick; and healing here has to do with ministering to the needs of people also. So, I think we are only building on what has already been started, and our intention is to ensure that we continue in the path that will honour God and be a blessing to God’s people. We are a Church in mission, and we cannot afford to fail in our time and generation.
What is the crack in GAFCON?
We will not call it a crack, but when we see danger signs even amongst us in GAFCON, the same signs we saw in The Episcopal Church of the USA, Canada, UK, and talk, they will tell you that you don’t understand what they are saying, that it is not the way you are seeing it. We have seen it and cried out before and they still went the way they went. When we saw certain things going on in ACNA, where the Archbishop released a pastoral letter allowing the Bishops to do what they will, concerning homosexuality, opening that door shouldn’t be allowed. Another group within them issued an open invitation to the so-called gay Anglicans and demanded that some people should sign up.
We thought this is overstepping bounds. This is an issue of faith and order. No one Province takes a unilateral decision and thinks that all of us should agree with it. It is an issue that is being tackled now. The leadership of GAFCON is still looking into it and we are hoping that wherever they have overstepped their bounds, they have to retrace it. We want to keep this fellowship and build it up, because we have played a key role in starting GAFCON as a rescue mission, as a safe place for those who believe in the authority of God’s Word, the Lordship of Jesus Christ and living for Him in accordance with His Word.
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