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Nigerian Anglican, Methodist churches formalise bilateral relations, commission members

By Princewill Ireoba and Chris Irekamba
02 October 2022   |   4:50 am
To continue to maintain areas of common cooperation and historic affinity, two mainline churches, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Methodist Church, Nigeria, have inaugurated Anglican-Methodist Joint Commission..

Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba (second left); and host, Prelate of the Methodist Church Nigeria, His Eminence, Dr. Samuel Uche (second right); co-celebrating the Eucharist together during the anniversary to mark 180 years of Methodist Church Nigeria

To continue to maintain areas of common cooperation and historic affinity, two mainline churches, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Methodist Church, Nigeria, have inaugurated Anglican-Methodist Joint Commission and dedication of the pioneer commissioners. The historic solemn event, which held in the context of Holy Communion last week, at Hoares Memorial Methodist Cathedral, Yaba, Lagos was co-officiated by the Prelate of the Methodist Church, Nigeria, His Eminence, Dr. Samuel Chukwuemeka Uche and Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Most Rev. (Dr.) Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba.

Conducting the inauguration ceremony, Uche noted that the two churches started their mission work in Nigeria with joint worship and cooperation, which needed to be structurally strengthened. He called on both members to resolve to move ahead and overcome the shortcomings, which marred the original relationship.

The Prelate said: “Since 1842, the symbolic ground-breaking and historical cooperation between our precursors, Rev. Thomas Birch Freeman and Rev. Henry Townsend, our partnership has witnessed cooperation and joint ownership of schools, seminaries, hospitals and other social welfare institutions. It is on record that for these 180 years of cooperation and looking out for each other, Methodist Church Nigeria and Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) have not had any permanent structure to engender and advance our joint causes and to smoothen our relationship, which occasion has required smoothening of ruffled feathers.

“It is, therefore, a thing of delight that at a time like this in our generation that the vision of our precursors will now be given secure anchorage and I salute the perspicacity and commitment of my dear brother, His Grace, Most Rev. (Dr) Henry C. Ndukuba for initiating the actualisation of this long held dream of our forebears.

“Let us consign to the dustbin of history those times when we erroneously sought to take advantage of each other; and join hands to advance the cause of our unity and faith,” Uche said.

Tracing the cooperation of the two churches in Nigeria to the first “Christmas Eve” held together in Badagry on December 24, 1842, under the Big Tree in the centre of the Badagry Market, which they later called “Hagia Tree” or “Holy Tree,” Ndukuba said: “This joint celebration of the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ marked the very beginning of ecumenism between the CMS and the Methodist Church. And this ecumenical birth impacted on the mission of both churches in collaborative work of the Kingdom of God.

The event of December 24, 1842, according to Ndukuba, gave birth to ecumenical partnership that was foundational in the establishment of the Christian Council of Nigeria and its institutions as the body of Christ in Nigeria, which was the foundation of Christian Association in Nigeria (CAN).

Ndukuba explained that beyond meeting in Nigeria, the two churches shared history and heritage as the Methodist Church is an offshoot of the Anglican Church, and even the Wesleys died and were buried as Anglicans. He stated the need for the two churches to move together and achieve a common goal.

Ndukuba said: “It a common saying that ‘if you want to go fast you go alone, but if you want to go far, you walk together with others. We have travelled fast and alone. Can we now have a paradigm shift to recover the ancient landmarks of mission and ministry as we once again partner as co-labourers in this kingdom work.

“The establishment of the Anglican-Methodist Commission will enable us to harness the great potentials in both churches and walk together along with the risen Lord Jesus Christ.”

Highlight of the event was the commissioning of two members from each church, Most Rev. (Dr) Alexander Chibuzo Ibezim (Anglican) and Most Rev. (Dr) Raphael Chibuzo Opoko (Methodist), as co-chairmen of the Commission.

On behalf of the Commission, the duo pledged loyalty and commitment to the task ahead of them. They were enjoined to seek and engender understanding and cooperation, as well as explore new vistas and areas of cooperation between the two churches and also advise the churches on issues and matters of interest that require joint action and resolution.

Ndukuba said: “You are to explore, affirm, pursue, forge and persuade the leadership of both churches on those things you are convinced that will build up our common life.”

The Commission has begun work and would continue activities from December 6 to 7, 2022 at St. Matthias House (Church of Nigeria Secretariat), Abuja.