It has been my privilege to meet Nigerian Anglicans in places across America including Washington D.C., New York City, Houston, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis and Chicago. I have witnessed your faithfulness and seen what a blessing you are, both to those who share our love for the Lord Jesus and also those who have yet to hear the good news of His love.
I have also become aware of the challenging circumstances in which many of you find yourselves because of the actions of ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada. By their recent decisions, they have torn the fabric of our common life and have jeopardized your lives and ministries. This is a tragic reality that cannot be ignored. While it remains my prayer that ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada will repent and embrace the teaching of the Communion, their actions have placed an obligation upon me to provide for the proper and continuing pastoral and episcopal oversight for Nigerian churches in North America.
It is well known that many Nigerian Anglicans who live in the North America are no longer able to worship in an Anglican church, some have drifted to other churches, and others have even given up the faith. I well remember one woman coming to me during one of my visits and, with tears, saying she could no longer worship in an ECUSA church and that her whole family no longer had a church home, yet they would prefer to remain faithful Anglicans. In saying this she spoke for many others.
Several of our Nigerian clergy in America have been informed they can no longer work in an Episcopal diocese or have had their funding cut. Finally, the unilateral dismissal by the Presiding Bishop of the Chaplain we had jointly appointed to minister to Nigerian congregations illustrates the extent of the brokenness of our relationship and underlines the need to provide alternative structures for episcopal and pastoral care.
After much prayer and careful discernment with appropriate colleagues and advisors over the last two years, and in full consultation with the Nigerian congregations in America, together with the enthusiastic endorsement of the Episcopal Synod and the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) we announce the formation of the Convocation of Anglican Nigerian Churches in America.
This Convocation will function as a ministry of the Church of Nigeria in America. Our intention is not to challenge or intervene in the churches of ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada but rather to provide safe harbour for those who can no longer find their spiritual home in those churches. While it will initially operate under our Constitution and Canons, it will have its own legal and ecclesial structure and local suffragan episcopate. I will be asking the next General Synod of the Church of Nigeria, which will meet in September 2005, to make the necessary constitutional amendments.
During the intervening months, in cooperation with our friends in the Anglican Communion Network, I will be appointing episcopal visitors from among already consecrated bishops to provide pastoral and episcopal oversight for those congregations already in operation and in formation. I am excited by the possibilities before us and look forward to seeing this ministry grow.
We ask that all people will join us in prayer for the fullness of God’s blessing upon the Convocation and the growth of its witness to all who would hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.