The Church of Nigeria and its Archbishop has now joined other Global South Anglican churches and bishops in decrying the Church of England making clerics in Civil Partnerships eligible for bishop’s mitres.
The Church of Nigeria Responds to the Church of England Bishops and Civil Partnerships
1. The Bishops of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) meeting for their annual retreat held from Jan 7/11, 2013, at the Ibru Centre, Agbarha Otor, Delta State, Nigeria, heard with dismay the news of the recent action of the Church of England House of Bishops. The decision to permit homosexual clergy in civil partnerships to now be considered for the episcopacy is one step removed from the moral precipice that we have already witnessed in The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada.
2. When the Church of England failed to exercise its legal and moral right to opt out of the civil partnerships legislation in 2005 warnings were given in England and around the Anglican Communion that this was a first step towards the recognition and institutionalization of behaviour contrary to the plain teaching of scripture and reaffirmed for all Anglicans by the 1998 Lambeth Conference in its Resolution 1.10. Sadly those warnings were ignored and we now face the next step in a process that could very well shatter whatever hopes we had for healing and reconciliation within our beloved Communion.
3. We are also grieved by the timing of this decision coming only days before the retirement of Archbishop Rowan Williams and before Bishop Justin Welby becomes the new Archbishop of Canterbury. We urge the House of Bishops to reconsider their decision so as to allow for a full, prayerful and sober reflection on the call on all clergy, especially bishops, to live holy lives and not encourage what are, at best, morally ambiguous partnerships that make it impossible for a bishop to be a wholesome example to the flock. Especially since the supposed assurances of celibacy, while perhaps well intentioned, are both unworkable and unenforceable.
4. As a House of Bishops, while we acknowledge that we all fall short of God’s call to holiness, we dare not compromise the clear teaching of our Lord on faithfulness within Holy Matrimony and chastity outside of it. Sadly we must also declare that if the Church of England continues in this contrary direction we must further separate ourselves from it and we are prepared to take the same actions as those prompted by the decisions of The Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada ten years ago.
5. In all of this we continue to give thanks for the mercy of God newly revealed to us in this season of The Epiphany and we are filled with gratitude for the millions of faithful Anglicans within the GAFCON/FCA community who have not ‘bowed the knee’ to the contemporary idols of secularism and moral expediency.
6. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
In Christ’s service
The Most Revd Nicholas D. Okoh
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate
Two points stand out to me. First, as the Archbishop of Kenya’s statement, this statement clearly addresses clerics in Civil Partnerships being eligible to become bishops. Liberals will surely try to twist this and other statements as opposing those with a gay orientation as bishops no matter how holy and chaste a lifestyle they lead. This statement does no such thing.
Second, paragraph 4 makes clear there is a limit to the Church of Nigeria’s forbearance toward the Church of England. If the CofE continues to act more and more like Episcopalians, then they shall be treated like Episcopalians, with de facto excommunication. This is the clearest warning of this from the Global South that I can recall. (But readers are most welcome to comment and inform my memory if it is lacking.)