The Bishop of Guilford [Church of England] has met with the Primate of all Nigeria, The Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, as the Diocese of Guildford’s link with the Church of Nigeria prepares to turn 50 next year.
The Rt Revd Christopher Hill, who retires in December, also conveyed personal greetings from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Justin Welby, as a team from Guildford received a warm welcome in Abuja.
Archbishop Nicholas heard reports of the recent visit to Guildford of Archdeacon John Adubasim, of Niger Delta North, and expressed personal thanks to parishes for the Diocesan-wide call to prayer in Guildford during the abduction of Archbishop Ignatius Kattey in September, happily resolved a week later.
The two Bishops affirmed their commitment to mutual learning between Nigeria and Guildford, and to continue strengthening ties born out of the Anglican Conference in Toronto in 1963 - the oldest link of its kind in the Anglican Communion.
A major discussion centred on the Church of Nigeria’s opposition to what it considers concessions made in the Church of England to same-sex relationships, and the different cultural contexts of Nigeria and the UK. The Primate spoke with candour, emphasising that ripples of decisions made by the Church of England were felt strongly in Nigeria, often drawing criticism to the Anglican Church of Nigeria from other Nigerian denominations and faiths seeking to claim moral high ground.
In response, Bishop Christopher clarified the Church of England’s unchanged position on marriage, and asked for prayer as the General Synod continues its thinking on women bishops and human sexuality in the coming years. He also pledged prayer, particularly for Christian communities coming under increasing attack from militant Islamist groups in the north of Nigeria.
The Guildford contingent also proposed a joint initiative to explore commemoration of Samuel Crowther, the first African Anglican bishop in Nigeria, whose 150th anniversary of consecration falls in 2014, to which the Primate responded warmly.
Affirmation & prayer
The Bishop of Guildford, The Rt Revd Christopher Hill said: “I am very glad to have met with Archbishop Nicholas, and am grateful for his kind hospitality.
“His passion for the gospel is pre-eminent; as also is his deep respect and affection for the Church of England which sent the first missionaries to Nigeria.
“While we do not hide the fact that there are challenges ahead for this relationship, the affirmation given and commitment to mutual prayer is a source of genuine encouragement.
“We have much to learn from one other, and our Christian witness is the richer for continued companionship and understanding with brothers and sisters across such diverse cultural contexts.”
During a week-long visit in the days prior to the November meeting of General Synod, the Guildford team, also including Revd David Minns, Keith Malcouronne, Nick Edmonds and Revd Neil Lambert, travelled to other Nigerian Dioceses to further promote links, and attend the DIVCCON conference.
The Guildford/Nigeria link was born out of the Anglican Conference in Toronto in 1963, where the Anglican Communion was introduced to a document entitled ‘Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in the Body of Christ’. It was really a first recognition of partnership in the Communion and was warmly received. The purpose of the link is to learn from one another, and financial transactions are discouraged. The visit to Nigeria was during the week beginning 11 November 2013.