By David W. Virtue, DD
More than 500 mostly Nigerian Anglicans packed Holy Trinity Cathedral Church in Houston on Saturday for an African style dedication of a new cathedral. Abuja-based Nigerian Primate, Henry Ndukuba, archbishop of the largest province in the Anglican communion, officially dedicated the new $5 million structure.
The Rt. Rev. Bill Atwood, Dean of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) for International Affairs, said there were about 15 bishops present, plus the Primate of Nigeria and one of the regional archbishops, Ali Buba Lamido, Archbishop of Kaduna. Atwood was there representing ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach.
“Each part of the cathedral was dedicated, but the dedication of the altar with all the bishops and archbishops laying hands on it and praying extemporaneously aloud and in the Spirit was the most powerful.” Wonderful, warm thanksgiving for both the ACNA and GAFCON were offered, said Atwood.
Atwood brought greetings from Archbishop Beach in the local Igbo language, which brought a tremendous ovation and roar from the assembled crowd.
The Rt. Rev. Dr Felix Orji, Diocesan Bishop, Anglican Diocese of the West and Coordinating Bishop of CONNAM — (Church of Nigeria North American Mission) says his hope is that his evangelical Anglican diocese, while predominantly Nigerian, will reach “everyone for Christ, irrespective of race or tribe or nationality. We are not here for Nigerians or African Americans only. We are here for anyone who wants to follow Jesus with us and by God’s grace we have members who are not African American.”
“My hope is that this Cathedral will be a place for all nations and all people to come to worship God in Spirit and truth, get converted, feed from scripture, learn humility, obedience and faithfulness to God, be empowered and equipped to go out as disciples of Christ to make more disciples of Christ. We want to be instruments in God’s hand to engender reconciliation with God through faith in Christ alone and horizontal reconciliation with others through the work of the Holy Spirit under the authority of Scripture.”
Orji said he will be resident at the cathedral, but he will have a rector with the title of Archdeacon as its regular preacher.
CONNAM, (formerly CANA) comprising two Nigerian dioceses, separated from the ACNA in 2019. Archbishop Foley Beach, Primate of the Anglican Church in North America, and Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), signed an agreement regarding the status of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) dioceses in both provinces.
Orji said he would remain in ministry and mission partnership with ACNA through their communal relationship as members together of GAFCON.
The Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy is canonically resident for all chaplains requiring professional ecclesiastical endorsement for the Anglican Church in North America and for the Church of Nigeria North American Mission (CONNAM).
Recently, tensions arose between the African primate Ndukuba, and the ACNA College of Bishops over a Pastoral Statement issued by Archbishop Foley Beach and the bishops that appeared to tolerate homosexuality “capitulating” to homosexuals. The dust-up between the two primates was resolved, but it left a bitter taste in the mouth of the African primate. The issue was deemed to be pastoral not theological and was quickly laid to rest. The Nigerian province has taken a hard line on homosexuality and will not meet with Archbishop Justin Welby who they believe has compromised himself by refusing to enforce Lambeth resolution 1:10. They will not be present at the next Lambeth Conference.
“The relationship between the CoN and ACNA is good and improving and by God’s grace will get better and better as long as both Provinces are committed to biblical faithfulness and classical Anglicanism. Deviation from biblical teaching will create problems,” Orji told VOL.
“The Nigerian Primate made it clear while visiting CONNAM that the CoN will not be creating any more dioceses in North America so ACNA can rest assured that we are not here to build kingdom for CoN,” said Orji.
“We are here to lead people to Christ and reach Nigerians who want to be part of the kind of Anglicanism that resembles what they left in Nigeria. We are trusting the Lord for his grace to be faithful to him and to one another in GAFCON and to walk humbly before the Lord as we endeavor to avoid unhelpful theological and pastoral innovations in our ministry together. Faithfulness to Scripture and respect for one another irrespective of racial and tribal differences are very important to us in our mission and relationships here in North America.”
By David W. Virtue, DD
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