jQuery Slider

You are here


Rt. Rev. Felix Orji says CONNAM diocese has withdrawn from CoN
Expanding the CoN in North America was never the vision of former Archbishop Peter Akinola

By David W. Virtue, DD
October 24, 2022

VOL has learned that the governing board of the Anglican Diocese of the West (ADOTW) has contacted their bishop, the Rt. Rev. Felix Orji, informing him that the diocese voted on October 23rd to withdraw from the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and remain under Bp Orji's authority as their bishop.

This action occurred less than 24 hours after the board had learned that Bishop Orji, along with Suffragan Bishop, Bishop Scott Seely, had requested and had been granted residence and license in the ACNA.

The action of the board demonstrated their loyalty to their bishop who, before seeking a place in the ACNA, served as the coordinating bishop for the Church of Nigeria North America Mission (CONNAM.)

CONNAM was originally conceived as a transition between the former Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), which was disbanded in 2020, and the joining of the CoN churches in North America with the ACNA. CONNAM, when first conceived, consisted of the Anglican Diocese of the West under Bishop Orji, the Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy under Bishop Derek Jones, and the wholly Nigerian ethnic churches of the Anglican Diocese of the Trinity whose founding bishop, the Rt. Rev. Amos Fagbamiye, retired in 2021. All were part of the former Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA).

The JAFC then moved cordially and cooperatively to be wholly under the ACNA earlier this year. Bishop Orji's departure, and now his diocese with him, leaves only the Anglican Diocese of the Trinity under the CoN. VOL suspects the departure of ADOTW was not with Nigerian Archbishop Henry Ndukuba's support nor is it a cordial move.

The recent direction of Archbishop Ndukuba, Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), to incorporate and expand CONNAM is likely the "straw that broke the camel's back" for Bishop Orji and the ADOTW churches. "To expand the CoN in North America was never the vision of Archbishop Akinola, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, or the Church of Nigeria before Archbishop Ndukuba -- and it has never been our vision," said Archdeacon Don Armstrong, rector of St. George's Anglican Church in Colorado Springs, one of the more well-known parishes from the Episcopal Church war years. Archdeacon Armstrong indicated that his, and other churches, have seen themselves as partners in ministry with the ACNA but now believe the CoN's actions present competition with the ACNA and represents a reversal of promises made by the CoN.

Early last year is when Archbishop Ndukuba created CONNAM. He then directed Bishopp Orji, against the advice of many, to proceed with a reorganization of ADOTW, the JAFC, and ADOTT into geographic borders. This was not received well by the majority of churches who were forced to leave their bishop to join the other diocese. Several churches simply left the CoN, all but one joining an ACNA diocese. Many interpret Ndukuba's creation of CONNAM was simply showing that the CoN has no real intention of ever leaving North America by making CONNAM an incorporated and, more importantly, an expanding body. How he responds to the departure of ADOTW and her bishops will be telling.

Bishop Bill Atwood did speak with VOL saying, "We are aware that there is serious discontent at the moment. The ACNA has a great relationship the Church of Nigeria; which we all hope will be helpful as discussion regarding this move of ADOTW to the ACNA progresses." As the Dean for International Affairs for the ACNA, Bp Atwood is charged with dealing with international matters between the ACNA and other Provinces. While this might be a challenge the relationship between the primates and Ndukuba and Beach is very strong.

Earlier last week, VOL exposed two documents signed by Ndukuba and suggested that the recent decisions by Ndukuba might initiate an exodus of churches out of CONNAM. Bp Orji could not be reached for comment, but he did say in a letter to his churches, "be at peace trusting the Lord knowing that we are safe in Christ and domiciled in a Jurisdiction in the Anglican Church in North America." The ADOTW will be temporarily under the care of the JAFC. Bishop Atwood explained that, "...as a jurisdiction, the JAFC received the ADOTW until the necessary work to be done on the Provincial level can be completed."

Upon hearing the news concerning the diocese's decision to leave the CoN, Archbishop Ndukuba directed Bishop Celestine Ironna to lead the ADOTW, or lead whoever is not moving with the ADOTW to the ACNA which VOL has been told is only a couple of churches -- all ethnically Nigerian.

The Venerable Job Serebrov, Chancellor for the ADOTW told VOL that, "...the CoN has no authority to direct the activities of a non-profit US Church corporation -- they are neither listed as officers, nor as board members, so the ADOTW is free to choose with whom they will associate with, and, in this case, their move to the ACNA is in keeping with the idea generated nearly 20 years ago when CANA was first created."


Get a bi-weekly summary of Anglican news from around the world.
comments powered by Disqus
Trinity School for Ministry
Go To Top