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Archbishop Ndukuba Lifts Bishop Orji Suspension

Archbishop Ndukuba Lifts Bishop Orji Suspension

By David W. Virtue, DD
January 2, 2023

The Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, Primate of the Church of Nigeria (CoN), following a report and recommendation from an internal Inquiry Board, removed his ecclesiastical suspension of the Right Reverend Felix Orji on December 23rd -- a much appreciated Christmas gift for the Orji family to say the least. And, in a separate letter that same day to the Most Reverend Foley Beach, Primate of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Abp Ndukuba writes, "We are pleased for and on behalf of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) to celebrate and bless the institutional release of Bishops Felix Orji and Scott Seely for the enhancement of our Provincial Partnership and to the glory of God."

The Orji suspension occurred in October after he and Bishop Seely sent in letters to the CoN indicating their withdrawal from the CoN so they could become part of the ACNA. Bp Orji was serving as the Coordinating Bishop for the Church of Nigeria North American Mission (CONNAM) at the time, which is likely the reason Archbishop Ndukuba thought it necessary to suspend him and launch a formal inquiry. "The CoN has been seeking to expand their presence in the US in contradiction to their commitments made under previous Primates," explained Archdeacon Job Serebrov, Chancellor for the ADOTW and General Counsel to the Anglican Office for Government and International Affairs (AOGIA). "Bishop Orji had been doing his best to try to dissuade Nigeria from continuing this direction but to no avail, and so he was forced into a decision of 'conscious,' among other reasons, and withdrew from Nigeria."

"I am deeply appreciative to His Grace, Archbishop Ndukuba," said Bp Orji in an interview with VOL. "We know there remains many matters of concern to address, but at least the release of Bishop Scott (Seely) and myself to the ACNA is no longer one of those concerns."

The day that Bp Orji's withdrawal letter was sent to the CoN, the Anglican Diocese of the West (ADOTW) also voted to withdraw from the CoN. Both of the bishops and the Diocese became resident in the Jurisdiction of the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy (JAFC) immediately after their withdrawals. As explained to VOL by Bishop Bill Atwood in October, the ACNA currently has two Jurisdictions -- the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Armed Forces and Chaplaincy (JAFC). The JAFC leadership are well acquainted with the clergy and leadership of the ADOTW and were in a position to quickly receive the bishops and the diocese into their jurisdiction. Bishop Orji has continued to serve as the Bishop Ordinary of ADOTW without interruption, along with Bishop Seely as his Suffragan Bishop since their withdrawal from the CoN.

VOL also learned that Archbishop Beach set up a committee back in October, chaired by the Reverend Canon John MacDonald, an ACNA Executive Committee member, to address any changes to the Constitution and Canons of the ADOTW that may be needed to ensure the transition continues smoothly. A full update to the ACNA College of Bishop is on the agenda for the upcoming meeting in Melbourne, Florida next week.

"I am grateful to Archbishop Beach's leadership, and his personal support of me, during this time -- and to my friend Bp Bill Atwood, as well," continued Bp Orji. "I am most indebted to Bp (Derek) Jones and his truly remarkable staff. I simply can't say enough about Bp Jones' wisdom and decisive leadership in all of this. Things are much smoother and more quickly resolved because Archbishop Foley (Beach) has the right people working these matters."

The removal of Bishop Orji's suspension, and release of Bishops Orji and Seely to join the ACNA not only likely eases tensions between the ACNA and CoN, but as VOL suspects, within the whole of GAFCON. The interview with Bp Orji was encouraging suggesting that the AOGIA have things are moving in the right direction, and that collegiality continues to be an important objective between these two GAFCON giants.


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