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NIGERIA: Anglican Province Now Over 25 Million in Unique Discipleship Program

NIGERIA: Anglican Province Now Over 25 Million in Unique Discipleship Program
Polygamy a Myth. Homosexuality Has No Place in Life of Church

By David W. Virtue in Oxford

The Anglican Church in Nigeria, the largest and fastest growing Province in the Anglican Communion, is growing by leaps and bounds in a unique 1+1+3 program that has seen the church soar from 18 million to more than 25 million with 10 archbishops, 140 bishops and 37 new dioceses birthed in the last two years.

"We are not simply making new converts, we are making disciples for Christ," said the Rt. Rev. Ikechi Nwachukwu Nwosu, Bishop of Umuahia in Eastern Nigeria. His diocese was started 15 years ago and now has 1.2 million practicing Anglicans in five dioceses out of a population of 2.5 million. This is typical of the growth throughout Nigeria.

"The 1+1+3 program means that one person leads one person to Christ and disciples them intensively for three years. Every Anglican, from archbishops to bishops to lay people, must fulfill this requirement in order to reach Nigeria's 120 million. Every Anglican is a one on one agent of conversion. Each must disciple that one person for three years and then that person must disciple someone else. It has had a multiplying effect. This is why the church is growing. Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of Nigeria started the program in 2004. It was his vision for multiplying the Anglican presence in Nigeria. He did it to effectively combat crime and ills in Nigerian society, which were rapidly increasing at that time.

According to the bishop, said the intensified program of evangelism and discipleship, which is promulgated by the Church's Mission Committee, is done by all the bishops' clergy and laity of the province. "That is the secret of our success. The House of Bishops and laity are all kept informed about the progress in evangelism and discipleship. As a result, we have needed to create whole new dioceses with the more outgoing evangelical clergy willing to make the sacrifices to do the work at minimal cost. "I carved a new diocese out here (Eastern Nigeria) and I told the primate and he carried it to the HOB. We pioneered it and it has been taken up by other dioceses. We now have three new dioceses."

Bishop Nwosu received his theological training first at Trinity College in Umuahia where many of his teachers came from the UK, USA and Australia. He later attended Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and returned to his country. He then returned in 1992 for his doctoral dissertation at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. He also took the London University BD and Oxford University certificate in theology.

"I want to give the lie to Western liberal Anglicans who say we are uneducated and backward blacks who don't know what we are talking about. We know exactly what we are talking about and the gospel we got from you is what we proclaim today.

"We had the finest theological teachers. They taught us the Word of God and now to watch it all go down the drain with liberal theology and homosexuality is a terrible shame. They (Western liberals) should put themselves in our shoes and look at the truth that was taught us. For the sake of the Kingdom of God I plead with them to repent and turn from their ways. The truth that conservatives taught us, and many laid down their lives for, we remember. They gave us this truth and so let them not be quick to deny the truth they taught us."

VOL: Are Muslims coming to Christ in Nigeria?

Nwosu: Yes. Many thousands are coming to Christ. That is why Muslims are coming up with a strategy to stop conversions to Christianity. Muslim leaders offer free education up to university level to some Christians. They offer interest free loans to those interested in starting business and money ventures. They build schools and hospitals in rural areas and offer other free services. We need to counter that and identify those areas and carve out new dioceses in those areas and put in vibrant bishops knowledgeable about Islam. This is the way to check the flow of Christians to Islam and to make converts.

VOL: Bishop, one of the criticisms voiced about African Anglicanism is corruption over money. It is said that while Western Anglicans struggle over theology and sex, Africa is haunted by financial mismanagement if not outright corruption. Can you comment on this?

Nwosu: We thank the Lord that in the HOB in Nigeria we don't have much of a problem over embezzlement or misuse of funds or corrupt bishops. There are misunderstandings from time to time but it is not large scale. The Church of Nigeria sees itself in the forefront waging war against government corruption. It would be the height of hypocrisy to be involved in corruption while bewailing against it. Our spiritual war would not be effective and the government knows this. When some of our lay members become involved in government corruption we call them to order. Many times we excommunicate them.

VOL: I would like to touch on the issue of Polygamy, Bishop. Western Anglican homosexuals often argue that while they believe and practice homosexual behavior it is the height of hypocrisy for Africans who practice polygamy to rail against homosexuality.

Nwosu: Polygamy is an age old thing. It is a cultural thing from history and there were reasons for it that included a high mortality rate. Polygamy temporarily solved that problem for them. Today it is no longer fashionable or necessary. There has been a huge decline in polygamy. It is very expensive and many women are educated and won't share their bed with multiple wives. They are applying their minds to other things. We are no longer an agricultural community any more.

VOL: How do you deal with polygamy?

Nwosu: We approach polygamy from an evangelistic point of view. The polygamist is at the unconverted stage. Now he hears the Word of God and comes to the Lord. We accept him as he is and we disciple them to the point that they see this way of life is contrary to the word of scripture. For the sake of our understanding of a compassionate God we instruct them to take no further wives and take care of the wives and kids they have as they become believers. We are not callous in our discipling of them. We do say no more wives. We teach them new responsibilities. They are not permitted leadership roles in the church. They can be in charge of building projects, but they cannot be priests or bishops. The truth, however is that polygamy is dying. A new generation of men and women is more interested in learning and education. It is a myth to say the church endorses polygamy as a lifestyle.

We are sharing the same boundary with Muslims and according to state statistics they have a slight edge in population where many men have four wives. The truth is the vast majority of Christians and Muslims live in peace. It is only in the far north of Nigeria that violent outbreaks occur. In the western region of Nigeria moderate Muslims and Christians live in peace.

VOL: What is situation in Northern Nigeria?

Nwosu: Because of the crisis, Christians became militant. They tried the way of tolerance and it got them nowhere. When the last riots took place in 2006-7 Christians retaliated and burnt down a number of mosques. After they had done that they then came openly to the news media and confessed to the press their tit for tat response and so they apologized to everyone and said why they were constrained to do it. Since 2007 there has been no serious violence. The Christians apologized. Life has moved on.

VOL: A recent ATLANTIC MONTHLY magazine article implicated Primate Akinola approving the violent responses by Christians towards Muslims. Is that true?

Nwosu: Archbishop Akinola did not approve the violent reactions of Christians towards Muslims. He said they should avoid conflict and that it was wrong. He was signaling that Muslims do not have a monopoly on violence and that Christians can be violent when provoked. Those Christians later apologized.

VOL: On the subject of homosexuality, a behavior that is tearing the Anglican Communion apart. What is the position of the Province of Nigeria?

Nwosu: We will not tolerate this kind of behavior. It has no place in our culture or in the life of the church.

VOL: There were allegations recently made by leaders of a pansexual organization known as Changing Attitude (CA) accusing GAFCON and the Nigerian Anglican Church of attacking Mr. Davis Mac-Iyalla, a homosexual leader of the Nigerian arm of CA, who said he was savagely beaten in an attack outside a funeral home. Did your church and your Primate have anything to do with this attack?

Nwosu: It was not inspired or instigated by anyone in the Anglican Church of Nigeria. Mr. Mac-Iyalla is not on our radar screen. We are busy making converts from people from many tribes and addictive behaviors. We counsel him to submit his desires to Jesus who can liberate him from the bondage of homosexuality.

On the issue of homosexuality, Muslims do engage in this behavior privately, but society does not approve. Secondly, their religion actually opposes killing anybody caught in that act. The truth is many Muslims disappear who engage in this behavior. It is against government law.

As Christians, we don't kill anybody. Muslims eliminate people as it is an offence against Allah. That is why they take four wives. They can't imagine a man taking a man.

VOL: The fulcrum of Anglicanism has clearly moved from the West to the Global South. Durham Bishop Tom Wright talks a lot about power and authority. What is your take?

Nwosu: The answer can be found in the words of author and world Anglican authority Dr. Philip Jenkins who says that the fulcrum has shifted from the West to the South South because of our emphasis on the old time religion. Our emphasis on evangelism and being an agent of evangelism for three years is precisely what it is all about. When everyone takes that seriously, everything is going to shift. We would heartily recommend that the Church of England adopt the 1+1+ 3 program in order to revive their own churches, a revival God is yearning for.


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