Church of Nigeria

Inauguration of Directors of Ecumenism

Dr. IreobaA WELCOME ADDRESS TO HIS GRACE, THE MOST REV NICHOLAS DIKERIEHI OROGODO OKOH M.A., Mss, Fss, LL.D, THE ARCHBISHOP, METROPOLITAN AND PRIMATE OF ALL NIGERIA BY THE DIRECTOR OF ECUMENISM CHURCH OF NIGERIA, VEN. DR PRINCEWILL O. IREOBA ON THE OCCASION OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF NIGERIA’S DIRECTORS OF ECUMENISM NETWORK ON TUESDAY, MAY 21, 2013 AT ALL SAINTS CHURCH WUSE ZONE 5, ABUJA.

Your Grace, the Most Revd Nicholas D. O. Okoh, the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria,
The Guest Speaker, Your Lordship, the Rt Rev Duke Akamisoko, the CAN Treasurer, the Pioneer Director of Ecumenism, Church of Nigeria and Bishop of Kubwa.

The Special Guest of Honour, Ms Amal Pepple CFR, the President of UN Habitat Governing Council, the Hon. Minister of Lands, Housing And Urban Development and Lay Reader, Diocese of Abuja
The General Secretary, Church of Nigeria, Ven. Michael Oluwaroumbi
The Treasurer, Church of Nigeria, Mr Nnodim J. Aziagba
The Chaplain State’s House Chapel and to Mr President, Ven. Obioma Onwuzulumba
The Chaplain, Nigerian Air Force HQtrs Protestant Church, Ven. Wing Comm. OG Okoye
The Chaplain Nigerian Police Force Headquarters, Ven. ASP Joshua B. Omoleye
The Directors at the Primate’s Office
The Immediate Past Director of Ecumenism CON, Ven. Olusola John Igbari, Ph. D.
Provincial and Diocesan Directors of Ecumenism Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)
The Press
People of God

In the name of the Lord and with gladness and thanksgiving to this our triune God whose revealed nature reflects unity and love, I have the privilege of welcoming you all to this historic occasion of the inauguration of the Directors of Ecumenism Network of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).
Thank you very much for finding time to be here for this occasion.

I am particularly very grateful to Your Grace for squeezing out time from your extremely tight schedule for this event and for overwhelming all round support and encouragement.

Let me also use this opportunity to say a big Congratulation to Your Grace on the very successful just concluded synod of our metropolitan diocese.

The Directorate/Department of Ecumenism and Inter-Faith of the Church of Nigeria was created, alongside others, in 2002 by our Emeritus Primate, Most Revd Peter J. Akinola, DD. CON, with Ven. Duke Timothy Akamisoko as the Director. Ven. Duke became the Bishop of Zonkwa Diocese in March 2005 and was subsequently succeeded by Ven. Dr ‘Sola John Igbari in September 2005. After the inauguration of a new Primacy in 2010, a new Director in the person of Ven. Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba was, in Dec 2011, appointed by the Primate, His Grace, the Most Rev Nicholas D. O. Okoh, to take the mantle with effect from January 2012. Consequently, the department, as it is, is geared to achieving specific goals within the time frame of the tenure of the incumbent Primate, in line with already set objectives.

Your Grace is known for not rushing into action without initial analysis and charting of course to its realisation. It is therefore not surprising that Your Grace started Your Primacy with an envisioning process which produced the new Vision of the Church of Nigeria. This was never a mere formality of assumption of duty, but specifically designed for a leadership with a clear focused sense of direction.

This inauguration of the Church Of Nigeria’s Directors of Ecumenism Network is a materialisation of an action point in the Vision of the Primacy of Your Grace, namely, that “there will be a functional department of Ecumenical Relations at the Provincial and Diocesan levels”.

The section of the new Vision on Ecumenical Relations is fully reproduced here under for the perusal and guidance of the Directors of Ecumenism.

Suffice it here, however, to mention that it is a paramount target of the church to   “Have a church that has effective and beneficial ecumenical relations to the extent that the interests of the Anglican Church is not jeopardised or its historic rights compromised”. To achieve this and other targets, the church, within the tenure of Your Grace, has among other things scheduled to:

  • Ensure a functional department of Ecumenical Relations at the National, Provincial and Diocesan levels.
  • Continue to take its rightful position in the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN) and other ecumenical organizations around the world.
  • Involve individuals and/or groups who are of sound spirituality, are seasoned theologians, have good knowledge of contemporary issues, are bold and courageous to face the challenges that could arise from time to time in our ecumenical conversations.
  • Engage other churches in ecumenical dialogue to enrich our knowledge about their beliefs and practices.
  • Encourage Anglican presence in all the ecumenical bodies we belong to by attending meetings regularly and paying our dues as and when due.
  • Train personnel at International School of Ecumenism in Bossey, Switzerland, who will become experts in Ecumenical Relations.
  • Ask to be constituted as a bloc in CAN, separate from CCN, because of our population, influence and historical and doctrinal peculiarities

The Directors of Ecumenism Network of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is to be machinery in place to facilitate the realization of the new Vision with regards to Ecumenical Relations. It is to provide a platform for adequate connections, strategizing and mobilizations for giant strides in the ecumenical sphere of our church life/activities.

The word, ecumenism, is derived from a family of Classical Greek words: oikos (house, family, people or nation); oikoumenē (the whole inhabited world); and oikoumenikos (open to or participating in the whole world). It is linked to the commands, promises, and prayers of our Lord Jesus Christ. The term is relatively of recent origin (19th century). Protestants began to use it to describe the gathering of missionary, evangelistic, service, and uniting forces after the International Missionary Conference held at Edinburgh in 1910. Roman Catholics used it during and after the second Vatican Council (1962–65), to refer to the renewal of the whole life of the church, undertaken to make it more responsive to “separated churches” and to the needs of the world. Generally, ecumenism has come to be used for all of the activities and initiatives of the Church and her members to promote mutual understanding, co-operation and, ultimately, unity among all Christians based on what is viewed as the “universality” of the Church.

The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is part of the ecumenical movements and bodies such as the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN), the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), the All African Council of Churches (AACC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC). Incidentally, as we inaugurate our ecumenical directors network, all these ecumenical bodies will also hold their General Assemblies and inaugurate their new leaderships this year as follows: CCN – Oct. 2-4 @ Uyo, Akwaibom State; CAN – August 10 @ National Christian Centre Abuja; AACC – June 3-10 @ Kampala, Uganda and WCC – October 30 – November 8 @ Busan, South Korea. The Church of Nigeria is also involved in inter denominational chaplaincies in the Government establishments, educational institutions, communities and social entities across the nation. Furthermore, we are in ecumenical conversations/dialogues or bilateral relations with some churches like the Roman Catholic Church (NARCC) and the African Church (AACC). We hope to engage more churches in similar conversations if a review of the on-going ones proves helpful.

It must however be mentioned that Ecumenism has its problems and dangerous tendencies. These include: unity at the expense of truth, compromise of the Faith/Gospel, syncretism, insincerity, proliferation of churches/indiscipline, loss of identity, detachment from root/ discarding of tradition, sheep loss/stealing, etc. But it must also be said that these are rather the abuse of Ecumenism and that, as in other matters; the abuse does not remove the use. It only calls for precaution.

It therefore behoves the Directors of Ecumenism to make conscious efforts to ensure that while our people are sensitized and mobilized for the realization of our ecumenical vision, these dangers are guarded against.

Appointment as Director of Ecumenism is “ambassadorial” and therefore a reposition of trust and confidence on the appointee. It is a rare privilege with a lot of opportunities and exposures. I seize this opportunity to express my appreciation and indebtedness to Your Grace for graciously picking me for this honour. I also congratulate my brothers who as well found favour before their bishops or archbishops to be appointed.

We know that to whom much is given, much is expected. So, we pledge our unalloyed loyalty and faithfulness. We are determined not to disappoint.

However, cognisant of the challenges and sensitivity of the office, we continue to solicit for the fatherly guidance, support and patience of Your Grace, as well as the archbishops and bishops. By the Grace of God, we shall deliver.

As we take off, we trust God for the grace to fulfil our purpose and justify our existence.

Beloved people of God, I welcome you once more to this inauguration ceremony.

May God be glorified and his church edified in this venture and in all things. Amen.

Thank you and remain blessed.

Ven. Dr Princewill Onyinyechukwu Ireoba
Director of Ecumenism, Primate’s Office.