Your Graces, the Dean and Archbishops of our Church
Bishops here present
Gentlemen of the Press
Ladies and Gentlemen
Distinguished members of our church,
I am delighted to welcome you to this important gathering of eminent members of our church. I wish to thank you most sincerely for finding the time to honour our invitation in spite of your very busy schedules. I am aware of the sacrifices that you have all made to travel here as well as the risk of the journeys. That you have left other commitments to attend this meeting is an indication of your love for Christ and also for your church.
To put it in perspectives, this is not a formal gathering within the official structure of the church in the manner in which one would talk of the Standing Committee or the General Synod. Yet this gathering is important for fellowship and for the opportunity to meet as members of the same Christian family to interact on issues that could have great impact on the future of our church.
It is a thing of joy that we have strong presence in virtually every segment of our society, whether in business, politics or in the public sector. It is delightful that the Anglican Church through its members continue to offer important services to our society in every endeavor of human life. Our contributions are as old as the history of the introduction of the Christian faith in this land in the 19th century. It is remarkable that the history of education cannot be told in Nigeria without an acknowledgement of the role of the Anglican mission in introducing education to our land. Many who have benefited from the various services and contributions that the Anglican Church has made to the Nigerian society have further gone to impact the entire society as a whole.
This gathering affords us the opportunity to give thanks for the so many ways Anglican members are serving in this country. Perhaps of primary importance today is the need to remind ourselves of the Christian calling to be God’s light in the world in which we live challenges notwithstanding. Our country is in a very precarious situation; the economic recession is biting and many people are struggling. Offerings in many churches are dwindling.
This is an opportunity to say that as a church, we share in the experience of many in our land. This fellowship offers us an opportunity to remember the weak and poor once again in our prayers. It also calls for more prayers for our country and unrelenting efforts to continue to work towards the growth and stability of our country. We must remember those who are in authority, all those vested with the responsibility to govern, and pray for them for wisdom and courage in times like this, so that our country can pull out of its many challenges and become the enviable country of our dream.
It is very good to note the efforts of many churches including our own in offering support to their members in this time of economic hardship. I am pleased to know that the fellowship that we have spiritually has been enhanced by the physical and pastoral support that we are offering to our members and neighbours.
Being good citizens of the country is a point that we cannot overemphasize. Although we are heavenly minded, the earth in which we currently live belongs to God and we share in its possession. It is imperative therefore that we care for it and make it conducive for ourselves and others during the period of our sojourn. The Israelites in their captivity had expected to return home very quickly and had fallen into the illusion that since they were only in a foreign country for a while they had no need, to settle and serve the land. But they were wrong, the prophet was very clear to them, to live there, have children, build and maintain the land until it would be time to return. The reality was that they would not return until after seventy (70) years), and not all of them did return.
So however heavenly-minded we might be as a church we must be responsible citizens who are mindful of our calling to serve God diligently by serving our country. On this note I must appeal to all of you who are involved in governance or politics to play the game not just like anyone but as faithful and responsible people, mindful of your calling as God’s children and especially bearing in mind that you are members of the Anglican Church, and we cannot afford to do things as though we have not been touched by the Holy Spirit, brought up in the word of God, by the grace of God who has called us to be His own.
The situation of our youths is a particular concern at this time. Any church or nation that fails to care for its youths is jeopardizing its future. So many who have graduated from higher institutions are jobless and have nothing to engage them positively. The tendency is that they become discouraged and demoralized. Many are sometimes tempted to join in social vices and crimes that are fast characterizing the state of our land today. It is almost as if they are wasting their entire life, or at least the most active phase of life. Many have become very hopeless and disturbed. As they were struggling to live in the face of unemployment, the recession came, to worsen the situation.
While we continue to appeal to government to work hard to provide employment for our youths, we must appeal to private sectors to join force in rescuing our youths by providing them with gainful employment. Yet, I must add that having good role models and mentors to guide these young people, offering them creative guidance that can help them start independent business and grow into respectable entrepreneurs is a task that I wish to commend to you most seriously. If we are to have a future as a church and as a society, the training and development of our youths in our different localities and parishes must occupy a front burner for us. Our youths must not be allowed to become tools in the hands of the devil. May the Lord help our land.
Brethren, in gathering here I wish to thank you for all that you are already offering our church, your church. I want to plead with you never to stop, but to continue to offer appropriate support that would help the church to fulfil its mission in this world. The Bishops and clergy must be supported to provide good pastoral and spiritual leadership in our parishes and dioceses all over our church, and together we must not slack in propagating the gospel of Christ to the uttermost parts of our country.
In fact, this was the task that our forefathers did with all their might. One remembers clearly the efforts of great missionaries reaching to different parts of this country with the gospel. Bishop Ajayi Crowther is one among many other who come to mind. They served and served faithfully. Today we have entered into their labour. It behoves on us therefore not to relent in pushing the frontiers of mission further. That way, the gospel of Christ will grow and our country will further benefit and come to live and walk in the light.
Whatever zeal we have and whatever mission we wish to undertake under God, I must caution that we are Anglicans. We have long, tested and established ways of doing things. We have an organized polity in which bishops lead in consultation with his synod. May I appeal to you all to ensure that we operate within our structure and avoid unnecessary crisis that could rob us of invaluable time to do mission. In times of disagreement or grievance we must never allow ourselves to be dragged into un-Christian ways of doing things. Rather we must be orderly and responsible in resolving our disagreements and conflicts bearing in mind that we are God’s own people, called to show forth the glory of Him who has called us into his marvelous light.
Finally, brethren, as we conclude this address, I wish to thank most profusely the Archbishop Ademowo Committee saddled with the responsibility for organising today’s meeting. As you can see they have worked very hard and sacrificially too, to make this event the success that it is. I am grateful for all the time, efforts and resources committed to the event. I thank all the Local Organising Committee members and our Secretariat and all those who have supported this event one way or another. I thank all our archbishops and eminent members who have responded to our call from all the dioceses. It is my hope that you will respond next time we call on you. God bless the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and God bless our country. Thanks for listening.
The Most Revd Nicholas D. Okoh, M.A., Fss, Mss, LLD
Archbishop, Metropolitan & Primate of All Nigeria