FULL TEXT + VIDEO: Primatial Address at the 14th General Synod of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion.September 22, 2023
- NGOZI ADIGHIBE
- June 14, 2020
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The continuation of the Most Rev. Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba’s interview series
What is your vision for your primacy?
The Lord has given us a word from Isaiah 52:7-10, which will be a guiding light for us for the next 10 years. We are declaring it, as the word of God says here, “the Decade of God’s Reign.”
The emphasis will be on real evangelisation; consolidation of what God has started doing in us, with us, and for us; and discipleship, which is nurturing the people and growing in faith, so that the resurrection of Zion will be perfect. We can launch out as God makes bare His Holy Arms. That is what is bubbling in my heart.
When you ask a missionary to be the Primate, what are you expecting? Our emphasis will be on the soul of the people, consolidating what my predecessors did. I see it a privilege to be given an opportunity to lead the church in a time like this, though it will not be easy. If you look at the earlier verses, what we are battling today is the spirit of Babylon. And though it seems the darkness has covered everywhere, this is the time of our arising. I am believing God that He will reign in His power and majesty. Don’t ask me how. I am believing that He will make it known as the years roll by. I am persuaded that it is not by power, it is not by might and it is not by our struggle. The Lord Almighty will manifest and show Himself in His awesomeness and power.
Did you ever anticipate becoming a Bishop?
When I was elected a bishop, nobody in my situation would ever have thought of becoming anything. I never asked for and I didn’t expect anything. The people, who came to fight for me, when I was posted back to theological college, knew the situation I was in. There were bishops that did not want it to be. It was contrary to what should be. God did it, and it was a surprise. If it were a thing of choice, I wouldn’t go to Gombe. The same thing applies to the Primacy. I never asked or campaigned that people should do anything in order that I became the Primate. And even when it was mentioned to me that that was what some people were thinking, I said: “I am a servant of the Lord and I am ready to serve whomever the Lord brings to that place.” God did this. Even till the point of election and after the election, I couldn’t believe that it was happening.
As the Primate, I am a servant and I want to do my work with all humility and grace, and yet with the love and firmness, God gives. I’m not coming out as someone who has answers to every question. This is an opportunity to do my ministry. I am an evangelist, a missionary and that is what I want to remain, to fulfil my ministry because when the Lord returns, that is what I will account for. I will answer to what He has given me to do. With this opportunity He has given me, I pray He gives me the grace to hear Him and to stand for Him. I wouldn’t want to be deceived and I wouldn’t want to lose my call and my place in Him at the end. I wouldn’t want to lose the peace I have with Him because that is my joy. If I lose Him, what am I labouring for? What gain will I have? I love teamwork with all humility.
But it doesn’t mean that I am stupid. I want a relationship, and I would want to work with all the archbishops and bishops as my brothers in this holy calling and with this great responsibility. I would want us to work together with all our clergy and our Laity and let this church know the joy of being in the Lord and the love and peace of being brothers and sisters here, so that when this life is over, like Paul, I will say, ‘Lord I have fought the fight and I have kept the faith, what awaits me is the crown of glory.’ That is what I want to see. That is what I would encourage my brother archbishops and bishops to do. Let us focus on the One Who has called us and that ministry He has given us. Every other thing will fall in place.
How do you intend managing the issue of revisionist agenda trying to come into the communion?
We are not surprised. This is End Time and perilous time. The Lord made it clear that if care is not taken, even some of the elect can be deceived. We thank God for my predecessors’ legacies, from Baba Adetiloye, who focused on the mission; followed by Baba Akinola in mission and defending and contending for the faith; and Baba Okoh, who has consolidated the work and helped the missionary dioceses to take their place and be able to stand, as well as the infrastructures and other things that God has brought into place by their visions, ministries and labours.
I believe the best way to tackle any false teaching is by teaching the truth and preaching the wholesome Word of God, applying our lives to the same and making sure that we walk the narrow way. It may not be easy. It means sacrifice and may mean suffering. As far as we are concerned, unless the Lord calls us home, our desire is to stand by the Word of God and maintain the heritage we have as Anglicans and to teach and live by the principles of God’s Word. To do that, our main problem is not revisionists, but the sincerity of our own heart and our commitment to the Lord. The issue has to do with whom we are serving and committed to. You cannot stop the bird from flying over your head, but you can stop it from making a nest on your head.
If we rise up as one man in unity, in faith, in love and in readiness to serve and work with God in this perilous time, with all that it takes, revisionist agenda will not stand. Thank God for Lambeth 1998 resolution 1.10 that upholds the dignity of human sexuality and marriage as between one man and one woman throughout their livelong union, and the rejection of the revisionist agenda and their new human sexuality. The stand of the Church of Nigeria is that we shall not serve Baal. We will not be drawn to their philosophies, we will not bear their name, we will not pour their libation and we will not follow their ways.
All my life, I have ministered in the north and I have had occasions to stand to defend this faith, to live it out, and to proclaim and stand by God’s Word. I have seen Jesus prove Himself over and over again and protecting me. Assassins, robbers have pointed a gun at me and pulled the trigger two times and it did not fire. God protected me; He became a shield. I have lived among Muslims and they have looked upon me to see how the Christians are living. Will I now, in the new context God has called me, begin to deny Him because I want some goodies from the White people or because I want to please somebody or a group? Will, I put aside God’s Word now that I have become wiser? I am now more educated, more enlightened.
Thank God I have sat in class with some of them and I have seen that they don’t know more than we do, if anything, we have the real thing. St. Cyprian said ‘a man cannot die for a shadow. If a man should die, he will die for the real thing.’ The real thing is Jesus, and He has never failed us. He has been true and we will stand for He Who loved and gave Himself for us. Not only are we going to stand, but we will also defend.
The focus of our ministry has to be on the family because raising a healthy family in the fear of God, nurtured in the word of God, built up in the faith of Christ will also mean we will be raising a healthy church, a witnessing church, a believing church, a church that can stand in times of trials.
When this COVID-19 crisis came, I said, “Lord, is it everywhere I go that it will be like this?” I said we are already used to it. Lockdown has been our experience in the Northeast. The Chairman of Michika that was beheaded is just one out of so many. I lost one of my pastors, Pastor Bello, who was going to have service with members and fell into the hands of the Hudawas, who decapitated him. We had to go and pack his body and belongings and buried him. Having passed through all these things, will I now be more modern? It is Jesus or nothing; it is the Word of God or nothing. If we will die, let us die for the real thing; let us die believing Him. When we suffer, let it be because of our faith in Him, and there is no going back.
If any pastor thinks he can eat off the table of the demons and also share in the table of the Lord, he has no place in this church. We will work at the House of Bishops to see that the church is kept pure and kept faithful to the Lord. That is what we are believing God for. As for the revisionist agenda, it has no place in the Church of Nigeria, and we will stand for the same thing in any ecumenical organisations we belong to. We will not be part of any organisation that is not ready to hold on to the Word of God and the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ – faith in Him and the heritage of the saints. We’ll go to the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) with the same stance, and anyone who is not ready to stand with us will be on his own. One with God is always the majority.
What is your view on supporting weak dioceses, especially with regard to GAFCON cause?
I think GAFCON was partly founded or has the support of the Church of Nigeria (CON) in collaboration with our brothers in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and other parts of Africa. GAFCON came as a rescue mission to bring together those who were not happy with the way Episcopal Church in America and other churches in the West deviated from the Word of God and upheld another gospel, which was not the true Gospel. We said no, we were not going that way. But they were well endowed and had the resources. When Baba Akinola and other fathers of the church started speaking, they said they were just making noise. They didn’t take us seriously; they didn’t think we could stand. But one thing we have come to realise is that anything that is of God lasts. The present Chairman of GAFCON is the Primate of ACNA, Archbishop Foley Beach and the Secretary-General is our own Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi. So, we are still neck-deep in the functions of GAFCON.
The CON will stand with GAFCON, though some of our sister churches are not as resourced as CON. The West already knows this weakness, having related with us for a very long time, and even sent the missionaries that founded most of us. So, they know where to pull the carpet from under our feet. That was how some that did not have the resources started going from the back. It is just like the weak ones are going from the back and you are pulling them. While the strong ones are in the front, they are busy gathering the ones at the back and confusing them. The same thing may even be happening in the CON. Some of the bishops may be tempted and be bought over because they lack the resources. But as far as we are concerned, it cannot happen in CON. That is why we thank God for Baba Okoh for establishing St. Matthias Fund, which has helped to stabilise some of us and we will ensure we pursue it.
When I take my place in the Primates’ Council in GAFCON, I will think and work with my brother Archbishops and the Primates to see what we can do. How we can raise funds to help our brethren so that we can have unity of purpose and move together. We will not compromise our stance. We will uphold the 2008 Jerusalem Declaration and 2018 Reaffirmation, and other conventions and their agreements that we have made. We will see that we keep on supporting GAFCON and working with them.