Nigerian Church New Constitution Redefines Relationship with Canterbury
The Anglican Church in Nigeria, in its new carefully reworded constitution, has redefined its relationship to other Anglican Churches and deleted former reference to Canterbury as the “mother” of the Anglican Communion.
The Church in Nigeria was previously in ‘communion with the See of Canterbury’, now replaced with a new definition of the Nigerian Church as being in communion with all Anglican Churches, Dioceses and Provinces that hold and maintain the “historic faith, doctrine, sacrament and discipline of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”.
The possibility of communion with the pro-gay Churches of the US and Canada, and the UK under the new definition looks increasingly unlikely.
The new constitution has also introduced a change which allows missionaries from the Nigerian Church to create Anglican Convocations and Chaplaincies outside Nigeria.
The new change follows the new missionary campaign to double its 17.5 million members by 2007, started by the Anglican Church in Nigeria’s Primate, Archbishop Peter Akinola.
The Anglican Church in Nigeria recently set up a new Convocation in America to set about creating a new network of Anglican chaplaincies across the US for like-minded Anglicans opposed to the consecration of Gene Robinson, a gay, as Bishop of New Hampshire, as well as the recent House of Bishops statement released by the Church of England.
According to The Times, one US insider said the decision to omit reference to Canterbury was cause for relief not despair: This is the most serious development so far, but the reaction here is straightforward. It is one of relief. The one thing that defines us is being in communion with the See of Canterbury. There is nothing else.
“We are not a confessional church. We are relieved because we cannot have the threat of a breach being held over us forever. It is as if the divorce has come through.”
Canon John Rees, a leading canon lawyer and provincial registrar for the Canterbury Province, pointed out that the Church in Nigeria was not the first to delete reference to Canterbury in its constitution and that it would, therefore, not cause a problem, reported The Times.
He said: “I do not see a difficulty. It does not seem to me to change the legal position at all. There is nothing in what they have done that suggests to me that a clergyman from Nigeria would no longer be able to come and function in the Church of England in the same way that they might have done the day before yesterday. And this is an example of what communion means.”
The break with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is the latest development in the ongoing dispute in the Anglican Communion over homosexuals and comes just weeks before next month’s meeting of conservative Anglicans in Alexandria, Egypt.
Dr Williams, who has been invited to attend the meeting, is himself a liberal, despite publicly siding with the conservatives in a bid to maintain unity.
Speculation is widespread that the “global south” may put into motion the first steps toward a formal schism within the Anglican Communion.