By Chris Sugden, in Abuja
The service lasted just under four hours and was worth every minute! Had it been on a weekend, there would have been “an explosion of numbers” a bishop sitting next to me said. The installation had to be held at the smaller Anglican Cathedral of the Advent as that is where the Bishop’s chair in which Archbishop Okoh was to be seated is placed, rather than at the much larger Ecumenical Cathedral. So to contain numbers the ceremony was held on a weekday. As it was there must have been over two thousand inside the building with an overflow outside.
The service was classical Anglican in words and music. A well-trained cathedral choir led the congregation who needed no encouragement to sing our heads off. “Faith of our Fathers”. “The Church’s One Foundation”, “Christ is made the sure foundation”, “To God be the Glory”, mingled with Parry’s Anthem “I was Glad”, and Handel’s “Zadok the Priest”.
Were the choirs specially assembled and trained we asked? No, we were told: “In our diocese [another one] all the boys know these off by heart. They are sung at all the ordinations.“ The one hundred and seventy one bishops of the Church of Nigeria, including those exercising oversight through CANA in the USA, were present.
In his thanks after the service Primate Okoh welcomed the Primates of West Africa, Kenya and of the Anglican Church in North America, a representative of the Archbishop of Australia and members of the Theological Resource Group of GAFCON which he chairs. And the hats! These are de rigeur in the Nigerian Church and there was a splendid display of wonderful ladies’ hats.
During the Peace, the Guest of Honour who had earlier led the intercessions, spoke to the congregation: the Acting President of Nigeria, Dr Goodluck Jonathan. [The current President has not been seen for some time, and some doubt he is in the country at all]. Dr Jonathan commended the retiring primate Peter Akinola for his “services to Christianity globally and the cause of humanity generally.” He had been wondering whether his successor would fit his shoes, but having heard his inaugural sermon, he said “I bow. I thank God he has taken over and will continue the good work.”
Responding to Archbishop Okoh’s address, Dr Jonathan admitted that “as a nation we have failed to do what we have supposed to have done, and done what we should not have done. Our current crisis is a result of a long period of negligence. We appreciate our problems and call on all Nigerians and specially religious leaders to work with us.”
Dr Jonathan specially addressed the theme of corruption which Archbishop Okoh had raised in his sermon, and noted an instance when church members appeared to wish to influence police enquiries unduly. He also foreswore using his influence unduly in police enquiries. “I am totally committed to transforming this country” he said.
In the handover ceremony, Archbishop Akinola said he had consecrated Archbishop Okoh as a bishop, and presented him twice, to a diocese and an archdiocese. As he removed his primatial cope, he said that he did not hand them over, but rather offered them. He then went to sit in national ceremonial robes in the congregation with Mrs Akinola.
This represents a notion of inheritance in the family, rather than political succession, noted Canon Vinay Samuel from India, a guest of Archbishop Okoh. “In some cultures” he said, “when office is handed on, the outgoing office-holder, if not dead ( as with the British monarchy) is expected to withdraw completely, live in a different jurisdiction (parish or diocese in the case of the Church of England) and take no further part in that area of public life. The result is that the real power is exercised by the bureaucrats who are expected to clear up the loose ends of the past and wipe the slate clean for the new incumbent.”
The result is that the period between the retirement of one incumbent and the installation of the next can be between six months and a year – leading to “interregnums”. “This militates against the notion of the church as a family”, observed Dr Samuel. “When a father retires, or downsizes the family home, does he cease to be a father to his children, whatever their age? I find this Nigerian tradition to be very wholesome and supportive of continuity. I am glad that the wisdom of those who have been through much in their leadership is welcomed and available in this way to their successors.”
Dr Samuel continued: “Research at the Oxford Centre for Mission Studies has shown that attempting to use corporate succession planning in Christian organizations and institutions has had very mixed results with more failures than successes. The leader is expected to make plans independent of himself / herself and his presence, to erase his or her own presence. A Christian leader exercises his leadership as a parent figure of a community. This makes it very difficult to use a corporate succession model.”
Archbishop Okoh’s sermon is reported on http://www.anglican-mainstream.net He cl.osed the service with his primatial blessing and led his bishops out of the church. Afterwards bishops had to disperse fast. Archbishop Ben Kwashi of Jos had to return to Jos, over three hours away by road before the evening curfew. Others faced journeys of five hours and more.
Source: Anglican Mainstream