Good News Is No News in Nnewi!
by the Rt. Rev’d Martyn Minns
A funny thing happened in Nnewi, Nigeria, last week. (Nnewi is a bustling city in southeast Nigeria.) Archbishop Peter Akinola presided over a remarkable meeting of the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), but nobody from the world media noticed. It wasn’t that it was a closed or secret meeting – it’s hard to keep a gathering of a thousand church leaders quiet, and preparations had been public for months. So why didn’t any of them care? For one thing, he didn’t talk about anything that would make a good headline; instead he focused on a call to personal and corporate holiness. He told all those present that they were too attached to the ways of the world and they needed to change. He reminded them that they have been called to “live in the world but not of the world.” Some might have blinked when he challenged his listeners to look inward and deal with their own sin instead of looking at everyone else. But it didn’t make news.
He talked about the Global Anglican Future Conference (affectionately known as GAFCON) that he is leading in Jerusalem later this year. He carefully explained the long history behind the decision to gather with other provinces of the Anglican Communion that refuse to spend any more time agonizing about sex but instead want to get on with the work of the Gospel and celebrate transformed lives. He announced that everyone going from Nigeria has already been paid for – and here’s another funny thing – paid for by generous Godly people in Nigeria! They have raised all the money from inside their own country!
During the meeting they also took time to dedicate a brand new marble-lined church that seats more than a thousand people, debt free thanks to a local benefactor who wanted to do something beautiful for God. Everyone was pleased but no one seemed surprised.
Perhaps the most astonishing thing that happened in Nnewi was that during the three days they met together, they created eighteen new missionary dioceses and one fully fledged diocese and then, before lunch on the final day, elected twenty (20) new bishops to serve these new jurisdictions. All of the resources to start these new dioceses – a Cathedral for the people - and a car, house and the first year’s stipend for the Bishop and his family are already in the bank. Members of the Church of Nigeria and their friends have given all of it because they have a passion to share the Gospel. For the record, the seventeen missionary dioceses they created last year have already planted more than three hundred congregations and no one seems surprised.
One last thing that they announced was that the Church of Nigeria now has sufficient funds in its endowment fund that they no longer need any of the dioceses to pay any assessments. The Primate announced that the Province has enough income from the endowment to cover all of its operations. Each diocese is now encouraged to use the funds that they formerly passed along to the Province to plant more churches and create more new dioceses. No surprise there!
None of this made the ten o’clock news, but last week the Primate of All Nigeria and his Standing Committee made lots of Good News. Their church is alive and growing, they are planting individual churches and complete dioceses, people are giving, lives are being transformed and nobody seems surprised.
The Rt. Rev’d Martyn Minns is Missionary Bishop of CANA (Convocation of Anglicans in North America), which is a missionary initiative of the Church of Nigeria.