MY GREATEST CHALLENGE AS ANGLICAN PRIMATE
Most Reverend Peter Jasper Akinola, until last month, was the spiritual leader of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion. He served as primate of the church for ten years before handing over the baton to Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh. He had in year 2000 succeeded Archbishop Abiodun Adetiloye.
Of course, serving for a decade as the number one leader of one of the oldest orthodox churches was by no means a Herculean task. Even if he had it smooth all the while, the events toward the end of his reign would forever linger in his memory as the most challenging. These had to do with the same-sex marriage controversy that rocked the church to its foundation.
Beginning of controversies
After the 2003 ordination of a non-celibate gay man, Gene Robson, as a bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA), and the attempt to authorize it in the Anglican Church worldwide, Akinola stood his ground against it. In fact, he threatened that the development might split the Anglican Communion.
Akinola became more prominent as a leader of the conservatives within the Anglican Communion. As a first step, the church leadership under him declared itself in 'impaired communion' with the ECUSA on November 21, 2003. In September 2005, the Church of Nigeria reworded its constitution to redefine, from its point of view, the Anglican Communion. No longer would it be 'Provinces in communion with the See of Canterbury but instead '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.''
Indeed, the man of God himself admitted this much during his farewell briefing when he told our correspondent that his most challenging moment in the course of his stewardship came towards the tail end of his primateship of the church and that is the battle against the authorization of same-sex marriage within the communion.
His words: 'It wasn't easy. It was the fight of my life, but I thank God we succeeded because the battle was not fought by me alone but collectively by the church.'
The Christian faithful were taken aback when the Episcopal Church of America and its English ally endorsed the latest fad within its society by giving official recognition to homosexual and lesbianism. The entire communion erupted in confusion as the church leaders struggled to salvage the biblical injunction that a man and woman would come together to become one. It was a fight to save the house of God from being desecrated with false doctrine and heresy.
The Pentecostal churches in Nigeria, which had been the latter day attraction to new converts, were waiting to see what will become the end of the parody, which has remained a mystery to Christians that such satanic doctrine could originate from where the church had its origin. The success of the opposition was a great relief to the Anglican Church in Nigeria and others around the world that did not share in the sacrilege. In all, Akinola described his reign as eventful.
Said he: 'When I came into the office, paucity of fund was the initial challenge. It was tough and we didn't want to go cap in hand to unlikely quarters. We overcame by the grace of God. We also have the task of spreading the gospel and ensure the unity of the communion. 'Interestingly, as we were basking in the euphoria of God's help for what He has used us for, another issue cropped up. In fact, none of the challenges we faced could compare with the craze that what God has said is no longer so.
It is for this reason that a man and a woman will come together to become one is what God said in His word. But they are now saying it is not so. We fought it but not without paying the price. The church stood up, we all rose against it. It didn't come easily.
'We are still part of the Anglican but if any part the Communion creates a new religious template, we won't subscribe to it. We are still Anglican, we remain so till death do us part. We are still together not minding the development.' For those who were apprehensive of the exit of Akinola, the cleric said his successor was more capable than people think.
To corroborate the claims of Akinola, the new primate in his installation sermon spoke unequivocally on the opposition of the Communion to the same sex marriage. 'Our Church will continue to promote sound biblical doctrine. We say no to gay and lesbianism. We support marriage only between a man and a woman. We will not succumb to the on-going perversion.'