10/30/2006

Revisiting The Church of Nigeria’s Constitution: An exercise in (mild) frustration.

Looking for something else, I came across this oddity in the Church of Nigeria’s Constitution, as published on the Church of Nigeria website. Now granted, what is published on a web site is not the actual “Constitution,” which I presume is a printed publication. Still what we are offered on the “official” web site is a bit odd:

This is what the Constitution states as part of “Chapter 1

2) The Church of Nigeria shall be in full Communion with the See of Canterbury and with all Dioceses, Provinces and Regional Churches which are in full Communion with the See of Canterbury.

(3) The Church of Nigeria shall hold and maintain the Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the Church of Christ as the Lord has commanded in His Holy Word and as the same are received and taught by the Church of England in the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal of the year 1662 and in Thirty-nine Articles of Religion.

The Church of Nigeria changed its Constitution in 2005, cutting, it claimed, all references to the See of Canterbury. That provoked quite a row. It published an explanation of the changes made in the Constitution in a press release as follows:

“CHURCH OF NIGERIA REDEFINES ANGLICAN COMMUNION

With a careful rewording of her constitution, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) redefined her relationship with all other Anglican Churches.

All former references to ‘communion with the see of Canterbury’ were deleted and replaced with another provision of 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’.

Emphasis was also placed on the 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer and the historic Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion…


Excerpt of the minutes read;
‘At the General Synod of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion holding in Onitsha Diocese on the Niger on the 14th day of September, 2005, the Constitution of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) 2002 was amended as follows:

Chapter 1 Section 3
Chapter 1 Section 3 was amended by deleting sub-sections 1, 2, and 3, and replaced with new section 3, thus.

“The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) hereinafter called “The Church of Nigeria” or “This Church” shall be in full 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 as the Lord has commanded in His holy word and as the same are received as taught in the Book of Common Prayer and the ordinal of 1662 and in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.”

The “careful rewording of her constitution” seems not to have been carried over into a careful reworking of the published Constitution. There is no doubt some numbering difficulty here: the published form has Chapter 1, and sections and subsections as follows: 1, 2, (i), (1)(a)(b)(c),(2),(3). It is (3) that is the section 3 quoted in the press release. But section two, not three, states:
“The Church of Nigeria shall be in full Communion with the See of Canterbury and with all Dioceses, Provinces and Regional Churches which are in full Communion with the See of Canterbury.”

So the Constitution as currently posted on the Church of Nigeria website still identifies itself as being in full communion with the See of Canterbury and those in full communion with the See. It also contains the wording of section three that does not mention Canterbury. It should be noted that the other changes listed in the press release did not make it on to the Constitution as published on the web.

It is, one might say, a muddle.

The Canons are not so muddled. This is what the Canons state:

“1. The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) hereinafter called “The Church of Nigeria” or “This Church” shall be in full 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 as the Lord has commanded in His holy word and as the same are received as taught in the Book of Common Prayer and the ordinal of 1662 and in the Thirty-Nine Article of Religion.”

Regrettably, we must take the administration of the Province of Nigeria at its word in its press release of September 2005 and assume that its Constitution is published in less than accurate form. It also appears that the motion changing the Constitution inaccurately names the offending section to be replaced.

What I went to find was something about how Nigeria elects bishops. I’m looking at how various provinces understand the episcopate as an office in locale – an office in a particular place. More on that later.

When one turns over rocks there is always something unexpected there.

And, by the by, I hold the Church of Nigeria (Anglican) in some admiration for its firm stance on autonomy: “Section5. In the interpretation of the aforementioned formularies and in all questions of Faith, Doctrine and Discipline, the decisions of the Ecclesiastical tribunals of the Church of Nigeria shall be final.”

That is, no matter how things are numbered, and no matter how much the Archbishop of Nigeria rants against the actions of the Episcopal Church, that church, like The Episcopal Church, holds itself the option of being completely autonomous from the “mind” of the Communion, the workings of Windsor, or any other body outside itself. So much for subsidiarity.


Interpretation is what it is all about dear friends, that and the hope to find community in the ruins of this world.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Mark,

    The constitution.htm fle had been replaced with a pdf file http://www.anglican-nig.org/constitutions.pdf since 2005 but apparently the old file was not deleted.

    Will see that the 'frustration' is removed.

    'Tunde Popoola

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