2/02/2007

Church of Nigeria to hold a special General Synod soon.

The Church of Nigeria web pages just posted this announcement:
SOKOTO TO HOST GENERAL SYNOD IN FEBRUARY

It makes use of a peculiar word, the meaning of which is not all that clear. The word is "special." On two occasions this is used: "The Anglican Diocese of Sokoto is upbeat as it prepares to host a special meeting of national church delegates," and, "Over 600 delegates of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) ...are expected at the special General Synod of the Church, scheduled for February 6th to 8th, 2007."

It is special, among other reasons for being held in a predominately Muslim area of Nigeria. There is a lot of excitement about the possibility of witness and good relations between Muslims and Christians in that venue. But there is a second layer to the word 'special.'

The bishop of the host diocese, Bishop Omole, said, “It is going to be a history making event. It is expected that there will be an amendment of the constitution of the Church of Nigeria at this meeting. So it will be on record that this amendment was made in Sokoto.”

The article noted, " The General Synod of the Church of Nigeria is a triennial meeting of delegates from all the dioceses in the province who gather to pray, share and encourage each other in the service of God and mission of the Church.

The Synod is the body responsible for any constitutional changes as well as appointments of many provincial officers. It also considers recommendations from the smaller Standing Committee which meets twice annually. The last General Synod was held in Onitsha, South East Nigeria in 2005 where a major constitutional amendment was made."



If this were a regular, rather than a special, meeting of General Synod and the last meeting was in 2005, one would think the next regular meeting of a triennial would be in 2008. So perhaps this is a special General Synod because it is especially called.

The announcement of the Synod on the web page is posted today, February 2. It is dated January 31. The meeting to be held begins in just 4 days. It is over on February 8, which gives the Archbishop just time enough to get to Nairobi for the pre Primates strategy meeting prior to the beginning of that meeting in Tanzania on February 14.

Busy times. Special times. What, I wonder, will be the nature of the change in the Constitution of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) this time? Last time it was to remove all reference to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was of course the Church of Nigeria's right to do so, but it gave everybody snit fits.

10 comments:

  1. christopher+2/2/07 6:19 PM

    Somehow, at the time, I missed just how fundamental the last constitutional change in the Nigerian Church was in terms of traditional Anglican polity:

    http://www.anglican-nig.org/Onitsha2005_pressls2.htm

    The newfound emphasis on communion only with the "like-minded" is problematic enough in terms of Anglicanism's traditional "big tent." However, this idea also conflicts with the reality that it is the (representative) Anglican Consultative Council that controls the "schedule" of membership in the Anglican Communion. Yet the Nigerian Church asserts now in its constitution that it alone decides with whom it is in communion - the Anglican Communion itself notwithstanding. What might come next?

    Truly, we seem to be on the verge of significant clarifications of the global character of Anglican polity and governance. Much is at stake for everyone in the Communion - not just the American and Nigerian churches.

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  2. Mark, I beg to differ with your interpretation of the last constitution change in the Church of Nigeria. It did not exclude all references to the Archbishop of Canterbury. It clarified that the Church of Nigeria intends to be in communion with all Anglican entities that are faithful to historic Christian doctrine.

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  3. alice c linsley just wrote and begged to differ...Here is what the news release from the Church of Nigeria said, "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’."

    The reference, and the text of the changes are here: http://www.anglican-nig.org/Onitsha2005_pressls2.htm

    So we are both right: the cut in the references were not to all mention of the Archbishop of Canterbury but to 'communion with the see of Canterbury.' - still, the only reference to Canterbury in the Constitution left is a mistake in the title of article 3, which has not been changed with the content.

    More to the point, one could certainly argue that Canterbury could still be counted as "faithful to historic Christian doctrine" and therefore included that way.

    The Church of Nigeria had every right to change its constitution, but in so doing it also changed what it understands the Anglican Communion to be. The exclusion of the references to the see of Canterbury opens the doors to an entirely new way of defining the relationships among the Provinces that make up the Communion. It represents a move from historical and familial connection to doctrinal ones.

    One can argue that this is an improvement, but I don't. Mostly because I believe the Anglican Communion to be more like a peculiar religious order, or perhaps a special form of ecumenical life, and not a Church with a defined confessional stance of its own.

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  4. christopher+3/2/07 1:58 PM

    Additionally, the Church of Nigeria's intentional "redefinition" (see the original press release) of (the) Anglican Communion does two key things:

    1) It asserts that the Church of Nigeria alone decides with which Provinces of the broader Anglican Communion it is actually in communion, and, moreover,

    2) Lays claim to the Nigerian Church's ability to judge - on its own - which Anglican Provinces "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..."

    This is a strong assertion of complete autonomy - not quite in keeping with the notion of mutual bonds of affection. Despite our occasional differences in biblical hermeneutics regarding non-core issues of doctrine and discipline, no governing body of the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada has ever - to the best of my knowledge - passed judgment on the faith or polity of another Province, or demanded that others conform to decisions made in North America, or threatened to break fellowship with those whose opinions, biblical hermeneutics and local customs and cultures differ.

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  5. Mark, I posted the following to the HoBD list in September 2005:

    "Only the first shoe has dropped at this point: the Constitution has been amended in a major way. Reference to the See of Canterbury as a defining characteristic of the church has been deleted. But unless something happened at the Synod that has not yet been reported (or that I have not yet seen, to be more precise) or the other shoe remains to be dropped. What new position remains to be adopted? Nigeria no longer requires itself to be in communion with Canterbury, but has yet to place itself out of communion with Canterbury. If and when they do that, we will all have to wrestle with the concept of what it means to be Anglican in a communal, rather than in an historical sense."

    Perhaps the other show will drop at this coming Synod, in a declaration that if, for example, TEC is not expelled from the AC, or CANA not officially recognized, at the next Primates' Meeting, Nigeria will no longer be a part of the AC. Hints along these lines have been dropped, if not shoes; perhaps they may simply take the advance option of deleting the word "Anglican" as they did reference to Canterbury, and simply state the obvious desire only to be in communion with those with whom they agree on what constitutes the Historic Faith and Order etc.

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  6. The other shoe is that CoN has a right and duty to create foreign dioceses anywhere on the map.

    Josh Thomas

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  7. All right. There has been so much talk for so long about the next big event being the time of the decisive break, that it has all become "the boy who cried wolf," to me -- sorry --maybe Nigeria will do something & maybe it won't -- maybe 2/3 of the primates will vote the change the membership of the ACC (but I wouldn't bet on it).

    Right now the signs look like Nigeria is going to try to blackmail the ABC &, if unsuccessful, to lead a schism, but it might just be another small action in the long term guerilla war that they have been waging.

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  8. Prior - You maybe right. But the difference now is that several clerymen and women, along with a few bishops have put themselves out on a limb, along with their congregations and dioceses. If something dramatic isn't done at Tanzania, these people are in a very precarious position with respect to the AC and TEC. They can't wait for the wheels to slowly turn. Court battles and possible presentments are in the offering. They must be either recognized by the AC, or the AC must be said to be in schism. Failure to sieze the moment is to not only lose momentum but possible adherents.

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  9. " The announcement of the Synod on the web page is posted today, February 2, although its date is given as January 7, 2007. "

    Mark, the first 07 in CONN070107 is not a date but 7th article in the year 2007(last 07) It was written in January (middle01)as indicated on the first line.

    'Tunde

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  10. akintunde is right...I misread the numbers. So...I'll correct the article. I didn't catch the date 31 Jan at the beginning of the article.

    I check the Church of Nigeria site and believe it actually made it on the web as I stated, Feb 2.

    Thanks for pointing out the numbering process.

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