An Ecumenical Congregation

Written by 
Tuesday, 29 September 2015 13:45

The participation of the General Secretary of the Christian Council of Nigeria at the laying of the foundation of the building of All Saints' Church is significant in two ways:

(i) it shows that the Christian Council of Nigeria would continue to stand as witness to the pact among Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians. which All Saints' Church represents; and

(ii) that as the membership of the Christian Council of Nigeria is wider than the three denominations that were negotiating union in Nigeria from about 1936 till 1965, All Saints' Church would always remember that there are "others" (non-Anglicans, non-Methodists and non-Presbyterians) who could find need for its fellowship (there were 18 "others" compared with only six Presbyterians in 1971/72: see table below).

 

  Anglican Methodist  Presbyterian Others
1965-66  98 26 5 17
1971-72 213 48 6 18

                                                                                          

All Saints' Church, Jericho, Ibadan was not the first Church of this type in Nigeria. Before it there had been All Saints' Enugu and St. Piran's, Jos.

 

Although the name was borrowed from All Saints' Enugu, the interdenominational nature of the congregation was patterned after a similar church in Port Harcourt. There was also St. Piran's in Jos as further precedent.

 

Writing to the Commonwealth and Continental Church Society London, in September 1964, Mr Mance observed as follows:

The congregation at present averages 120 each Sunday evening, some 40 p.c. expatriates and 60 p.c. Nigerians. In Ibadan it is the only Church offering a "Church Life" for an expatriate community of around 3,000; the chapels at the universities and other institutions do not cater in this way for those outside their institutional communities.

 

By "expatriates" we should not think just of British nationals, there were Americans, Canadians, Indians such as:

The Acres

Stella Rivers

Dorothy and Dandy Pidgeon (lbadan Grammar School)

Miss Marilyn Digweed (Daystar Press)

The Medleys (Caxton Press)

The Coorays (University of Ife, Ibadan Campus)

 

There were also people from other African countries e.g.:

The Caulkers (Sierra Leone)

The Williams (Sierra Leone)

Todd Langa (South Africa)

Tandy Rankwe (South Africa)

The Cleggs (Ghana)

 

Nigerian families with expatriate wives included such members as:

Nat and Pat Oyelola (Nigerian, British)

Akin and Rosemary Morakinyo (Nigerian, British)

Olu and Edna Soyannwo (Nigerian, Ghanian)

Modupe and Mercy Oduyoye (Nigerian, Ghanian)

The Okunsanyas (Nigerian - Caribbean)

The Amons (Nigerian - Caribbean)

The Igwes (Nigerian - American)

The Ogunlesis (Nigerian - Thai)

 

Even where both husband and wife were Nigerians both might not have the same mother-tongue e.g.

The Ighodalos (Edo, Yoruba)

The Wigwes (lgbo, Efik)

The Akomolafes (Yoruba, Ora)

 

These are then what made (and still make) All Saints' Church, Jericho Ibadan:

 (i) an English - speaking Church, and

 (ii) an interdenominational congregation.

 

One Peth, a Methodist, writing from Pierre Benignus Study Centre, Ibadan on 22 November 1967 had commented as follows:

"All Saints ... can scarcely be described as a Nigerian Church."

And the Rev. D. M. Harper, Anglican Interim Chaplain from 30 March till 31 August 1972, wrote thus:

It should be remembered that the Church constitution was drawn up in the expectation of church union and it was intended then that with ecumenicity All Saints' would be incorporated into the Church of Nigeria. This regrettably never took place and now All Saints' is out on the "limb" ... Under present circumstances from the point of view of the church leaders it seems to place us outside recognizable authority and, therefore, somewhat schismatic from the very churches we seek to serve.

 

Between 1961 and 1984 All Saints' had acquired copies of three books of Order of Holy communion, viz:

(i) An Order of Holy Communion (Methodist Church Nigeria) donated by a member who was born into the African Church Incorporated

(ii) The Celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion (Presbyterian Order) and

(iii) The Order for Holy Communion, produced by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican)

 

As the Immanuel College Chapel is not "somewhat schismatic" and does not find itself "out on the limb", All Saints' Jericho, too, has remained ecumenical in spite of the collapse of the scheme for the union of Anglicans, Methodist and Presbyterians in Nigeria I in 1965. In fact, Immanuel College Chapel, built to serve the needs of a joint Anglican-Methodist theological college, threw its worship facilities open to interested persons in the Sango-Bodija area of Ibadan and has thus become, like All Saints', a truly ecumenical congregation.

 

At the 1963 Annual General Meeting of All Saints' Church, the wish to become an established parish church with its own Pastor-in-charge was expressed. An Extraordinary Committee Meeting was held on 17 February 1964 to discuss the appointment of a full-time minister.

 

The committee requested the vicar to find and submit to it information on the assessment fees paid by various churches within the Anglican communion in Ibadan. This would guide it in determining the contribution that All Saints' Church should make to each of its three major parent denominations (viz Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian).

 

Local ecumenism is not schism even though it has had its own peculiar challenges. For example, someone had written in March 1972 that:

 

It is impossible to obtain a pastor from one of the three churches specified in the constitution because it means that he will virtually have to leave his own denomination. Because of the independent nature of All Saints' it is not so easy for a Nigerian to leave the aegis of his denomination, nor are the heads of those churches willing to part with the kind of man acceptable to the committee.

 

The actual experience of All Saints', however, is that although it has been difficult, it has not been impossible. From 11 May 1966 when it was decided that to surmount the challenge "there shall be a chaplain, who shall be an ordained Anglican appointed by the Bishop of Ibadan in consultation with the church committee," All Saints' moved to the following position three years later:

 

The chaplains are appointed by the Church Committee.

 

In 1969 the Committee was asked to review the then extant constitutional requirement that the chaplain must be an Anglican.

 

Earlier on, specifically, on 3 August 1968, the Rev. Dr Russel T. Hall in charge of the Presbyterian Church, Yaba, Lagos, had written as follows to All Saints':

 

I am sorry that you are having trouble in finding Presbyterian Ministers and laymen to conduct the Presbyterian services at All Saints', Ibadan.

 

Now for the dilemma regarding the possible formation of a Presbyterian congregation in Ibadan... please be assured that we do not want to disturb or be a hindrance to the excellent work and ministry of All Saints'. Our concern to have a Presbyterian congregation in Ibadan is not mainly just to say that we have a congregation in Ibadan. The leadership of the Presbyterian Church in Lagos feels that it was quite lamentable that in the years leading up to the proposed church union we did not have a visible Presbyterian presence in Ibadan.

 

It was not difficult for the Anglican Bishop of Ibadan, the Rt. Rev. T.O. Olufosoye, to assign the Rev. S. O. Adesina to All Saints' (1972-83). When Rev. Adesina had to leave, a delegation of elders of All Saints' successfully negotiated a replacement with the Most Rev. T. O. Olufosoye, then Bishop of Ibadan Diocese, who posted Canon Lapese Ladipo to All Saints' in 1983.

 

Before the end of the tenure of Canon Lapese Ladipo in 1993, a need was already felt for an Assistant Minister. The Methodist Church supplied the Rev. E.A. Fagbemi, who then succeeded Canon Ladipo as chaplain in 1993. By this time it could no longer be said that the independent nature of All Saints' had made the heads of the Methodist and Presbyterian churches unwilling to part with the kind of man acceptable to the Committee (now called Church Council) of All Saints' as minister.

 

Rt. Revd G. O. Olajide, Anglican Bishop of Ibadan from 1989, readily assigned the Rev. Canon G.B. Daramola to fill the post of Assistant Vicar of All Saints' on 1 July 1994. When Canon Daramola became the Acting Minister upon the death of Rev E.A. Fagberni in May 1995, the Rt. Rev. Ayo Ladigbolu, the Methodist Bishop of Ibadan Diocese, supplied an Assistant Minister for All Saints -- the Rev. O.O. Mewoyeka, who, however, remained a tent-making minister, being a member of staff of the Post Graduate Institute for Medical Research and Training, University College Hospital, Ibadan.

 

Coming to All Saints' had not meant that Canon Daramola "virtually left his own denomination": within two years of becoming the Minister of All Saints' Jericho, he was collated Archdeacon by Bishop Olajide.

 

Thus the fear of Rev. Harper that the collapse of church union negotiations in Nigeria in 1965 left All Saints' "out on the limb", "outside recognizable authority" and "somewhat schismatic" has not become a reality.

 

All Saints' Church now sends delegates to the synods of the Ibadan Diocese of the Anglican Church, the Ibadan Diocese of the Methodist Church Nigeria and pays financial contributions annually to the Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches.

 

CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH POLITY

The type of church polity which operates in All Saints' is the type called "congregational" in the United States of America. In such church type, each congregation is autocephalous (self governing). It is like the kirk in the Church of Scotland rather than like the parish in the Church of England. This contrasts with the episcopal polity in the Anglican Communion where it is partly each Diocese, partly each Province that is autocephalous.

 

The supreme body in the polity of All Saints' Church is the Annual General Meeting where every member has a vote. Hear what the Anglican Bishop of Ibadan, the Rev. T. O. Olufosoye, wrote in 1972, the year after his translation to Ibadan from Banjul:

 

Although All Saints' Church is in my Diocese and I am one of the trustees, it is only ill directly under me and I have no say ill the appointment of a priest to the place.

 

In 1986 a significant change was made in the Constitution of All Saints' Church. For the first time since its beginning, the provision that the chaplain should be the chairman of Council was changed. The first lay chairman, Chief T.O. Ejiwunmi, was elected in June 1983 with Engineer N. Oyelola as vice-chairman. In 1985, Engineer Oyelola became the chairman.

 

TRUSTEES

The first trustees of All Saints' Church Ibadan were:

                (i)    The Anglican Bishop of Ibadan (Rt. Rev. S.O. Odutola)

                (ii)   The Rev. Professor E.B. Idowu (Methodist)

 

In 1995 a new set or trustees was appointed viz:

                (i)   Chief T.O. Ejiwunmi (Anglican)

                (ii)  Engr. N.O. Oyelola (Anglican)

               (iii)  Mrs. Tayo Morgan (Methodist)

 

In 1999, upon the resignation of Chief T.O. Ejiwunmi, Engr. Chief E.A. Ojo was appointed a trustee.

Read 3071 times Last modified on Tuesday, 29 December 2015 06:32
Rate this item
(0 votes)

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.