Sunday, April 29, 2007

Nigerian Anglican Church—an explanation and an apology

Dr Peter Toon

Anglicans within the global Anglican Communion, who are evangelical, traditional and biblically conservative, tend to speak well of The Anglican Church of Nigeria. This is because of its proclamation of Christ as Lord, its clear witness to Muslims and pagans, and its readiness to stand up to Western Anglicanism over such matters as scriptural authority and sexual ethics.

I want to join this chorus and add my sincere thanks to God for the witness of the Church in Nigeria both in its own context and in the global Communion of Anglican provinces.

I want also to express my appreciation for the commitment of the Church in Nigeria in its Constitution (recently amended by Synod) to the basic Formularies of the Anglican Way as expressed in The BCP, The Articles of Religion and The Ordinal as these are bound together in copies of the English BCP (1662).

And here I come to my apology which I offer to all my readers, especially to those in the Nigerian Church through its mission (CANA) in North America.

I have given the impression sometimes—I think---that what is called "The Book of Common Prayer" today, and is used now in Nigeria and by some of the congregations in CANA in the USA., is in fact basically The BCP of 1662 adapted culturally for the varied Nigerian context. This impression is wrong.

In fact, I need to be very clear: what is called The BCP and used now in English or other languages is not the classic, historical BCP ( i.e. not that which is referred to as a formulary in the constitution of the Nigerian Church). What is now called the BCP is that which the Synod of this Church, as an autonomous province, decided to call The BCP and it dates from 1996. (In other words it is a case where, as in the USA and the West Indies—and more recently in Ireland—a General Synod has assumed the right to use the ancient title of The BCP for a new kind of book, a book which certainly draws from the BCP but also used many other sources, and is, therefore best referred to by a title which communicates its varied content and distinction from the historic BCP.)

So there are churches in the USA within CANA, which are using this "BCP" of 1996 for Holy Communion, and the service they are using bears no relation whatsoever to "The Order for Holy Communion" in the historic and classic BCP of 1662. Rather, the service is similar to what can be found in such prayer books as Alternative Service Book, 1980, and Common Worship, 2000, of the Church of England, not to mention the Prayer Book of The Episcopal Church (1979).

I am not here stating that the content of the Nigerian Prayer Book of 1996 is bad or not worthy to be used. What I am saying is that the Nigerian Church, which has recently anathematized The Episcopal Church USA for its rejection of truth, has like the American Church committed a serious error—indeed a serious sin against the communion of saints and historical verity—by calling by the name of "The Book of Common Prayer" that which is better called "A Nigerian Prayer Book, 1996," or "Common Worship for Nigeria" or the like. Anyone who looks through the Prayer Book of 1996 and then looks through the BCP of 1662 will see at once that the former is not a new edition of the latter but is a related but different kind of Prayer Book!

So I thank God for the witness of the Nigerian Church for its commitment to the Gospel and to Jesus the Lord, but I regret deeply that it has committed such a major mistake in terms of its present Prayer Book. My fear is that this decision of 1996 will come back to haunt the Nigerian Church—just as the 1979 one of The Episcopal Church has done and will do for many Episcopalians.

April 27, 2007

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