January 11, 2008
My Dear People of God,
Grace and Peace be multiplied to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. May He keep you abiding in Him, always bearing fruit for His glory.
We must give all praise and thanks to God for the blessing of life granted to us into this new year 2008. It is a fresh opportunity to love and serve Him who gives us so much from His River of delights. We must always be thankful for past and present blessings; we must remain hopeful even in the face of uncertainties in our national life as well as individual circumstances, and we must trust in God’s faithfulness to fulfill His very great and precious promises (2 Pet. 1:4).
The Bishops came together again from 7-12 January, 2008 for our annual retreat at the Ibru Anglican Retreat Centre at Agbarha-Otor. We were particularly pleased to have our brother Bishops from our outreaches to CANA (in the USA), and the Province of Congo with us. It afforded us the opportunity for further reflection on OUR LITURGICAL HERITAGE. We had as our chief resource person Archbishop Drexel Gomez, Primate of the West Indies (Anglican Communion) and we spent quality time rediscovering the Biblical foundations of our liturgy. We came to the conclusion that we do indeed have a rich and strongly biblical heritage which must be rediscovered, cherished, and guarded by all true Anglicans. Our Liturgy is a dramatization of The Bible and should therefore be held sacred without casual departures at the discretion of individuals. Our liturgy promotes fellowship, teaching, mission, and relevant spirituality. All of us – Bishops, Clergy and Laity have a great role to play in this regard. We must take time to prepare prayerfully so that the liturgy does not become a cold and lifeless aspect of our worship life, but a vibrant, inspiring and liberating encounter with our self-revealing God. Our liturgy enables us to respond to God’s self-disclosure. As Anglicans, we are encouraged to live godly lives in the Church and in society. Our members in public office should go with a sense of mission as those who have been inspired by this encounter with the living God.
Among the special features of the retreat was the introduction of the new revision of our Book of Common Prayer by the Liturgical and Spirituality Committee of our Church. There are additions as well as exclusions as perceived from responses received from our membership. The chief concern of this revised edition is to help us to worship God meaningfully and relevantly in our setting and many situations. It is being released for further feedback within the first quarter of this year, before the final production is made available to all. We commend the hard work of the committee under the chairmanship of the Bishop Henry Ndukuba, Bishop of Gombe. We
must reward their effort by making good use of it.
A further matter deliberated upon was the fresh thought about returning to our biblical roots in Jerusalem, especially in the face of our protracted controversies with the revisionists in the Church in the Provinces in America, Canada, and even England over the authority of the Bible - the same Bible which the foreign missionaries had taught us to treasure as the bedrock of our convictions. With other like-minded Anglicans from around the world, a conference tagged, GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) has been planned to take place in Jerusalem from June 2008. The goal is to inform and inspire the invited leaders to shape this future, to reform the church, and transform persons, communities and societies through the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Bishops and wives as well as a selection of Clergy, Youth, and Laity from our ecclesiastical provinces are expected to participate in this conference. Another letter has been written by us already, appealing for your generous contributions to make it possible for all our Bishops and wives to attend this historic conference that will further clarify the future of our Communion. More than even the generous contributions, we solicit for earnest prayers by God’s people that this will not just be our own thing, but will indeed have the blessing of divine approval as we seek to please God first and foremost in all that we do. We will continue to explore ways of maintaining the unity, credibility, and spiritual relevance of our beloved Communion.
You will be encouraged to know we also listened to reports about our mission efforts through the creation of missionary dioceses and it revealed that this exercise has resulted in the planting of at least 300 new congregations within the year. We urge for more commitment in the form of sponsorship of our evangelistic and missionary efforts, and indeed greater participation in the task of evangelism and the nurture of new believers.
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labour in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).
Yours for His honour and glory,
The Most Revd Peter J. Akinola, CON
Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria