The Ecumenism function of the Church is constitutionally and appropriately situated in the Conference Headquarters within the purview of the Office of the Secretary of Conference (S. 126 (e) under the oversight of the Prelate. (S. 117 (a) & (i) of the 2020 Constitution of Methodist Church Nigeria.
METHODIST CHURCH NIGERIA & ECUMENISM
Methodist Church Nigeria pioneered ecumenical relations in Nigeria from her birth in 1842. She commenced ecumenical relations with the Anglican Communion in 1842 and often partnered with that denomination for the evangelisation of South Western Nigeria. This was concretized in the collaborative efforts of Rev’d Thomas Birch Freeman of the Methodist Mission and Henry Townsend of the Anglican Communion.
The Church has shown leadership and continues to be a Pathfinder for Ecumenism and Inter Faith Relations in Nigeria as she was in the forefront of the formation of the Christian Council of Nigeria in 1929, the Christian Association of Nigeria in 1976 and also playing frontline roles in other international ecumenical organisations like the Africa Methodist Council, All African Conference of Churches (AACC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) among other bodies. The Church is also a major participant in the following Consultations:
- The Methodist/Catholic Dialogue
- The Methodist/Anglican Consultation
ECUMENISM DESK OFFICER
Pursuant to 2014 Conference Resolution, an Ecumenism Desk Officer (The Very Rev’d Barr. P. Chukwudi Onyekwere) continues to attend to the day to day issues of Ecumenism and Inter-Faith issues under direction, of the Secretary of Conference; and as instructed. The current officer combines the legal schedule with Ecumenism and Inter Faith Relations.
DEVELOPMENTS IN MEMBERSHIP OF ECUMENICAL ORGANISATIONS
The Church continues to belong and play pivotal roles in several ecumenical organisations such as:
a. Christian Council of Nigeria CCN
The Christian Council of Nigeria is the pioneer ecumenical body in Nigeria founded in 1929. The Church was in the forefront of its formation and has remained a pillar of the Council. Many of the Zones, State Chapters and Committees are presided over by our functionaries.
b. Christian Association of Nigeria CAN
The Church has continued to be a strong voice in the Christian Association of Nigeria and the Prelate Methodist Church Nigeria is a much sought after influencer and leader in CAN. The Prelate His Eminence Dr. S. C. K. Uche JP, along with other frontline Church leaders has continued to make inputs in Policy and Advocacy with the Federal and State Governments..
c. African Methodist Council AMC
This new body is one whose time has come and the Church salutes the vision that led to its formation although it decried the non consultation of the Church at the appropriate stages. Our own Very Rev’d Opeyemi Awe was the founding Interim Secretary and is now the substantive General Secretary of the Council at its last meeting in Kenya. We congratulate him on this election; and look forward to Nigeria making its hallmark impact in the new body.
In furtherance of the Church’s engagement with Africa Methodist Council, the Church sent a Delegation consisting of The Rt. Rev’d Dr. S. Ransford Nortey and The Very Rev’d P. Chukwudi Onyekwere to the Enlarged Executive Committee of Africa Methodist Council that held from 31st November to 4th December 2021. The Delegation was highly regarded as Bishop Dr. S. R. Nortey handled sensitive assignments during the Meeting; and Very Rev’d P. Chukwudi Onyekwere was elected Regional Secretary for Anglophone West Africa Family of Africa Methodist Council on the 2nd day of December, 2021 at Escape City Hotel, Prampram, Ghana.
d. All African Conference of Churches
The Church continues to be affiliated to the All African Conference of Churches through the Christian Council of Nigeria. The All African Conference of Churches AACC operates in Africa as the Africa branch of the World Council of Churches to which the Church has always been affiliated. The General Secretary, Dr. Fidon Mwobeki recently (13th day of April 2021) paid a courtesy visit to the Prelate, Methodist church Nigeria His Eminence Dr. Samuel Chukwuemeka Kanu Uche JP to further strengthen ties between the pioneer ecumenical organisation in Africa and the premier Church in Nigeria
e. World Methodist Council WMC
The World Methodist Council is made up of 80 Methodist, Wesleyan and related Uniting and United Churches representing over 80 million members in 138 countries. It engages, empowers and serves the member Churches by encouraging Methodist unity in witness, facilitating mission in the world, and fostering ecumenical and inter-religious activities. The Council’s Geneva Office develops and maintains important relationships between the Council, the World Council of Churches, and Christian World Communions based in Geneva. The Council represents churches belonging to the Methodist/Wesleyan tradition in the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions held annually.
f. World Methodist Conference WMC
The World Methodist Conference is a global gathering of the Methodist-Wesleyan family held every five years in a different part of the world. The 22nd World Methodist Conference will be now be held in Sweden in 2024. The Church is geared and ready to ensure adequate representation at the Conference in 2024.
g. World Council of Churches WCC
The Church continues to be well represented in the organs and superstructure of the World Council of Churches by some of its Episcopal functionaries (serving and superannuated). The Church will very much wish that these functionaries submit their reports to the Church to enable proper follow-up. The Church should not only be left with the payment of Annual Dues without updates on activities of the organisation.
In general, the Church has continued to meet its obligations to these bodies; and the Church’s Voice is being heard in unison with other Churches as ecumenical body and alone as Church. Relevant and appropriate representation of the Church is ensured when required.
FIRMING UP ECUMENICAL THRUST WITHIN THE CHURCH – BIANNUAL ECUMENISM SUMMIT
Against the foregoing background, the Church has taken several steps to position herself properly in the ecumenical sphere. These steps have included:
- Posting of ministers to ecumenical institutions
- Accelerated promotion of ministers serving in ecumenical institutions with a view to strategic positioning of the ministers for headship or ranking status in such institutions.
- Collaboration with other bloc churches for proper positioning in the ecumenical sphere.
- Creation of an Ecumenical Desk at Conference Headquarters for purposes of further coordination of the Church’s ecumenical function(s) under the Secretary of Conference and Prelate.
TEMPO OF ECUMENICAL ENGAGEMENTS IN 2022
The Corvid 19 Lockdown and its attendant protocols continue to impact negatively on the Ecumenical thrusts and engagements. Most meetings and engagements have been postponed to 2023 and some, indefinitely.
The World Council of Churches Executive Committee approved, on 24 July, the new dates for the WCC 11th Assembly, to be held in Karlsruhe, Germany, 31 August – 8 September 2022. Preparations are in top gear to ensure that the Church is well represented.
ECUMENISM AND THE YOUTH OF OUR CHURCH – AN APPEAL
There is a growing need for Ecumenical Exchange Programmes among the Youth of the mainline Churches in other to enable renewal and grappling with current global issues. This will also ensure that the Youth are reintegrated into decision making process of the Church. The mantra that the Youths are leaders of tomorrow will be a mirage if the Church does not find creative ways of engaging and reintegrating the Youth into the Church and one of the best ways will be Youth Ecumenical Exchanges.
In view of rising cases of Insecurity which can be attributed to Unemployment, the Church will do well to become a Voice for the Youth and Ecumenical Youth Exchange programmes will make for better understanding build bridges across denominations and ethnic divides thereby promoting nation building.
Such challenges of our nation building experience as:
- Rising Insurgences
- Boko Haram
- Cultism & Political Thuggery
- Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse
- Mental Illness & Depression
can be addressed through targeted and adequately packaged Ecumenical Youth Exchange Programmes. Government and relevant Agencies and Non Governmental Agencies may also be invited to weigh in with such programs; and this will ensure a bright future for the Church and the Nation.
The premier Church in Nigeria must continue to be in the vanguard and in the forefront of all ecumenical organisations and institutions in accordance with the precepts of the Church Fathers.
As we look forward to the koinonia of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray that we all continue to be one in Soul Winning and Kingdom Expansion. Amen.
Yours in the Ecumenical Embrace.
The Rt. Rev’d (Dr.) Michael O. Akinwale
Secretary of Conference