NIgerian bishop pleads with boycotting Primates

Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon is the Bishop of Kaduna, in the Church of Nigeria has written to the Primates of the Anglican Communion urging them to attend the Primates Meeting, which will be held in Dublin from January 25th through the 31st.

Appealing to the experience of the Church’s historic councils, he reminds the Primates, particularly those representing a conservative viewpoint, that agreement is not essential for a church council to work, but instead the point of coming together is precisely that different bishops from different churches often disagree.

He wrote the following in the Church Times, which has finally come out from behind their pay-wall:

THE Primates’ Meetings remind me of the past Councils of the Christian Church, from AD 49 in Jerusalem to Vatican II in Rome in the 1960s. In particular, your next meeting is a continuation of what began in 1978, in what we believe must have been an act of the Lord, through the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Coggan, as an opportunity for “leisurely thought, prayer, and deep consultations”.

History reminds us that all the 22 Councils of the Christian Church contained both those in favour and those against the subjects under discussion, and that the discussions were not always eirenic….

…The lessons from these Councils are clear:

1. Bishops with opposing views — be they theological, doctrinal, or even political — made the effort to get their voices heard at the meetings.

2. Presence at these Councils did not imply agreement: on the contrary, the Councils were called precisely because people disagreed. Dear Primates, where would the Church be today if “orthodox” bishops had stayed away from the main Councils of the Church?

3. Importantly, these bishops had arrived at their clear theological positions in their sees, they made sure they attended the meetings, and they were able to defend what their dio­ceses stood for.

PERMIT me, therefore, to seize this opportunity and appeal to you, my brothers, to carry your bishops, clergy, and lay members with you to the Primates’ Meetings. An archbishop may hold a strong position on a particular theological debate, but that should not be a reason to silence those of his colleagues who hold an alternative opin­ion as representatives of their dioceses.

Idowu-Fearon served on the group that drafted the initial Windsor Report in 2003. He says that if the report, the Anglican Covenant and the process is “fatally flawed” as some Primates claim, they should bring their “superior wisdom” to the gathering rather than stay away. In an earlier interview in the Church Times, Idowu-Fearon spoke of what motivated him to write this letter:

Speaking on Friday, he said that his intervention was not prompted by pressure from any individual, “but by my conviction to work for the unity of this communion”.

He said that he feared that some of the Primates had “not actually consulted properly” before announcing their intention to boycott the meeting. There was “a huge desire” among “ordinary members” of the Church of Nigeria for the Communion to stay together, he said.

Responding to the suggestion made by the Primates that “the current text” of the Anglican Covenant is “fatally flawed”, Dr Idowu-Fearon said: “If those Primates believe they have a superior wisdom than the collective wisdom of those who produced the Covenant, let them meet and present their wisdom and not start throwing tantrums.”

Thanks to Thinking Anglicans.

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