Nigerian bishop to evangelicals: stay and fight it out

The outgoing Anglican archbishop of Nigeria’s Kaduna state, Josiah Idowu-Fearon, explains why many Nigerian Christians have such profoundly negative views about homosexuality, but at the same time questions the relationship between conservative American Anglican and fundamentalist groups, and says the fast growth of the Church in Nigeria has come at the expense of a deep knowledge of the Christian faith for many new adherents.

Speaking to the Dallas Morning News, Archbishop Josiah, speaks of his experience in a Nigerian province where Christianity is a relatively new religion and is now encroaching on the historically Muslim area and describes the challenges the brings.

…He oversees a Christian flock in a traditionally Muslim region where thousands have died in interreligious strife there. An academically trained Koranic scholar, Archbishop Josiah works with Muslim leaders to avoid communal violence and paper over differences.

And he is critical of the liberalizing trends in other parts of the Anglican Communion and places the differences both in terms of culture and in terms of differing understandings of Biblical authority:

I think it is wrong to say it is between Americans and Africans, or the West and the Southern hemisphere. It is between two groups of people who understand the authority of Scripture differently. You see, for me as a Christian from Nigeria, my parents are Christians. My grandparents had practiced traditional religion before they became Christian. Now, in African traditional religion, if I had an attraction to a male person, that is considered as an abnormal thing, a spiritual problem. …

Now, when my grandparents met the English, who introduced us to the Christian faith, they read the Bible to my grandparents, and said, look, this thing you’re talking about, the Bible agrees that it’s sinful. So for us, the Bible supports our pre-Christian theology. We accepted it. We became Christian. And that is why in Africa, generally, if you have an abnormal sexual orientation, you don’t brag about it. …

That’s why we feel we are deceived, we have been cheated by the people the Lord Jesus Christ used to introduce us to the Scriptures, to bring us to a new faith in the Lord Jesus. They are telling us that it’s not wrong after all, that it’s a natural way. But we say: You are wrong; the Bible is right. So it’s not just a question of human sexuality. It’s about the authority of Scripture. For us, Scripture judges every culture. What I hear in the Western world is that culture judges Scripture. That’s the basic difference. It’s not a question of sex or no sex.

When asked about the fast growth of Christianity in Nigeria, the Archbishop sounds a note of caution. Citing the experience in the Protestant West described by Max Weber, he said that Protestantism gave a structure of discipline that allowed capitalism to develop. He contrasts that with the Pentecostal movements in his country which describes as ‘flamboyant’ and having ‘no self-denial.’ He says,

You go to a church and you see hundreds of people who call themselves Christians, and they cannot even articulate for you the basics of the Christian gospel. But they can tell you that I came to Christ at two o’clock on the 7th of October of whatever year. I say, so what? They will cheat, they will lie, there is a lot of promiscuity. The Christianity that is so-called growing like wildfire in Africa is frightening to me. It’s superficial, and that’s the truth. It’s growing, but what kind of Christianity are we talking about? You have church leaders bribing to be voted for. You have church leaders taking money from bankers who have embezzled it and given to the church, and you say, “Praise the Lord”? You can’t reconcile that with the ethics of the Kingdom.

He cautions against Americans turning to African churches for leadership and about breaking away from their home church, advising them instead to remain true to their convictions and to be a voice for Biblical truth even in a Church that, in his view, is turning away from it.

The solution is right here. I believe Evangelicals, those who believe in the authority of Scripture, need to stay and fight it out. But I know that the way we are structured, decisions are often taken by bishops. To me, it is wrong. You might have a bishop who doesn’t believe in the finality of the sacrifice of Jesus, in the uniqueness of Jesus, in the authority of Scripture. What do you do with that? I tell people: How often do you see a bishop? The important thing is, do you have a rector or priest who believes in the Bible? Me, I would stay in my parish and fight to be an oasis of hope for people who believe in Scripture.

Archbishop Idowu-Fearon speaks a voice that is true to his evangelical convictions. He desires people to have an informed, deep faith that rests in a working knowledge of the Bible. He also advises against schism as the way to heal the Church.

Read: Josiah Idowu-Fearon: At the heart of two flashpoints

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