Daily Trust (Abuja)

11 November 2012

Nigeria: Rev Okoh Charges Christians On Practical Christian Living

The second edition of the Divine Commonwealth Conference (DIVCCON) which ended in Abuja on Friday critically looked at "the dangers to the church".

Speaking at the opening of the gathering on Monday, the Primate of the Church of Nigeria in the Anglican Communion, Most Rev Nicholas Okoh acknowledged, "We must note that these dangers to the church came from within, not from people of other faiths.

"Their method is very much like those of the circumcision party before them who sought persistently to present another gospel side by side the authentic message which St. Paul had earlier taught his audience (Acts and Galatians)."

The primate maintained that there have been tremendous developments in Nigeria and around the world which portend danger to the faith.

He expressed, "They also deny Jesus Christ our only sovereign and Lord. What did they teach about Jesus? Was it a denial of His uniqueness and supremacy? Because they denied biblical orthodoxy, their moral life, flowing from perverted teaching, as a natural outgrowth equally became perverted."

The archbishop told the gathering that in Nigeria, the Christian faith is seriously under attack from two directions--from without and from within.

He identified the violent attacks on churches by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria as example of attack from outside.

"Our dioceses in Maiduguri, Damaturu, Kano, Bauchi, Yola, Zaria, Jos etc are now drastically depopulated," he lamented.

The African Traditional Religion with its various expressions in cults and paganism were equally identified as threat to orthodoxy.

But within, the main threat, according to the archbishop is disunity among Christians.

He called on the people to engage in evangelism and church planting.

He called on believers to expose falsehood and false teaching, demonstrate practical Christian integrity in private and public offices.

"It is our responsibility to grow in the orthodox faith by eating the right spiritual food, being part of orthodox programmes, seminars, conferences etc," he advised.

Okoh who said the gathering was different from the usual administrative ones described the conference as "a call apart for our spiritual rejuvenation and mutual edification in an atmosphere of deep spirituality and learning".

Theme of the conference was "Contending for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints".

A participant, Venerable Emmanuel Agbawe of Warri Diocese, Anglican Communion said, "It's obvious that there're strange doctrines, strange practices, beliefs that have crept into the church and trying to develop roots and that is dangerous to the faith.

"It's similar to what Jude experienced in his time hence the route reminding all believers to contend for the faith that was once handed over to us believers in this our era.

"You see a lot of things coming from different religions as a result of what you call modernisation, civilisation, interactions here and there.

"You see some influences from African Traditional Religion, in fact, some ideas actually come in from there to interpret Christianity whereas Christianity, this faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is supposed to give the true meaning not what we borrow to express Christianity.

"Apart from the African Traditional Religion, you look at the business world--using business, management, knowledge, all these things that we learn in school, we try to bring them in to interpret Christianity by way of applying those principles, they look for somewhere in the bible to say this supposes this, that supposes that.

"This is very very dangerous. We're producing Christians that can be described, particularly in Nigerian context, one inch deep, one mile long; or one mile long, one inch deep.

"Christianity is meant to transform lives and that is not what we have seen now. Everything, people are mixing up. Look at the music world, secular music being brought to the church.

"We expect that participants who mostly are bishops and clergy men will be able to go back and teach what the lord has passed unto us in this conference down there at the grassroots so that people can be alive, their faith genuine, not faith that depends on when miracles are available, when there is money. Whether these things are there or not, faith remains constant."

Another participant, Rt Rev (Dr) Emmanuel Chukwuma, Bishop of Enugu said, "Nigerians and Christians will benefit [from this conference] because this is not only for the Anglicans--we'll benefit, one the unity of the church, we'll benefit courage, we'll benefit that support and the enablement through the power of the holy spirit to be able to stand firm as Christians, to be able contend against that faith that is really firing against the faith of Christians because this forces are not to be faced literally--you need the power of God, you need the spirit of God and you need the empowerment of the holy spirit to be able to contend...that is exactly what we're for.

"The battle is not ours, it belongs to the lord and with his power, we shall overcome."

DIVCCON is annual conference of the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion

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