Thursday, February 10, 2005

Voices from Nigeria

We have been greatly blessed in the Diocese of Tennessee during the last few days by the presence of Archbishop Joseph Akinfenwa of Ibadan and Bishop Edmund Akanya of the missionary Diocese of Kebbi in Nigeria. The other afternoon they camed for tea at the Church of the Apostles, and met with 18-20 folks of our church who are either retired or have more flexible working hours, sharing something of themselves and their faith, and encouraging us to stand firm in the midst of the ECUSA crisis.

Bishop Edmund spoke movingly about reaching Muslims with the message of Christ, and, in effect, loving them into the Kingdom. It seems to me that we spend far too much time in our churches wrapped up in programs that scratch the backs of our members rather than orienting ourselves in a direction of selfless love for those who are beyond our walls. Whether Muslim or not, this is the way that we coax skeptical postmoderns to explore the possibilities of the Gospel.

Archbishop Joseph talked of the 1-1-3 program that the church in Nigeria is working with. I first heard of this ten years ago from Abp. Yong Chung Ping of Saba, but I was not aware that it had its origins in Nigeria. The Nigerian church have started applying this in the whole province. It is to encourage one believer to focus prayer, witness, love on one unbeliever so that in the course of three years they will become followers of Christ. This is very do-able, which is what makes the notion so fascinating.

We have our annual congregational meeting in a couple of weeks and I have determined that we will talk about each of these things the bishops brought to us as part of our life at the Church of the Apostles.

Meanwhile, in the midst of their speaking the two men encouraged us to stand firm for the truth in the midst of the error that has caused such pain and agony within ECUSA. Our folks were energized by that message.

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