The Archbishop Metropolitan and Primate, Church of All Nigeria, Anglican Communion ,Most Rev’d Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba for the first time spoke extensively on his vision and mission in an exclusive interview with acnntv.com captured by Odogwu Emeka Odogwu, PhD, the Director Communication, Media, Research and Public Relations, Diocese of Awka and Province of the Niger.
Archbishop Ndukuba who is also the Archbishop of Abuja Province was until March 25th this year, 2020 when he was installed Primate, the Bishop of Gombe Diocese and Archbishop of Jos Province, respectively. He is the 5th Primate of Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion and took over from His Grace, the Most Rev’d Nicholas Okoh. He was ordained 1984. He is 58 years old. He is from Imo state and likely to preside over the Church of Nigeria in the next 10 years.
What is your vision for your primacy?
The Lord has given us a word from Isaiah 52:7-10, which will be a guiding light for us for the next 10 years. We are declaring it, as the word of God says here, “the Decade of God’s Reign.”
The emphasis will be on real evangelisation; consolidation of what God has started doing in us, with us, and for us; and discipleship, which is nurturing the people and growing in faith, so that the resurrection of Zion will be perfect. We can launch out as God makes bare His Holy Arms. That is what is bubbling in my heart.
When you ask a missionary to be the Primate, what are you expecting? Our emphasis will be on the soul of the people, consolidating what my predecessors did. I see it a privilege to be given an opportunity to lead the church in a time like this, though it will not be easy. If you look at the earlier verses, what we are battling today is the spirit of Babylon. And though it seems the darkness has covered everywhere, this is the time of our arising. I am believing God that He will reign in His power and majesty. Don’t ask me how. I am believing that He will make it known as the years roll by. I am persuaded that it is not by power, it is not by might and it is not by our struggle. The Lord Almighty will manifest and show Himself in His awesomeness and power.
Did you ever anticipate becoming a Bishop?
When I was elected a bishop, nobody in my situation would ever have thought of becoming anything. I never asked for and I didn’t expect anything. The people, who came to fight for me, when I was posted back to theological college, knew the situation I was in. There were bishops that did not want it to be. It was contrary to what should be. God did it, and it was a surprise. If it were a thing of choice, I wouldn’t go to Gombe. The same thing applies to the Primacy. I never asked or campaigned that people should do anything in order that I became the Primate. And even when it was mentioned to me that that was what some people were thinking, I said: “I am a servant of the Lord and I am ready to serve whomever the Lord brings to that place.” God did this. Even till the point of election and after the election, I couldn’t believe that it was happening.
As the Primate, I am a servant and I want to do my work with all humility and grace, and yet with the love and firmness, God gives. I’m not coming out as someone who has answers to every question. This is an opportunity to do my ministry. I am an evangelist, a missionary and that is what I want to remain, to fulfil my ministry because when the Lord returns, that is what I will account for. I will answer to what He has given me to do. With this opportunity He has given me, I pray He gives me the grace to hear Him and to stand for Him. I wouldn’t want to be deceived and I wouldn’t want to lose my call and my place in Him at the end. I wouldn’t want to lose the peace I have with Him because that is my joy. If I lose Him, what am I labouring for? What gain will I have? I love teamwork with all humility.
But it doesn’t mean that I am stupid. I want a relationship, and I would want to work with all the archbishops and bishops as my brothers in this holy calling and with this great responsibility. I would want us to work together with all our clergy and our Laity and let this church know the joy of being in the Lord and the love and peace of being brothers and sisters here, so that when this life is over, like Paul, I will say, ‘Lord I have fought the fight and I have kept the faith, what awaits me is the crown of glory.’ That is what I want to see. That is what I would encourage my brother archbishops and bishops to do. Let us focus on the One Who has called us and that ministry He has given us. Every other thing will fall in place.
How do you intend managing the issue of revisionist agenda trying to come into the communion?
We are not surprised. This is End Time and perilous time. The Lord made it clear that if care is not taken, even some of the elect can be deceived. We thank God for my predecessors’ legacies, from Baba Adetiloye, who focused on the mission; followed by Baba Akinola in mission and defending and contending for the faith; and Baba Okoh, who has consolidated the work and helped the missionary dioceses to take their place and be able to stand, as well as the infrastructures and other things that God has brought into place by their visions, ministries and labours.
I believe the best way to tackle any false teaching is by teaching the truth and preaching the wholesome Word of God, applying our lives to the same and making sure that we walk the narrow way. It may not be easy. It means sacrifice and may mean suffering. As far as we are concerned, unless the Lord calls us home, our desire is to stand by the Word of God and maintain the heritage we have as Anglicans and to teach and live by the principles of God’s Word. To do that, our main problem is not revisionists, but the sincerity of our own heart and our commitment to the Lord. The issue has to do with whom we are serving and committed to. You cannot stop the bird from flying over your head, but you can stop it from making a nest on your head.
If we rise up as one man in unity, in faith, in love and in readiness to serve and work with God in this perilous time, with all that it takes, revisionist agenda will not stand. Thank God for Lambeth 1998 resolution 1.10 that upholds the dignity of human sexuality and marriage as between one man and one woman throughout their livelong union, and the rejection of the revisionist agenda and their new human sexuality. The stand of the Church of Nigeria is that we shall not serve Baal. We will not be drawn to their philosophies, we will not bear their name, we will not pour their libation and we will not follow their ways.
All my life, I have ministered in the north and I have had occasions to stand to defend this faith, to live it out, and to proclaim and stand by God’s Word. I have seen Jesus prove Himself over and over again and protecting me. Assassins, robbers have pointed a gun at me and pulled the trigger two times and it did not fire. God protected me; He became a shield. I have lived among Muslims and they have looked upon me to see how the Christians are living. Will I now, in the new context God has called me, begin to deny Him because I want some goodies from the White people or because I want to please somebody or a group? Will, I put aside God’s Word now that I have become wiser? I am now more educated, more enlightened.
Thank God I have sat in class with some of them and I have seen that they don’t know more than we do, if anything, we have the real thing. St. Cyprian said ‘a man cannot die for a shadow. If a man should die, he will die for the real thing.’ The real thing is Jesus, and He has never failed us. He has been true and we will stand for He Who loved and gave Himself for us. Not only are we going to stand, but we will also defend.
The focus of our ministry has to be on the family because raising a healthy family in the fear of God, nurtured in the word of God, built up in the faith of Christ will also mean we will be raising a healthy church, a witnessing church, a believing church, a church that can stand in times of trials.
When this COVID-19 crisis came, I said, “Lord, is it everywhere I go that it will be like this?” I said we are already used to it. Lockdown has been our experience in the Northeast. The Chairman of Michika that was beheaded is just one out of so many. I lost one of my pastors, Pastor Bello, who was going to have service with members and fell into the hands of the Hudawas, who decapitated him. We had to go and pack his body and belongings and buried him. Having passed through all these things, will I now be more modern? It is Jesus or nothing; it is the Word of God or nothing. If we will die, let us die for the real thing; let us die believing Him. When we suffer, let it be because of our faith in Him, and there is no going back.
If any pastor thinks he can eat off the table of the demons and also share in the table of the Lord, he has no place in this church. We will work at the House of Bishops to see that the church is kept pure and kept faithful to the Lord. That is what we are believing God for. As for the revisionist agenda, it has no place in the Church of Nigeria, and we will stand for the same thing in any ecumenical organisations we belong to. We will not be part of any organisation that is not ready to hold on to the Word of God and the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ – faith in Him and the heritage of the saints. We’ll go to the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) with the same stance, and anyone who is not ready to stand with us will be on his own. One with God is always the majority.
What is your view on supporting weak dioceses, especially with regard to GAFCON cause?
I think GAFCON was partly founded or has the support of the Church of Nigeria (CON) in collaboration with our brothers in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and other parts of Africa. GAFCON came as a rescue mission to bring together those who were not happy with the way Episcopal Church in America and other churches in the West deviated from the Word of God and upheld another gospel, which was not the true Gospel. We said no, we were not going that way. But they were well endowed and had the resources. When Baba Akinola and other fathers of the church started speaking, they said they were just making noise. They didn’t take us seriously; they didn’t think we could stand. But one thing we have come to realise is that anything that is of God lasts. The present Chairman of GAFCON is the Primate of ACNA, Archbishop Foley Beach and the Secretary-General is our own Archbishop Benjamin Kwashi. So, we are still neck-deep in the functions of GAFCON.
The CON will stand with GAFCON, though some of our sister churches are not as resourced as CON. The West already knows this weakness, having related with us for a very long time, and even sent the missionaries that founded most of us. So, they know where to pull the carpet from under our feet. That was how some that did not have the resources started going from the back. It is just like the weak ones are going from the back and you are pulling them. While the strong ones are in the front, they are busy gathering the ones at the back and confusing them. The same thing may even be happening in the CON. Some of the bishops may be tempted and be bought over because they lack the resources. But as far as we are concerned, it cannot happen in CON. That is why we thank God for Baba Okoh for establishing St. Matthias Fund, which has helped to stabilise some of us and we will ensure we pursue it.
When I take my place in the Primates’ Council in GAFCON, I will think and work with my brother Archbishops and the Primates to see what we can do. How we can raise funds to help our brethren so that we can have unity of purpose and move together. We will not compromise our stance. We will uphold the 2008 Jerusalem Declaration and 2018 Reaffirmation, and other conventions and their agreements that we have made. We will see that we keep on supporting GAFCON and working with them.
How do you plan to create more dioceses, during your tenure?
Let me put it this way: I believe that my work, in the main, may have to do with consolidation. Along the line, there might be new things being introduced. But sustaining what is there, building up the structures that will make this Church stronger, funding and financing and being self-sustaining and supporting, and being able to carry out our mission to the world will be our focus. Part of that consolidation will be to help the needy dioceses to stand.
But I have also realised that as you engage in church mission, church planting, training of pastors and nurturing the believers, the church grows and there will be the need for us to expand. As of now, I cannot tell you the number of dioceses that will be created. This is a decision the House of Bishops, the Episcopal Synod and the General Synod will take. So, when the time comes, we will do the needful. But we will see that we consolidate, strengthen what is on the ground and build up the structures of this institution that will help the church to function and face future challenges.
What is your view on autonomy of Anglican dioceses/Bishops?
We need to understand the Anglican Church’s structure. It is episcopally-led and synodically governed. The bishop is looked upon as the leader, but he does not operate in isolation. He is not an authority to himself. The authority he is exercising is a delegated authority from the Lord. Because we are synodically governed, the bishops exercise their own authority and leadership in what we call collegiality, which is also part of the synodality. When it comes to taking decisions that bother on the church’s life and ministry, we come as a body with representatives of the clergy and laity, as well as the bishops. We sit together according to Acts of the Apostles Chapter Fifteen.
In Anglican Church, your autonomy is that you have right in your diocese as helped by God and led by the Holy Spirit, as well as led by the authority of God’s Word, to guide your diocese in mission, evangelism, Church planting, development and organising the worship and services. With regard to worship, the bishop is the chief liturgist of his diocese, and he bequeaths his authority to the vicars of the parishes. That is why when he installs a vicar on the prayer desk, he says, “Take this, which is yours and mine.” So, the vicar represents the bishop, who represents the Lord.
So, as far as organising the parish is concerned, the bishop is not expected to be going to the parish telling them what to do every week. They may decide to build, they may decide to contribute, they may decide to establish a school, but they will have to clear with the bishop and the Diocesan Board, and any priest that goes contrary to the bishop’s ratings has already lost his licence. A similar thing applies to us bishops. When we were consecrated, we swore an oath before the Primate and the question is: “Will you take your place in the governing of the Church?” and you say yes.
So, your autonomy is only to exercise legitimate ministry that the Lord has given you. But when it comes to supporting the Church and building together, working together, and taking your place in the Council; you have to be part of the collegiality of bishops. As the African adage says, “I am because we are, and because we are, I am.” Each bishop is made by this Church and the same House of Bishops that elected us as bishops, as provided by the Constitution, also provided the same Constitution that has power by two-third of their votes, to move you, even when you say you cannot move from that diocese.
So, when it comes to autonomy, I would encourage us to take it as the autonomy to do the will of God. Our freedom should not be used to create problems or think that we have arrived, for none of us is sufficient. I am looking forward to working with my brothers and my fathers as a collegiality of bishops, so that we will build the household of faith.
When will ACNN come on popular platforms, such as DSTV and StarTimes, among others?
I thank God that right now, ACNN is not where we started. We are growing and all things being equal, we are trusting God that ACNN will get into these other platforms. We are hoping that we will be able to get to that. Already, work is being done and we are hoping that in due time, we will get them connected. But with what we’re experiencing now, I will want to encourage every Anglican family to own ACNN decoder, which is about N12, 000, and once you pay that, and they install it for you and will not be paying subscription. It will be there and free. I want to encourage our people to get the decoder and install it. You can enquire from your Diocesan Office or Vicar of your Church or you can contact us in Abuja directly, and that will be made available.
Apart from that, there may be other satellite stations to connect us to different parts of the country, which may be worked upon, and I’m hoping that by God’s grace, ACNN will grow more and more and will be able to reach not only within Nigeria, but across the world. It is our desire, just as our motto says, “Proclaiming the undiluted word of God,” that is what we stand for, and that is what we are working on.
But as of now, please tune in, especially in this challenging times, to ACNN and other platforms that you can key in, like VM Africa and follow the services. What is happening now really means that the Church may need to rethink the way we do ministry. We have seen that the pattern of church worship and ministry we have now can easily be disrupted by worldly system. It will only take a decree, a statement by the politician and we are put in disorder. I am believing God also that this is a learning process, and in this new evolving process, ACNN will play a key role in the ministry of the church. Whether, we like it or not, we cannot do without it. So, we ask for your support, we ask for your prayers and we ask that you patronise this station and God will bless you as you do so.
ACNN has, in recent times, faced challenges of disconnect with dioceses, especially rural areas, where ACNN has been calling most dioceses to equip their media outfit and ensure that they feed the station with information from their dioceses.
Do you have intention to educate clergy of the diocese of Abuja to equip churches to ensure that such crises never happen again?
I think COVID-19 came as a surprise; it came as a flood, and we never prepared for this. Be it as it may, I am seeing it as a learning process. We need to train and retrain, and in fact, both the Communication Desk and the Media will have to work out a strategy. If you can give us a proposal to actualise what you are proposing for the dioceses, I will discuss it with brother bishops and we will see how we will get about it because this is real. The experience of not allowed together has shown us that ministry has changed. The pattern and mode of ministry must change and I think that after this experience, we will sit together to work out modalities as to the way forward and your input will be very helpful.
What is your final word?
I want to appreciate all our fathers in God, all bishops and archbishops for their overwhelming support. We are encouraged, whenever we look back and see from across the country, prayers, text messages, encouraging words. We are also encouraged by the clergy across the country from all over: we literarily feel it. We appreciate the Laity. This Church is greatly endowed. In fact, working in this small Committee of Liturgy and Spirituality, we have not even scratched the surface of the endowment that we have: human resources, ministers and ministries in this church, the youths are yet to be tapped. Children ministry is such a virgin land and ministering to family is so important. We appreciate the women ministry. They have been a strong support and pillar for this church and we will always appreciate them. We are looking forward to our mothers, the Presidents of the dioceses working together with the Mama Nigeria and Mama Provinces to see that we move forward.
I am looking forward to working with our youths and I believe that they’re ready for the task ahead. We need to challenge them afresh, not only that, also some of them that have left Anglican Church and have founded their own ministries, our hands are open to receive them back with their ministries. There is a place for everyone, and I want to operate an open door administration. I am a team player. None of us is sufficient as our sufficiency is of the Lord. I am looking forward to mobilising everybody unto prayer, unto mission and unto supporting God’s work, not only in Nigeria, but also, the African mission, as well as the world mission. I am praying that the Lord will help us, keep us and move us from one level to another, to the glory of His Name…Amen!