(A SYNOD LECTURE DELIVERED BY THE RT REVD DR SAMUEL OLUBAYO SOWALE, THE BISHOP OF ILESHA DIOCESE AT THE 3RD SESSION OF THE 6TH SYNOD OF THE DIOCESE OF LAGOS WEST ON FRIDAY, MAY 19, 2017 HELD AT AVMCC, IKEJA, LAGOS)
Definition of terms: )
Efficacy: The ability of something and effectiveness; the products of something or what is expected of a particular body. )
Anglican – Church of England; of a church connected with the Church of England in other countries. We refer to all of them as Anglican Communion. )
Diocese: The area of the jurisdiction of a particular Diocese in our case, Diocese of Lagos West. )
Synod: An assembly consisting of the Diocesan Bishop and the Houses of clergy and Laity of the Diocese as constituted under the Constitution. )
What is a Diocese? A collection of churches or convocation of churches in a giving area who agree to come together for the purpose of effective administration and spiritual oversight of a Bishop is called a Diocese in the Anglican Communion. The convocation of churches would have committed themselves to supplying the needs of the Diocese in terms of infrastructures and finance. Above all they must have committed themselves to the physical and spiritual growth of the Diocese. )
All these would have been put in place through proper records of such commitment before the General Synod of the Church approved the Diocese for inauguration. A synod delegate is an officer of the diocese and therefore of the Bishop. The matter of the Diocese takes priority over that of the parish. An understanding of this will remove frictions at Parochial church Council. )
It is necessary also to know that the Anglican Church is Episcopally led and Synodically governed. Hence all decisions and resolutions at Synod are jointly taken and the parish must carry them out to letters. The decisions on properties of local parish are taken in relation to the Diocese who is the rightful owners of all properties of local parish or congregation. )
Guidelines for Creation of Autonomous diocese)
1. The need for creation of Diocese: )
(a) Distance from the residual Diocese and lack enough Episcopal oversight. )
(b) No Anglican presence and the area is vast for evangelism and Church planting. )
2. Viability: )
(a) Will the residual Diocese be viable after the creation of a new Diocese? )
(b) How viable is the new area to be so created as a Diocese? )
3. Geographical contiguity or jurisdiction of the new Diocese; the map of the area and historical linkages. )
4. What are the infrastructures in place? Bishopscourt, Cathedral, Administrative block, Bishop’s Car and a bus for the Diocese e.t.c. )
5. Population of the people in the area. )
6. Unanimity of the people in the area asking for a Diocese. Is there a firm commitment to the quest for the Diocese? )
This must be visible by the resolution of each congregation in the said area. )
The financial commitment must be known and verified in the quest for such a creation. )
7. The synod led by the Bishop is the constituted body which recommends creation of a new Diocese after being satisfied about the above. The Bishop then takes the application to the Primate for Standing Committee approval. )
The synod is the annual general meeting of the elected representatives of each congregation in a Diocese. The synod meets to discuss and decide on questions of policy, government and teaching in the Church. Its delegates, who are elected for a session of the Synod, which is three years, represent every parish or congregation in the Diocese. )
The synod is composed of representatives of people from our parishes and congregations, Legal officers, Special members of Synod, Bishop’s nominees and Advisers. Decisions taken at Synod are binding on all parishes and congregations. Parishes and congregations exist at the pleasure of the Diocese as no parish or congregation is a legal entity. All officers of the parish or congregation are Bishop’s officers. As a matter of fact, the Bishop is the vicar and pastor of every parish or congregation in his Diocese. He has priests, pastors, catechists and agents as his representatives. All synod delegates, wardens, parish councilors and workers in the Diocese are responsible to the Bishop. The disposition of the workers belongs to the Bishop exclusively. )
The synod of a Diocese directs the day-to-day running in a particular parish. The Synod’s Resolution is binding on all members of the diocese.
In the Anglican Communion, Jesus Christ is the owner of His Church. The bishop is His representative in the Diocese. The Bishop administers the Diocese on behalf of Jesus Christ. The Bishop also represents the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Anglican World. Hence the Bishop is the Chief accounting officer of his Diocese. The Synod Delegates are there to help the Bishop in the administration of parishes. As such the work is that of team ministry.
Assessment when passed on to parishes are to be paid since budget for the year is agreed upon by representatives of each archdeaconries and parishes at the Diocesan Finance Board and Diocesan Board.
Assessment is spent on:
1) Provincial assessment and levies – i.e. Church of Nigeria, DIVCCON, GAFCON, Relief Fund, St. Mattia’s Day Collection, Advent Sunday Collection.
2) Stipends of Priests and Salaries of Workers.
3) Ecclesiastical Provincial of Lagos / Ecclesiastical assessment and levies 4) Supra-Diocesan Board of Finance (West) Assessment – Theological Seminaries,
Pension & Gratuity.
5) Travels, conferences, Synod and Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria and other meetings, (Delegates – Clergy & Lay)
6) Episcopal meetings.
7) Mission and Evangelism.
8) Welfare and social services
9) Maintenance of the Diocesan headquarters:
(a) Maintenance of Bishopscourt and Bishop’s office
(b) Maintenance of vehicles, fueling and insurance
(c) Various Travels – Local / Overseas
(d) Meetings Provincial Ecclesiastical, Standing Committee & Provincial Synod
(e) Diocesan Institutions, Schools / Hospitals
The Greek word ‘episkopoi’ means Bishop, which also means an overseer. Bishops are successors of the apostles. The apostolic succession usually referred to, finds expression in bishops, who trace their ministry back to the apostles, and to Jesus Christ. Bishops in today’s Church are just like what the apostles were in the Early Church.
It is a fact of history that, at the Reformation, some Churches abolished the Episcopal ministry but Anglicanism retained it because of the belief that episcopacy is the normal method for the transmission of ministerial authority. Anglicanism accepts episcopacy as part of the life of the Church, and Episcopal ordination as the rule of the Church. For any meaningful dialogue of Church Union with the Anglican, the institution of Episcopal ministry must be a condition for such a union.
WHO THEN IS A BISHOP IN ANGLICAN COMMUNION?
Throughout the Anglican Communion today, bishops are chosen by a process of nomination, election and confirmation – a process that varies in its application from one member Church to another.
A bishop is entrusted with a daunting role and is asked to do an extremely difficult job. Some clergy crave a bishopric and think that somehow they deserve it, but if they get it, they find it is not quite what they hoped for. There is always a sense that a prospective bishop should shrink from the responsibilities that will be thrust upon him. There is an ancient tradition of reluctance: the candidate would decline twice over, sincerely or in pretence, with the words, Nolo episcopari (“I do not want to be a bishop”). Some would say that a bishop has a thankless task. But a bishop is not a bishop in order to be thanked. A bishop’s first thought will be, in the words of St. Paul, “Who is sufficient for these things?” Lancelot Andrews, an eminent, scholarly bishop in early 17th century England, had those words engraved on his Episcopal seal. But a bishop will answer that question in the same way that St. Paul does: “Our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 2.16; 3.5, KJB).
The bishop’s first priority in fulfilling the role that is thrust upon him is not to ask, “How well am I doing?” or, “How am I going down with my people?”, but to be faithful to the calling that they have received from God and the Church. If a bishop’s aim in life is to please the people and to be a popular figure that everyone loves, he or she will be a dismal failure as a bishop. A bishop seeking popularity is doomed to fail; their integrity is already draining away. “Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets” (Luke 6.26). As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “You can please all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time”.
In the Anglican Communion there is a continuous succession of bishops, going back to the apostolic age, which is one of the ways (though not necessarily the most important) in which we know that the church of today is the same church as the church of the apostles – that the church is apostolic. It is clear from the study of church history that the Anglican understanding of episcopacy and its practice has evolved considerably over the centuries, as it has in the Roman Catholic Church. However, there is a strong case for thinking that the essentials have remained much the same over time, while the emphasis on different aspects of Episcopal ministry has varied. Anglicans look not only to Scripture, but also to patristic and medieval, as well as to Reformation and modern, models of episcopacy as sources for how they understand that ministry now.
BISHOPS are regarded in Anglican, as well as in Orthodox and Roman Catholic ecclesiology, as successors of the Twelve Apostles.
The Diocese is a unit representing the Anglican Communion Worldwide and in particular representing the Diocese of Lagos West. The preface, the oneness of the Diocese is spelt out in the preface. I now quote the preface, p.300:
DECLARATIONS AND OATHS
The Church of Nigeria is part of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church worshipping the One, True God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. She professes the faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the Catholic Creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. Led by the Holy Spirit, she has borne witness to Christian truth in her historic formularies, the thirty-nine articles of religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the ordering of Bishops, Priests and Deacons. In the declaration you are about to make, will you affirm your loyalty to this inheritance of faith as your inspiration and guidance under God in bringing the grace and truth of Christ to this generation and making Him known to those in your care?
Archbishop: Let the Oaths be taken and the declaration made.
At the consecration of Bishops, ordination of Priests and Deacons. The Bishop, Priests and Deacons take Oath and declaration as follows, pg.300:
THE CONSECRATION OATHS
I,…. Now to be ordained Deacon/Priest/Bishop do so affirm, and accordingly declare my belief in the faith which is revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the Catholic Creed and to which the historic formularies of the Church of Nigeria bear witness; and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments. I will use only the forms of service which are authorized or allowed by Canons.
The Declaration of Submission to Synod
I do also declare that I consent to be bound by the regulations of the Diocese/Province and Canons which have been made, or which may hereafter by made by the Diocesan/Provincial Synod or may otherwise have lawful effect in Diocese/Province.
The Oaths of Canonical Obedience
(The Deacons/Priests / Bishop holding the Bible in Uplifted right hand will say): I, N …. Do swear by Almighty God that I will pay true and canonical obedience to the Bishop of ….Diocese/Primate/Province/Church of Nigeria … and his successors in all things lawful and honest.
The Oaths of Submission
And I hereby undertake to accept and immediately submit to any sentence depriving me of any or all the rights and emoluments appertaining to the office of Deacon/Priest/Bishop, which may at any time be passed upon me after due examination by the Bishop, Archbishop acting under the constitution of the Diocese of … Province of Church of Nigeria.
I agree to exercise the said office of Deacon/Priest/Bishop so long as may be required of me by the Bishop of … Diocese/Archbishop/Primate and his successors. So help me god. Amen. (The Deacons/Priests/Bishops touch their forehead with the Bible).
The Oath of Allegiance to God
I, N…confess before God and His Church that I have never been a member of any secret cult. I also vow that I will never join any secret cult, that I owe allegiance to no other but to the Lord Jesus Christ: and that my loyalty to Him will always be absolute, total and undivided. If I go back on this oath and vow, I put myself under the wrath of God, in the name of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I, N… confess before God and His Church that I was once a member of a secret cult. I confess that I have renounced my membership of it. I also vow before God and His Church that I will never again join any secret cult; as from now on, my allegiance will always be to no other but to the Lord Jesus Christ; and that my loyalty to Him will always be absolute, total, and undivided. If I go back on this oath and vow, I put myself under the wrath of God, in the Name of God the Father, God the Son and god the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Here Bishops, Priests and Deacons take oath to be bound by the regulations of the Diocese, Province and canons which have been made or which may hereafter be made by the Diocesan / Provincial Synod or may otherwise have lawful effect in the Diocese / Province etc.
The unique position of the Diocese is found in what our Lord Jesus Christ said in John 15:1-4, I quote, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” The Diocese is owned by Jesus Christ who is the vine and all other parts, Cathedral, Parishes and Congregations are the branches.
Hence no parish or congregation is a legal entity. The parishes are recognized by law in as much as they remain part of the Diocese.
The power to determine and create numbers of Archdeaconries and parishes is vested on the Synod through the Diocesan Board. You will recall that the Bishop is the Chairman of Board of Finance as well as Diocesan Board. He is also the Chairman of the Cathedral Greater Chapter. No synod holds when the Bishop is not presiding in any Diocese.
The first gathering of the church Council that took place in A.D. 49 is referred to as the Council of Jerusalem – Acts 15. It gave guidelines on what the gentile converts should uphold.
No parish or congregation owns anything. All properties of parishes and congregations belong to the Diocese. Hence all documents – surveys of land and certificates of occupancy should be kept at the Diocesan office with the Registrar.
All monies of the parish and congregations belong to the Diocese. If any parish disagrees with the directives of the Diocese through the Synod, the people are free to leave but they can not take away even a pin from the Church. This is why when a church is consecrated for use. The Deed of Consecration is kept in the Diocesan office.
The church therefore is the body of Christ with many members. Each member must function properly for the soundness of the body. (1 Corinthians 12:17 – 27),
“If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those parts of the body which we think less honourable we invest with the greater honour, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so adjusted the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” So we can sing –
We are heirs of the Father
We are joint heirs with the Son
We are children of the Kingdom
We are family, we are one..
The above shows that in a Diocese there is one vision and one mission. Each parish must key into that of the Diocese as directed by the Bishop.
The Bishop is the shepherd of the Diocese. Jesus is the Chief Shepherd. All those who hold the Bishop’s licenses are under shepherds. The direction of the Diocese is towards discipling the people for the kingdom of God.
Some people in our church are of the opinion that Anglican Communion Bishops are too powerful. The truth of the matter is that the people give the Bishops the powers we complain about. Exercising authority is one of the ways the Anglican Communion operates. He has to execute what the Synod passed as resolutions.
The Church is a human organization regulated by rules and regulations. It is the duty of the Bishops to protect the Church from internal erosion of its policies and external aggression of the same. The Bishops oversee the right ordering of the church. They have the right to enforce discipline of the clergy and the laity who have fallen foul to laid down rules and regulations. The role of exercising authority is very crucial to the bishops. If the administration of which the bishops preside is not to be reduced to a huge joke, the Bishops must not fail to use their authority to effect discipline in order to ensure conformity and compliance. In exercising this role, they have to punish but punishment must be seen to correct behavior and not reduce man’s dignity and worth. Andiran Chatfield says “Bishops also stand under the discipline they have set and are answerable to the people of God. The constitutions of the province and that of his Diocese is his guide. We realize that The Bishop multiplies enemies whenever:
1) He disciplines an erring priest or laity
2) Whenever he prefers deserving priests and
3) Whenever he transfers.
The Bishops take care of those placed in their care. They show love and compassion reminiscent of Christ towards those for whom they have responsibility. They have always cared for the social, economic, religious and material needs of their members. They settle conflicts among the clergy and between the clergy and laity.
Whenever the Bishop said ‘We’ he is acting for the 3 houses; the House of Bishops, the House of Clergy and the House of Laity.
It is clear from the above that the Synod directs, regulates and approves what is done in a particular Diocese and the Bishop ensures that all the directives of the Synod are carried out.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. S. Olubayo Sowale
The Diocesan Bishop, Diocese of Ilesa
Osun State, Nigeria