As our nation stutters through political, economic and security concerns, it’s perhaps the best of times to turn attention to other matters weighing us down. And none else fits in like the spiritual and religious. This is all the more so as some of these other concerns other than these had been laying in abeyance for some time now. One of such issues concerns the fate of her Christianity. And though their faith wouldn’t let them, it can be argued that at no other time than now has the adherents of the religion been called to rethink about their future in this ‘geographic contraption’ as once upon a politician described it.
This is most portent because coincidentally it was the same figurehead that postulated the obnoxious theory that all is fair in war. Just to justify the starvation of the Biafrans during the genocides accompanying the 30-month Nigerian Civil War. By inference, this implies that unless Nigerian Christians rally together now, a war scenario would be used to justify the blind alley they have been deposited in. Yes, it can be argued without prejudice that at no other time than now has the converts to the worldwide faith in Nigeria been pigeon-holed into a corner than now. So much that the talk now – wherever more than a Christian is gathered – is about a rumoured plan by some unknown cabal to make the country a one-party, one-religion state.
Well, as is apparent from the supposition, it would appear as though the aggression on the Christians is external. But, though true to an extent, this does not hold out holistically. For taken as it really is, all Disciples of Christ in Nigeria should first search their own souls before going abroad. O yes, it’s necessary for them to make amends with their fellow Christians before blaming outsiders for their various woes. As it stands, instances abound where supposedly Christian brothers rather than cooperating with each other have often resorted to conflict. In fact, they are often only scarcely restrained from the exchange of blows by law enforcement.
The instances to cite to buttress this point are legion. For instance, as the Anambra State gubernatorial election approaches, the Anglican and Roman arms of the body of Christ are already at daggers drawn with each other. Citing unmitigated cases of marginalisation, the former has for some time now insisted that it was their turn to produce the chief executive of the state. Taken up on the scheme they easily reveal that ever since one of them completed just one of a possible two tenures as democracy returned in 1999, they had never smelled the seat again.
The first-generation congregations apart, we find that even newfangled sects, for want of a better appellation, have since joined the elongating queue. For instance, the vituperations poured out by many of T. B. Joshua’s colleagues following his recent demise are still fresh. Just like Canterbury will never align to a Roman directive, we now find a situation where our local denominations with no cleavage to these behemoths have towed these lines. Outstanding in these demarcations range the multifarious Pentecostal sects as well as the traditional Christian offshoots.
However, the development is hardly new. Like is within easy recall, this had always reared its ugly head up any time the denominations have had cause to tangle. However good the intention for the cooperation sounds, what is always found is unrestrained antagonism between the factions. Unlike when they were just missions being spearheaded by foreigners; when, indeed, most of them had even shared territory. Now following the indigenisation call and the rise of churches from these missionary efforts, the reverse has become the case over night.
Historically, this is traceable to the suspended Church Union Movement in Nigeria. Dating back to 1867 when Christian missions at work in the Nigerian vineyard sought cooperation, it came to a head in 1966. Then a union between the Anglicans, Methodists and Presbyterians was almost consummated before it collapsed at the last hour. The Baptists had earlier reneged after an initial agreement to join the fray. While no major disagreements were recorded in the theoretical aspects of the union, trouble only reared up a head as it reached the implementation of the agreements of union. Or, like a cynic did point out, trouble only started when it came to the sharing of spoils.
As recounted in Divided People of God: Church Union Movement in Nigeria 1867-1966 (NOK Publishers, New York, London, Lagos; 1978) by the late Professor O. U. Kalu, there were high hopes for the move. Following revitalised movements in ecumenism at the end of World War II, many saw it as the only thing left for the missions turned churches to fulfil their destiny in Christendom. Most especially as all the spearheads of the then multifarious calls for the indigenisation of African Christianity saw denominationalism as its sorest foot.
Anyway, apart from the failure of the aptly named Church of Nigeria back then, current events have served to call for a return to its drawing table. The enemy across the border apart, the Nigerian Anglican Church had in a bold move in 2002 changed their nomenclature most intelligibly. That was the year they now chose to be addressed as The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). As a possible way forward, the other partners to the collapsed effort might as well tow this trend. Who knows, perhaps a Moses could rise to save his people.
Following this, it can now be hoped that those that had missed the train then can now be cajoled to come along to unite Christ’s family here. And this, no doubt, was the original aim when Christ himself gave St Peter the key to the kingdom. Thus, rather than the perennially troubled Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), all the churches will become one – even if only on paper. An added impetus for this remains the current trend in the overseas version of these churches. While the Anglicans have since disengaged from Canterbury on account of same-sex issues, the Methodists have also lately ‘come tumbling after’ on the same account.
As modest as this proposal is, it is hoped that it wouldn’t end up riffling feathers. This is because the body of Christ in Nigeria should come out of its shell of perpetually sitting on the fence when its house is on fire. Christ came for one and all. The idea of preaching Christianity as though it is an alien belief ought to be jettisoned for good. And the only way this can be achieved is via letting us imbibe the Christian message without shibboleths. Christ’s message, therefore, ought to meet us in a direct attack rather than via colourations interposed by outsiders weeping more than the bereaved.
-Uzoatu wrote in from Onitsha, Anambra State.