Encyclical to the Anglican membership in the church of Nigeria

The Primate, Archbishops and Bishops, on behalf of the clergy and laity of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), received the shocking news of the ratification of the liturgy for same-sex marriages and the subsequent same-sex marriage in the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada, under the Rt Revd M C Ingham.

The Lambeth Conference of 5 August 1998 approved a resolution on sexuality by 526 votes for, 78 against with 45 abstentions. The resolution says inter alia:

"[The Lambeth Conference] in view of the teaching of scripture, upholds faithfulness in marriage, between a man and a woman in lifelong union and believes that abstinence is a right for those who are not called to marriage".

The resolution concludes:

"...it cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same-sex unions nor the ordination of those involved in such unions".

The Church of Nigeria unequivocally condemns the action of Bishop Ingham and the Diocese of Westminster, Canada, which constitutes a violation of Scripture and breaks faith with the popular resolutions of the 1998 Lambeth Conference. Our Primate, on behalf of the Archbishops, Bishops and the entire membership of the Church of Nigeria severed relationships with the Bishop and his Diocese on 30 May 2003. This move has been welcomed by Anglicans around the world. Letters of support continue to pour into the Primate's office.

While we painfully sever our relationship with this erring Diocese, we commit ourselves to love and fellowship with any church or group of churches within the Communion who stand with us on this matter. The Church of England Newspaper of 10 April 2003 reported that Bishop Ingham is accused of bullying eleven (11) clergymen opposed to his unbiblical actions and threatening to revoke their license.

We deplore such victimisation and commend the Rt Revd Terrence Buckle of Yukon Diocese, Canada, who has offered Episcopal support to these brave priests. We also urge Anglicans worldwide to join in condemning these unscriptural actions in a bid to save the communion from heresy.

We are equally concerned that in clear violation of 1998 Lambeth Resolutions which advised against ordination of those in same-sex relationships, the Diocese of New Hampshire in USA has elected as bishop, 55 year old Canon V Gene Robinson, a professed gay clergy who abandoned his wife and two children to live with his gay lover. This is a tragedy for the Anglican Communion worldwide and the Church of Nigeria condemns this heretical move. We urge the Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA) not just to refuse to ratify this election, but to take measures to forestall any such moves in the future. Anything less will further threaten the already fragile relationship that ECUSA has with the Anglican Communion worldwide.

We are mindful of the backlash this strong stand can engender from the rich Churches in Europe, America and Canada, who have long used their wealth to intimidate the financially weak Churches in Africa. Our boldness in condemning the spiritual bankruptcy of these Churches must be matched by our refusal to receive financial help from them. This means that we must become self-reliant as a matter of urgency so that we will not only meet our own needs locally, but also those of our poor African brethren who have long depended on handouts from the rich Churches of the western world.

Your prompt contribution to the Endowment Fund will make these happen and ensure that the Church of Nigeria is able to play a vital role, which we believe God is calling her to play, in His world.

Most Revd Peter J Akinola DD

Primate of All Nigeria