The Rev. Jesse Zink (Episcopalian) has written a paper about Anglicans in Nigeria, (here). His paper shows a fusion of Anglican and Pentecostal beliefs. For example:
Rather than persist in their opposition, some Anglican leaders began to embrace the new religious practices. Kailing noticed this in the early 1990s. A revival in the Niger Delta Diocese was held and ‘posters promoting the program, promising miracles of healing and deliverance, were indistinguishable from the innumerable pentecostal evangelical posters which dot the city throughout the year’. At the event, when the bishop began to speak ‘virtually everything he said could have come from a pentecostal evangelical primer’.The chancellor of the diocese, a respected judge, spoke and began by saying, ‘I was born an Anglican, but now I am an Anglican pentecostal!’ This single event is indicative of a broader trend of profound changes worth examining in detail. The factors associated with Pentecostalism – worship, a gospel of prosperity, an awareness of the supernatural world, a tendency to dismiss other Christians, and a unique weight given to the Bible – have all, to one degree or another, worked their way into the character of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion).
The archdeacon quoted at the beginning of this paper 1)‘If the Pentecostals are singing and dancing around, let us do that too. Let the pastor jump around. Let us change the liturgy.’ is a good example of the change in worship styles, in his willingness to set aside a liturgical heritage to embrace new charismatic practices. Indeed, worship services in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) have become charismatic and free-flowing. At one service of evening prayer I attended, the open intercessions included two participants speaking in tongues. When that concluded, the congregation recited the Apostles’ Creed together. At a separate service, a bishop of a major eastern diocese told the congregation that ‘our services are lively. The spirit is in our liturgy and that gives us power.’ Few Anglican bishops of the 1970s or 1980s would have thought a ‘lively’ service a good thing. The liveliness is, in part, attributable to new music. Mainline congregations have begun to use music generated by the neo-Pentecostals. The use of drums and dancing has also gradually spread into churches. Although the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has recently adopted a new prayer book, its text does not seem to be widely adhered to. In one service I attended, the invitation to confession – one sentence in the prayer book – took nearly ten minutes, as the worship leader reminded the congregation of God’s forgiveness and the importance of repentance, citing examples from Scripture and his own life. I asked an archdeacon in an eastern diocese if he used the set prayers in his church. ‘Not very much’, he responded. ‘Mostly we use extemporaneous prayers. But,’ he quickly added, ‘it is still within the ambit of Anglicanism’. (It is unclear whom or what he thought set the parameters of this ‘ambit’.) While the prayer book is still a part of the church, these examples show the way in which it can be submerged in contemporary worship practices.
Zink says that the Prosperity Gospel is deeply embedded in Nigerian Anglicanism.
The prosperity gospel of neo-Pentecostals has – as the bishop quoted at the beginning of the paper noted – begun to exercise an increasing influence over Anglican preachers. In one eastern diocese, the same bishop who noted the ‘lively’ services preached an hour-long sermon, the first half of which was on the opening verses of the book of Joshua, in which God reaffirms the gift of the Promised Land. The bishop referenced the death of Moses, with which the passage begins:
Your past represents the Biblical Moses. This morning I see little Joshuas sitting in this congregation, thinking about the challenges they will face in the future. Is anyone here a Joshua? God knows there are challenges ahead of you. That is why he is making you a Joshua. Today, heaven is laying a hand on you to do wonders in your life and family. Someone will arise this morning. There is a family that has been living in crisis that will come out of that crisis this morning.
Citing problems like a lack of money and sickness, he continued, ‘Somebody is going to cross over this morning. You will go over that Jordan. Your future will be greater than your past. As from today, anywhere you put the sole of your feet, he will give it to youy. Jesus is calling you with more power than he called Joshua.’ The sermon was greeted with enthusiastic ‘amens’ and ‘hallelujahs’ from the congregation. (A later section of the sermon, on the importance of unity within church congregations, failed to generate any such response.) Nor was this the only such sermon. In a northern diocese, a priest preached on a portion of Lk. 6.38, ‘give and it will be given you’, with no mention of any of the context of the passage. His message was simple: ‘He has promised you as an individual that you will overflow.’ At another service, when it came time for the offering, the pastor announced ‘Offering time!’ and the people responded as one, ‘Blessing time!’
Given the continued ACNA ties to Nigeria via GAFCON and CANA, American Anglicans would do well to educate themselves on what their Church partners believe. The Church in Nigeria is a suffering Church, under assault from Islam, but how much do we know about it beyond that?
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