The Episcopal Church, as readers of this blog know is a veritable cesspit. Whereas the Church of Nigeria is a model of unity and mature Christian discipleship, as well as being a beacon to the Anglican Communion.
Which is why this little dust-up over the weekend at St. Paul's Church in the Diocese of Lagos West is such a bummer, especially the part where congregants wouldn't let Bishop Peter Awelewa Adebiyi so much as speak to them:
As early as 6.45 am, the Bishop had arrived at the church with his entourage in preparation for the special service, which was billed for 7am. However, owing to the palpable tension in the premises of the sanctuary, he spent 1 hour, 45 minutes inside his vehicle.
At exactly 8.30 am, the Bishop, followed by his entourage, filed into the church in their robes with hearty songs when the church appeared to have started the service with loud songs of worship. But unknown to the Bishop, he was in for the shock of his life as the worshippers resisted his attempt to address them with endless songs.
The Bishop and his aides stood rooted in consternation for three-and-half hours as the worshippers, interspersed various Christian songs with others like "Bishop, go, pack and go!" All efforts by the Bishop and his co-visitors to have audience with the worshippers failed as, at a point, drumbeats were brought in to heighten the confusion. When it dawned on Rev Adebiyi that he would not have his way even if he waited all-day, he led his aides out of the bedlam at 12.01 noon.
Speaking with The Nation, he said: "What has happened here today is unbelievable; it was not the kind of thing that should happen even in a gathering of unbelievers. I feel terrible, appalled about it. It is sad."
PM News has more of the story:
The bishop and the members of the church have been at loggerheads over the sack of their former Vicar, Rev. C.E Mgbeokwere. The members protested that the Vicar was wrongly removed and since then they disowned the bishop and nobody has replaced the sacked one. The crisis got to a stage that the bishop ordered the closure of the church. But the members broke the lock and reopened the church and started conducting service on their own.
Efforts to settle the rift have so far failed.
P.M.NEWS gathered that during one of the reconciliation meetings, the bishop used a foul language by referring to the church members as illiterates and this compounded the matter and the members backed out of the meeting. On what led to the disgrace of His eminence, P.M.NEWS gathered that the church had fixed 20 June, 2010 (yesterday) for their Father’s Day celebration. But the bishop informed the church that he was coming on that day and conduct the service and possibly make peace with the members.
The members told him that he should change the date as they had slated that day for the celebration of Father’s Day. The bishop refused and said that the church was under him.
Sophomoric point scoring aside (couldn't resist) the conflict in which the bishop found himself caught is actually a familiar one in churches around the world: to what extent does ethnic identity shape church governance. The feud at St. Paul's has a lengthy backstory rooted in ethnic tensions:
At the centre of the conflict are the Bishop of the Lagos West Diocese, Peter Adebiyi, and the 14-member senior church council of St Paul’s Anglican Church, Mushin. At a press conference on January 30, the church council accused Bishop Adebiyi of ethnic sentiments, insensitivity and high-handedness.
The parish is dominated by Igbo-speaking members, which is reflected in its name and description as St Paul’s (Igbo) Anglican Church.
But the name is not the bone of contention. Rather the members are at war with the Bishop because, among other allegations, the latter dissolved the church council, an action the feuding members consider as illegal and had ethnic colouration.
“Within the past eight years, we as a congregation have suffered silently and borne the weight of concealed hate, tribalism and unguarded discriminatory attitude and utterances of this bishop, who has roundly failed us both as a bishop and father. Bishop Adebiyi has at every opportunity demonstrated dictatorial nepotism and characteristic tribalism in handling affairs that impact our congregation at St Paul’s Church, Mushin,” the council said through Mr Richard Agbamisere.
The bishop is clearly in an unenviable position. However, he can take comfort in owning an important distinction, He is the only bishop we know of with his own ringtone.