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Brief History

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

In 1842 and 1846, Christianity was successfully introduced into Nigeria through Badagry and Calabar respectively. This renewed effect (after the unsuccessful attempt in the 15TH Century by the Portuguese to Christianize Benin and Warri) came from the liberated Africans- former slaves- who were resettled in Sierra Leone by the anti-slavery societies. While in Sierra Leone, many of them had Western education and some became teachers, clerks, artisans, farmers or prosperous businessmen. Towards the end of the 1830’s many of Sierra Leonians sought permission to emigrate to the Eastern part of the West Coast of Africa. Thus in 1840, the batch comprising 14 Sierra Leonians emigrated to Badagry.

Consequently on 24th September, 1842. Thomas Birch Freeman and Willam De Graft arrived in Badagry where they built a church and a house.. In December 1842, Freeman also visited Abeokuta where he was warmly received not only by the emigrates but by Sodeke, who was the Egba leader and his chiefs. Before long, Christianity spread rapidly to Ijaye, Oyo,   Ilesha, and Ogbomosho as well as Ondo.

Having established themselves in Nigeria, these mission realized that the costs of maintaining European officials in Nigeria was enormous and worse still many of the Europeans who were in Nigeria died . To solve the problem of acute staff shortage, the mission restored to recruiting and training indigenous people for their missionary work. Reverend Henry Venn, secretary of the CMS Mission believed that the ideal of the native pastorate (that is the church government by indigenous men) would relieve the CMS of pumping more funds for further evangelizatn as well as make Christianity indigenous in Africa. For this session, Samuel Ajayi Crowther, an Africa, was appointed as the Bishop of the Niger Mission. This opened the eyes of many of the educated African who continued to agitate for more independence in church government. 

EMERGENCE OF THE AFRICAN CHURCH

One can say the real implementation of the ideal of The Native Pastorate stated when James Johnson took over Breadfruit Church, which was undoubtedly the most important and the wealthiest Church in Lagos. Due to the effort of indefatigable Johnson by 1889   all the Churches in Lagos save one, that is , the Christ Church, where Europeans and most Europeanized Africans worshipped, were absorbed into the Native Pastorate. By this  token, Europeans were no longer in ministerial positions in such Churches, the prayers for the native kings, thus signifying the march towards the establishment of an African Church .James Johnson, had always believed  that the Native Pastorate would form the nucleus of an African Church which would evolve distinctly African Christianity and would incorporate some parts of indigenous religion which bore resemblance to Christianity,  adopt the vernacular languages, have its own hymns and liturgy. Later on, the founding of the African Church (Bethel) had its root in the unwillingness of the missionary societies to appoint an African especially James Johnson to the highest position in the Anglican Church following the resignation and later, death of Bishop Ajayi Crowther in 1891. This created the sharp difference between European missionaries and Africans. The 1894 settlement thereby an African Diocesan Bishop sought by African majority was turned down, while assistant Bishop in person of Isaac Oluwoleand Charles Phillips were appointed to cover up this obvious retrogressive move made many Africans  become disillusioned with the European missionaries. In December 2893, the three Bishops- Isaac Oluwole, Charles Phillips and Hill returned to Lagos after their ordination in London. In January 1894, however Bishop Hill and his wife died while Herbert Tug well, was consecrated to replace him. Owing to persistent agitation of Africans, particularly in Breadfruit Church, James Johnson was made the assistant Bishop over the Niger Delta in 1899. He immediately announced his Niger Bishopric fund, to which the Archbishop contributed the offertory collected at the consecration service.

 However, the CMS authority felt that James Johnson’s presence in Breadfruit Church was undermining the authority and influence of Bishop Oluwole. He (James Johnson) was therefore demanded to resign his pastoral care of the Breadfruit Church. This view became unpopular amongst the congregation of the Church who preferred James Johnson to any other Minister. In July 1901, Bishop Johnson was away on Episcopal visit to the Delta when Bishop.  Tug well announced that his (Johnson’s) resignation from Breadfruit Church had taken effect. On his return, Johnson found his family and belongings thrown out of the street as he was not allowed residence in the Church vicarage. This fury was aggravated by Mrs. Johnson during the crisis. It was in the midst of this that Nathaniel Johnson was appointed the successor of James Johnson. His appointment was met with stiff opposition and protest by the laity congregation of Breadfruit Church against such treatment and the unwholesome clergy’s authoritarian tendency. It was clear that by the turn of the 19th Century, grounds had been well prepared for the emergence of the African Church.

Thus on the morning of Sunday, October 13th 1901, Bishop James Johnson came to St. Paul’s Breadfruit, Lagos to conduct his valedictory service. It then dawned on his supporters who were in the majority among the congregation that their pleas to have him with them had finally fallen on deaf ears. Bishop Tegwell was quoted as saying that those parishioners who did not want Rev.Nathaniel Johnson, the new vicar, could leave the Church. to parishioners, numbering about 600, than left st. Paul’s Breadfruit before the commencement of sermon and marched towards Rose Cottage, the residence of the Church warden, Chief Jacob Kehinde Coker, Singing and chanting as they went. By the time the procession arrived at Rose Cottage, the residence other number had swollen up to about 800. The procession that day was more of a protest march than session. As J.k Coker recounted later, they severed themselves at once without any protect, without any preparation or arrangement for the journey to be undertaken’. at Rose Cottage, they resolve not to go back to St. Paul’s Breadfruit. They wanted to be independence Church within the establishment still accepting the authority of Salisbury Square, London, the Headquarters of CMS.

CHURCH ADMINISTRATION

The administration style of the Church is such that both the clergy and laity share power equally. No one group dominates the other as they guided by the constitution of the Church. The spiritual/ overall head of the Church remains the Primate who oversees the spiritual matters affecting the Church. Similarly, The Bishop and other Minister are in charge of Spiritual matters in their Dioceses and Churches respectively. on the other hand, the finance and other temporal matters of the Church are being supervised by the Lay President and other lay officer at different state of the Church.

Names of The Primates of the Church since inception are as follows:

  1. Jacob Sylvanuss Williams                                    (1922-1933)
  2. John Afuwape Lakeru                                            (1935-1956)
  3. Emmanuel Motilewa Olulode                               (1956-1962)
  4. Adeola Aboyade Cole                                             (1963-1969)
  5. Daniel Okelola Ogunmodede                              (1979-1974)
  6. Joel Ogunmade Ademulegun                              (1975-1985)
  7. Oluwole Ajediti                                                         (1985-1988)
  8. Oluwunmi Opeyemi                                                (1988-1992)
  9. S.O.B Oyewoye                                                      (1988-2000)
  10. Olumuyiwa O.Onanuga                                         (2000-2009)
  11. Emmanuel J. Udofia                                               (2009 To Date)

Names of the Lay Presidents of the Church in since inception are as follows:

1.    A.W Thomas                                                                   (1904-1921)

2.    J.H. Glover Willoughby                                                  (1921)

3.    J.Abudu Thomas                                                            (1922-1924)

4.    J.K Coker                                                                         (1925-1927)

5.    N.T.O Davies                                                                  (1927-1928)

6.    Ade Olugbile                                                                   (1929-1934)

7.    S.L. Akinnoso                                                                 (1934-1939)

8.    J.H Glover Willoughby                                                   (1940-1941)

9.    J. Akinande Thomas                                                     (1941-1946)

10. Adesigbin                                                                         (1947- 1953)

11. E.I Joseph                                                                        (1953-1956)

12. E.S Akinyemi                                                                    (1956-1964)

13. D.A Olaiya                                                                         (1964-1968)

14. E.O Okunowo                                                                   (1968-1978)

15. A. A Adesigbin                                                                  (1979-1982)

16. Adeniyi Coker                                                                   (1982-1985)

17. S.A. Dada                                                                          (1987-1992)

18. Oba S.K.A Adedoyin                                                        (1992-1997)

19. S.B. Oludemi                                                                    (1997-2002)           

20. Wole Odusanya                                                                (2002-2007)

21. B.J Samuel Horsfall                                                         ( 2007 to date)      

 

THE FAITH AND LITURGY OF THE CHURCH                                    

The African Church receives and accepts the Holy Bible as its standard of faith. Therefore, the doctrine of the church remains firmly established in the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. The church believes the Holy Scriptures, both of the old and new testaments are inspired word of God and contain every guiding principle necessary for our Salvation. Therefore should be taught as the supreme authority of our faith.      

It acknowledges that the church universal is the Body of Christ and its members, though many and individual, are yet member of the one and same Body, according to the will and purpose of God.

As for the Liturgy of the Church, The African Church believes in the assemble of the faithful in any place marked and consecrated for the purpose of worship. Such assemblies are led in public worship following the set order or pattern of worship by ordained clergy or appointed members of the laity who have received training and licensed or commissioned to lead in the act of worship.

GEOGRAPHICAL SPREAD

The African is found in almost all part of Nigeria with more concentration in the South-West. As at today, it has 30 Dioceses with about 529 parishes and local Churches across the country. The Church has some branches in The Republic of Benin and in the United Kingdom.      

RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER BODIES

The Africa Church associate freely with other Christian          denominations and organizations that promote and support the advancement and ideals of Christianity both locally and globally. Some of the bodies include the following;       

  • Communion of African Churches    -     COAC
  • Christian Association of Nigeria      -     CAN
  • Christian Council of Nigeria             -     CCN
  • Bible Society of Nigeria                     -     BSN
  • World Council of Church                   -     WCC

EDUCATION

The African Church lives and supports educational developmental development in Nigeria. It has to its credit the establishment of several primary and secondary schools across the country, a college of Theology in Ifako, Lagos which is affiliated to the University of Ibadan for the training of the clergy and award of degrees. Currently a National College of Education for the award of NCE Certificate in September 2007 at Ifako by grace of God.

CONCLUSION

THE African Church has a constitution and this has been subjected to a number of reviews. The current constitution is undergoing a review for necessary amendments.