Rt. Rev. Dr. Jonathan B.B. Hart, Bishop of the Episcopal Church of Liberia, has been enthroned as Archbishop of the Internal Province of West Africa (in the Church of the Province of West Africa).
The enthronement service was held yesterday at Trinity Cathedral on Broad Street, Monrovia.
As Archbishop of the Internal Province of West Africa, the Most Rev. Jonathan Hart will have oversight responsibility for six Dioceses—Liberia, Bo-Freetown, Gambia, Guinea and Cameroon.
The occasion was graced by the presence of nearly 20 archbishops, bishops and other church and leading personalities from the sub region, clergymen and women from the Episcopal churches in Liberia and other parts of West Africa. Also present for the enthronement the Vice President of Liberia, Ambassador Joseph N. Boakai.
Speaking at the enthronement service, the Most Rev. Dr. Justice O. Akrofi, eighth Primate & Metropolitan of the Church of the Province of West Africa (CPWA) and former bishop of Accra, said the Province had not been static.
He said the Liberian Episcopal Diocese was originally part of the Episcopal Church of United States of America but under Diocesan Bishop George Daniel Browne, Liberia became an associate member of the CPWA and later on became a permanent member of the Province.
According to Archbishop Akrofi, such was the integration that, not only did Bishop Browne become Archbishop of the Province but also when Liberia went through the dreadful experience of civil war, the rest of the Province shared in their pain.
Rev. Akrofi noted that at the time Archbishop Browne had to go into hiding for the sake of safety, the administration of the Province suffered too.
Membership of the Province, which according to him is not just a matter of card-holding membership but it is, more important a fundamental integration into a body, the body of Christ in West Africa.
“We are limbs of the one body. And so the joys of one member, a limb are the joys of the other members; and the pain of one is the pain of the other,” said Most Rev. Akrofi.
Also the former Bishop of Accra, Most Rev. Akrofi reminded the congregation that Archbishop Hart is being called to be the heart of that body, the body of Christ in West Africa-minus Nigeria and Ghana.
“Yes, it is a story of integration; a story of growth, a sign of a living body. When the Province of West Africa started in 1951, it consisted of some six dioceses, including Freetown, Barthust (now Banjul, The Gambia), Gold Coast (now Ghana), Lagos and the Missionary Diocese of Northern Nigeria.”
Today, the Archbishop said, the Internal Province of West Africa includes; Liberia Gambia, Conakry-Guinea, Bo-Freetown, and Cameroon.
To this must be added for now the emerging Province of Ghana, which consists of Accra, Cape Coast, Ho, Koforidua, Kumasi, Sekondi, Sunyari, Tamale, Wiawso and Surkina-on-offin.
“This installation or enthronement service should remind us that Episcopalians in Liberia are an integral part of the bigger part and to challenge you to revisit the question of how vital, vibrant and viable a part of that entire body you are and should be.”
However, the Most Rev. Akrofi said even if the imagery of royal priesthood is in our store of images, “let me suggest that because one of the primary images of church is God’s household, it is perhaps more primary and appropriate to think of the church’s leadership as father-in God.
“And so today, Archbishop Hart is symbolically taking his place as father of fathers in God’s household. He is called to be in the image our father in heaven,” the Ghanaian prelate said.
Bishop Hart was elected as Archbishop of the IPWA as the result of the death of the Most Rev. Dr. Solomon Tilewa Ethelbert Willie Johnson, who died in office on the 21st of January, 2014.