The Most Rev. Jonathan B.B. Hart, bishop of Diocese of Episcopal Diocese of Liberia, was yesterday enthroned as the Archbishop of the Internal Province of West Africa (IPWA) in the Church of the Province of West Africa (CPWA).
Ghanaian Archbishop, the Most Rev. Dr. Justice O. Akrofi, who preached the sermon at yesterday’s enthronement, said the ceremony marked both a church in integration and one of growth of Anglicanism in West Africa. In other words Most Rev. Hart’s elevation as head of the Internal Province of West Africa indicates that these churches within represent a departure from the Anglican churches in Nigeria and Ghana, both of which, in the past, were part of the CPWA.
The Province represented Anglican churches all over West Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Guinea.
But soon the churches in Nigeria began spreading and it became necessary for that country to form its own Province. Today there are several Provinces in Nigeria alone. Now, the church is spreading in Ghana, too, so the Ghanaians also have formed their own province.
This leaves Cameroun, Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal, which now constitute the “Internal Province of West Africa,” minus Nigeria and Ghana
So while the Church of the CPAW is being ‘disintegrated,’ the church is growing in other places, necessitating the formation of the new Internal Province.
There were nearly 20 West African archbishops and bishops in attendance at yesterday’s enthronement ceremony. There was also a representative of The Episcopal Church of the USA, the Liberian Diocese’s mother church, as well as the widow of the deceased Archbishop of the Internal Province, Mother Priscilla Johnson. Archbishop Johnson died last year, shortly following his consecration as head of the Internal Province, necessitating a new election, won by Liberia’s Bishop Hart.
Archbishop Akrofi recalled the forerunners to Archbishop Hart: the Most Revs. Leslie Vinning, 1951, founding year of the CPWA; John L.C. Horstead, 1955-61; Cecil Petterson, 1961-69; Moses Scott, 1969-81; Ishmael LeMiaire, 1981-82; George D. Browne, 1982-1993; Robert Okine, 1993-2003; Justice Akrofi, 2004-12; Solomon Johnson, 2012-Feb., 2014; Daniel Sarfo 2014; Jonathan Hart, 2014.
With the start of the Liberian civil war, Bishop Browne had to go into hiding for his safety. So the rest of the Province, said Archbishop Akrofi, shared in the pain because it constituted “the body of Christ in West Africa.
Archbishop Hart, said Archbishop Akrofi, 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 Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Gold Coast (now Ghana), and Lagos and the Missionary Diocese of Northern Nigeria.
The Internal Province of West Africa, said Archbishop Akrofi, “is not just an administrative arrangement. It is fundamentally about equipping the church, the Body of Christ in the world, founded on a dynamic mission and armed with the message that the Kingdom of God is at hand to redeem all things to God through Jesus, the Christ and the Lord.”
Neither Archbishop Akrofi nor the newly consecrated Archbishop Hart, in their messages yesterday, mentioned the grave religious crisis facing the sub-Region, especially our sister Republic of Nigeria, and the murderous onslaught of the Islamic Boko Haram, which is daily wrecking havoc, mayhem and murder on innocent Nigerians.
Yet Nigerian Christians, especially in Northern Nigeria, are under constant assault by this sect, and no one seems to be able to do anything about it.
What will be the response of the Anglican Communion, indeed the whole church in West Africa and Africa as a whole to this terrible crisis in Nigeria?
Archbishop Hart has yet to set forth his own vision not only for the Liberian Diocese, which is his primary responsibility, but also for the ‘Internal Province’ and for the church in West Africa as a whole. Can the ‘Internal Province’ the Province of Ghana and the Provinces of Nigeria venture to give a response to what is happing in Nigeria.
All of them should, for after all, we are all our brothers’ keeper.