PASTORAL LETTER FROM HIS LORDSHIP, THE RT. REV'D. EPHRAIM OKECHUKWU IKEAKOR AT THE END OF THE THIRD SESSION OF THE THIRD SYNOD OF THE ANGLICAN DIOCESE OF AMICHI HELD AT ST. JAMES' CHURCH, AZIGBO FROM WEDNESDAY 7TH- SUNDAY 11TH JUNE, 2017
To All the Saints in Amichi Diocese,
I give all the glory to the great I am and the captain of our salvation under whose shield we have lived this one year. I count it a privilege to have been used of God to chart the course of this Diocese since 2009. It has been all by His grace and mercy. I thank God who also granted us His presence and guidance to successfully conclude the Third session of our Third Synod of our Diocese. I want to thank and appreciate all our members who contributed immensely to the resounding success recorded in the synod.
It is very traditional for me to write you after every synod. However, the critical nature of the theme of our Synod this year: “CONTENDING FOR THE FAITH AND MAINTAINING BIBLE STANDARD IN A PERVERSE AND ANTI-CHRISTIAN GENERATION (Jude 1:1-4) has made it a more pressing issue.
Looking at the trend of events in the church and society, one easily discovers that the Christian faith as handed over to us has been severely distorted. Ours is a generation that is perverse in all ramifications. No doubt this is becoming the most difficult time to practice genuine Christianity that is acceptable to God. The persecution and killing of Christians all over the world is becoming alarming and unbearable. There are ravenous wolves who have crept into the church, teaching things that are not in conformity with the original faith handed over to us. This has put so much pressure on the few remnants.
Yet, in this environment we find ourselves, we are required to not only contend for the faith, but also to maintain Bible standard. The anti-Christian era is here with us. Yes, and all who desire to live Godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. In the midst of this spiritual and moral decay, I charge you to continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.
Let me restate my dear people of God, Christianity has an established model of life irrespective of Race, Status, Era or Age. The Magna Carta of the Christian Faith is the Holy Bible. Any doctrine, teaching or liturgy that cannot be established and substantiated therewith should be unrepentantly rejected no matter who propagates it. It has no place in our Diocese. I dare to say in the words of the Apostle Paul, “But even if we, or an Angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other Gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed”.
Again, the threat of Islamic fundamentalism is becoming more and more destructive all over the world. This aggression is a danger signal to the Church and Christians. Of greater concern now is the rate at which youths all over the world, including Nigeria fancy and cherish terrorism orchestrated by Islamism. I charge all our members to stand up in aggressive prayer. This is the time for us to make prayer a custom in our lives. Prayer prevails where other plans fail. Furthermore, we must go back to the Church's Mission Mandate- Person to person Evangelism, meaningful Gospel outreaches and a return to organized Bible Teaching. It is sad that at a time like this, many people in our Churches today don't even understand the basic meaning of being a Christian. I therefore challenge our clergymen and all believers in our church to revisit Apostle Philip's question to the Ethiopian Eunuch.
I challenge our Priests to shun the copying of non-biblical patterns of ministry from the so-called Pentecostal churches and concentrate on making disciples and raising defenders of the faith. Clergymen of our Diocese should stand like Eleazer the son of Dodo who single handedly stood against the band of Philistines who invaded the land of Israel.
Church members who are engaged in the importation, distribution and sale of fake, substandard and adulterated products are a disgrace to the church. Such men are damaging the faith and not defending it. No man can defend the faith when his life is a contradiction to the faith of the Church. Christians and especially those in our Diocese must be urgent and insistent in taking their faith to the public domain. Our Christian faith must be seen in the office where we do our work, the markets and other businesses.
I also want to use this medium to address what is becoming a menace in our Diocese. The Anglican Church is a solemnly and divinely inspired Church denomination with well laid out Constitution, Liturgy, Principles and procedures of worship and administration. This Church is Episcopally led, and Synodically governed. A situation where a lay member of our Diocese will rise up overnight and decide to unilaterally and rebelliously change our established orthodoxy and decent way of administering our Church will never be tolerated in the Diocese.
I hereby direct all the Clergymen, and other Church workers in this Diocese not to allow any family of our member who hired pastors from other denominations to officiate at the burial of their family members who were not up-to-date in membership of our church to come for outing service. Membership to any Church denomination is not by compulsion or coercion. This is the time for decisive and committed membership in this Diocese. It is either you are in fully or you are out completely.
The Church is the conscience of the society. Therefore, we must take the lead in moderating the excesses in our burial ceremonies. Henceforth, the burial and funeral ceremonies for our members must be completed within two months. No member of our church will stay in the mortuary beyond this time limit. Burial and all activities relating to that must be concluded within two days. Henceforth, no form of “ashebi” or T-shirt will be allowed in our funeral ceremonies.
The official mourning cloth (for those who wish to use it) for members of our Diocese is white or black depending on the preference of the family. This mourning cloth is strictly for members of the immediate family. The practice of dancing with the casket by undertakers is hereby proscribed in our Diocese. The only contents approved in the order of burial service are the picture of the deceased and the order of service. Photo gallery, tributes and goodwill messages must not be published as part of our order of service. All directives relating to burials and funerals will take effect from 1st January, 2018.
My dear people of God, God has placed a burden in our heart to prepare men for the imminent return of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Do not be distracted, stay focused, do not give up no matter what the situation looks like. Wherever you find yourself, stand stoutly in defense of this precious faith handed down to us. If you do these things, you shall be blameless. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Your friend and Bishop,
The Rt. Rev'd. Ephraim Okechukwu Ikeakor
Bishop, Diocese of Amichi