By ACNS staff
The Most Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon was commissioned as Secretary General of the Anglican Communion on Friday, 4 September, in the Chapel of St Andrew at the Anglican Communion Office in London.
The Most Revd & Rt Hon. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, presided and preached at the commissioning service.
Words of the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, read by the Most Revd David Chillingworth, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church centred the task of giving leadership to the mission of the global Anglican Communion in service of reconciliation of Christian disunity: “We are going to devote ourselves to our mission completely, not by viewing Anglicanism as an end in itself, but as a fragment of the One Holy Catholic Church of Christ.”
In his homily Archbishop Welby pointed out that the two readings for the service - 1 Corinthians 1.26-31 and John 14.15-26 – highlighted the weakness of the person who follows Christ, and, by implication, the weakness of the Church, which “carries into its life the reality of the culture and the nature of its members”.
But, he added, as the chosen people of God, the people of the Church are “what Christ makes us” and need to return continually to our dependence on Christ.
Archbishop Welby shows Archbishop Idowu-Fearon the plumb from the 14th-century plumb line discovered recently at Lambeth Palace.
“You are, in your role, to some extent a plumb line,” Archbishop Welby told the Secretary General. A plumb-line, like the one found recently hanging in a fourteenth century building at Lambeth Palace set above a brass cross in the floor, can be used to monitor whether a building is shifting.
“Knowing your own weakness you can speak to a church that needs constantly to see when it is out of line, when the structures we create for ourselves, the influences we seek, the principles we claim are our construction, not the work of Christ,” he said.
The new Secretary General’s task as plumb line for the Anglican Communion was to spot the “absence of joy”, ensuring that the Communion was not merely conforming to dogmatic statements of truth but was “filled with [Christ’s] living presence”.
“In your dependence on Christ be to this world what you can be, but most of all let us be those who as a global church hold the light of hope amongst hatred, of love in the midst of difference and disagreement,” Archbishop Welby urged Archbishop Idowu-Fearon.
Anglican Consultative Council Vice-Chair Canon Elizabeth Paver and Chair Bishop James Tengatenga with the newly commissioned Secretary General.
Taking part in the service were the Rt Revd James Tengatenga, Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC); Canon Elizabeth Paver, ACC Vice-Chair Canon John Rees, Provincial Registrar; the Venerable Thomas J. Furrer, Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, Tariffville, (Conn.) USA; and His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, as well as Anglican Communion Office staff members.
Following the words of commissioning, Archbishop Welby gave Archbishop Idowu-Fearon the Compass Rose medallion as a mark of his new office.
During the service a letter of congratulation from His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was read. The President saluted the new Secretary General’s living out his calling to create a “culture of respect for differences”. “It is our prayer that God uses you, with the power of His Grace, to counsel and move the Anglican Communion in the direction you have taken the Church in Nigeria – toward intimate knowledge of the Other, sympathetic dialogue with It and sincere fellowship with everyone”.
Some 135 people attended the commissioning, including Nigerian dignitaries, former colleagues, friends and family of Archbishop Idowu-Fearon and his wife Comfort; Primates, members of the Anglican Consultative Council and Standing Committee; members of the Community of St Andrew; the Methodist co-secretary of the Anglican-Methodist International Commission for Unity in Mission; representatives of the Diocese of London and Canterbury Cathedral; and Lambeth Palace staff members.
A particular joy was welcoming guests from Archbishop Idowu-Fearon’s engagement in inter-religious dialogue. “Your ministry in the wonderful and extraordinary country of Nigeria is represented here powerfully,” Archbishop Welby told the new Secretary General.
During the reception Mr Bambo Adesanya, Registrar of Lagos West, said that the Anglican Communion was lucky to have Archbishop Idowu-Fearon, well versed in Anglicanism, as its new Secretary General. “He is a ‘reconcilier’.”
“He is a moving Bible in the way he relates to people and the way he behaves, in both anger and happiness,” said the Secretary General of the Bridge-builders Association of Nigeria, Mr Mahdi Shehu, who added that working together with Archbishop Idowu-Fearon, chairman of the association, had empowered him to speak out and build social bridges of understanding.
The General Advisor of the Programme for Christian-Muslim Relarions in Africa (PROCMURA), the Revd Dr Johnson Mbillah, called the new Secretary General a “pillar of movement on the African continent”. “What you have been and done for us, you will do for the Anglican Communion,” he predicted.
Dr Clare Amos, former Anglican Communion Director of Theological Studies and Coordinator of the Network for Inter-Faith Concerns brought greetings from the World Council of Churches (WCC) where she serves as Programme Executive for Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation. WCC General Secretary Dr Olav Fykse Tveit said he was looking forward to working together with Archbishop Idowu-Fearon, particularly with regard to Nigeria which is a primary country for the WCC.
Reception host Bishop Tengatenga thanked Archbishop Idowu-Fearon’s family for their support particularly in light of the frequent travel that would be required of the new Secretary General. “Trust us that he is not alone,” he said, and assured them that many would be praying for them.
The Most Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon
The new Secretary General served as Bishop of Kaduna in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) from 1998 and as Director of the Kaduna Anglican Study Centre until taking up his Anglican Communion role on 1 July.
Before that he served as Warden at St Francis of Assisi Theological College in Wusasa, Provost of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kaduna, and Bishop of Sokoto.
The Most Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon has a PhD (Sociology) and Postgraduate Diploma in Education from Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University, an MA in Islamic Theology from the UK’s Birmingham University, and a BA in Theology from Durham University in the UK.
He has lectured and been published widely on the subject of Christian-Muslim relations. He has served on a variety of Nigerian inter-religious bodies and has previously worked with the Anglican Communion Office and Lambeth Palace on several projects.
Archbishop Idowu-Fearon has been awarded the Officer of the Order of the Niger, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Cross of St. Augustine's Award, and is a Canterbury Six Preacher.
Archbishop Idowu-Fearon and his wife Comfort have two children, Ibrahim and Ninma.
Bridge-builder for the Lord: Anglican World interview with the Most Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon