Category Archives: PC Nigeria

Presbyterian News Headlines For The First Half Of January 2015

OK, we are getting caught up a bit – at least I am into the current year.

But I am going to start by including a few older ones around a single theme: There were recognitions of three missionaries over the past couple of months culminating in early January with the centennial of the death of Mary Slessor, a Church of Scotland missionary to what is now Nigeria. A few of the headlines from both Scotland and Nigeria:

‘The Queen of Okoyong’: The legacy of Mary Slessor – from BBC News

Plaque commemorates ‘extraordinary’ missionary Mary Slessor – from stv News

Mary Slessor: PCN honours late missionary with commemorative ceremony – from Pulse Nigeria: “The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria AkwaSynod will be holding a commemorative service to celebrate the centenary celebration of Mary Slessor’s death. “

The previous month Jane Haining was in the news as a BBC documentary about her premiered. She was a Church of Scotland worker in Budapest who refused to leave her work when the Nazis invaded and ultimately died in Auschwitz. (Unfortunately, it appears the documentary is not available online.)

Jane Haining: The Scot who died in Auschwitz – from BBC News

Finally, a Presbyterian Church of Ireland missionary was honored in India for his work there:

Presbyterian missionary remembered in India – from Presbyterian Church in Ireland; “A former Presbyterian missionary who served in India has been honoured during a special ceremony held recently at the Gujarat United School of Theology. Rev. John Faris and Miss Linda Jackson represented the Presbyterian Church of Ireland as the Ted Jackson Computer Training Centre and new library were officially opened in Ahmedabad.”


And in news on mission workers currently serving, an attack on a Northern Irish medical missionary:

Maud Kells: Brave humanitarian shot in DR Congo will not be deterred – from Belfast Telegraph


And now, a few other things that caught my interest…

From the Reformed Church in South Africa, after the general synod meeting was divided on the issue, a special synod will be called to discuss it:

Special synod to decide on Reformed Church women ministers – from The Citizen


A new General Assembly Moderator is inducted in Ghana:

Evangelical Presbyterian Church gets new Moderator – from Ghana News Agency


A new story related to a continuing discussion around the PC(USA):

Edison minister fights divestment policy: Presbyterian cleric says national body ignores Jewish voices – from New Jersey Jewish News


And in Scotland, opposition to a new opt-out system for organ donors:

Free Church of Scotland blasts organ donor plans – from The Scotsman; “The Free Church of Scotland has voiced its opposition to a blanket opt-out system for organ donation. The religious group claims specialist nurses and better education on organ donation in schools would be far more effective in increasing the number of donors.”


Also out of Scotland, the Kirk is a partner in providing a more friendly atmosphere for visiting families at a youth correctional facility:

Family bus scheme launched at Polmont youth prison – from BBC News


Over the last few months there have been several very interesting church-sponsored workshops around the globe. In this time slice there was one by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland:

‘Living and dying well’ conference draws key speakers – from a Presbyterian Church in Ireland news article; “Hosted jointly by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and Union Theological College, the theme of the event is ‘Living and Dying Well’ and will address the ethical, pastoral and legal issues surrounding attempts to legislate in favour of assisted suicide.”


A few things about buildings, starting with the continuing saga of the Greyfriars Church of Scotland in Port of Spain, Trinidad:

Move to save ruins of Greyfriars church – from Trinidad & Tobago Guardian

Bid to settle Greyfriars demolition out of court – from Trinidad Express

Greyfriars owner, PoS Council in talks – from Trinidad & Tobago Newsday

In Texas, the oldest house of worship in town, originally built by Presbyterians, and later used by other denominations, has been vacant for over a decade is being converted to community space in a private initiative:

Edna leader restore church for community – from Victoria Advocate

Help with a new roof for a church in New York:

Historic Le Roy church receives landmark grant – from The Daily News

And from Scotland, a new proposal for a historic but abandoned church property but with concern for the adjoining cemetery:

Proposals to convert Kinfauns Church into luxury house back on the table – from The Courier


And remembrances of three notable gentlemen:

In Ireland, Mr. Jonathan Simms, MBE, a supporter of the Boys Brigade and other youth programs, remembered in a service led by the GA Moderator:

‘He had time for everyone – a rare quality’ – from Carrick Times

In the U.S., Professor Ed Farley of Vanderbilt Divinity School:

Remembering Nashville theologian, musician Ed Farley – from The Tennessean

And Syngman Rhee, seminary professor and the Moderator of the PC(USA) 212th General Assembly (2000):

Syngman Rhee, Presbyterian and ecumenical leader, dies at 83 – from The Christian Century

PC(USA) mourns loss of former Moderator and ecumenical leader – PC(USA) press release

Presbyterian News Headlines For The Second Half Of August 2014

Here are some of the items that caught my attention in the latter half of August…

This was a time of General Assemblies in African Presbyterian branches. Let me begin with a few headlines out of the 14th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ghana:

Handover establishment of 200 SHS to churches – Presby Moderator – from GhanaWeb; (SHS = Senior High Schools)

On Christian Education, “Yes” And “No,” Rt.-Rev. Martey – from GhanaWeb; (a comment on the above story by a Ghanian minister in the US)

In addition, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana held their General Assembly. Some interesting headlines from that:

New Moderator For E.P Church – from spyGhana; Reverend Dr Seth Senyo Agidi elected for a six year term

Elect Leaders Who Uphold Moral Values – Rt Rev Francis Amenu – from Ghana Broadcasting Corporation; comments by the outgoing Moderator

E.P Church to double membership in six years – from GhanaWeb; the growth goal for the church

EP Church to Adopt Witches’ Camps – from Ghana Broadcasting Corporation; this is an article with an overview of the GA and a later article from GhanaWeb focuses just on this issue and begins:  “The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Ghana (EPCG) has adopted the Ngani Witches Camp, one of the witches’ camps in the Northern Region to support the inmates to liberate them from poverty. The people in the camps are mostly aged women who have been accused of witchcraft, and therefore, have been abandoned by their families and the society. Due to the neglect, they live in deplorable conditions as they lack basic amenities such as shelter and clothing, as well as food and water.”

Articles on the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria:

Presbyterian Church marks 168 years, urges unity – from Infos

Nigeria: Presbyterian Church Institutes Fund On Chibok Girls – from allAfrica; “The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria has announced that in keeping with the Church’s spirit of Christian charity and in support of President Goodluck Jonathan’s initiative in setting up a special Fund in aid of victims of Boko Haram insurgency and other social upheavals, the Church has set up a Fund toward the rehabilitation of the Chibok girls when they are eventually rescued.”

In other headlines:

Malawi: APM Hails Livingstonia Synod of the CCAP Church – from allAfrica; a positive meeting between church leaders and the country’s president looking for avenues of cooperation

Investors urged to be ethical – from GhanaWeb; Comments by the Moderator of the GA at the launch of a financial company

The Texas Historical Commission recognizes the First Presbyterian Church of Brazoria – from The Facts (subscription); the church gets a state historical marker

And finally, a high-profile change in Presbyterian media circles as Jack Haberer leaves his post as editor of the Presbyterian Outlook to return to parish ministry in Florida:

Breaking News Letters from The Presbyterian Outlook’s Editor Jack Haberer and Board of Directors President Christopher Edmonston – from The Presbyterian Outlook

Best wishes to Jack as he takes on this call.

Presbyterian News Headlines For The Second Half Of January 2014

I am going to begin this post with a narrative form more in the style of my regular writing but I am not sure what to do with this otherwise.

In mid-January the BBC in Norther Ireland aired a two-part documentary and interview on Ian Paisley who helped found the Free Presbyterian Church and what is now the Democratic Unionist Party. This TV show has stirred a lot of feelings on all sides involved in the troubled history of that region and Dr. Paisley had some pretty strong things to say, not all of them what you might predict. As one article in the News Letter headlines it, his criticism of both the DUP and Free Presbyterian church were brutal. I will leave the civil politics aside – at least to the extent I am able in a situation where civil and secular are inexorably linked – and just note another article in the Belfast Telegraph that is headlined “It was religion, not politics that drove Ian Paisley.” In the interview, according to the online press reports, he talks about how the elders of his church forced him out. The Sunday following the airing of the programme the media were at the church he had pastored for many years with the Belfast Telegraph getting some reaction from congregants and the News Letter finding the church members “tight-lipped.” Lots more out there about this programme but to wrap this up let me note some published qualified comments from Dr. Paisley in IrishCentral about the Catholics were correct in standing up for their civil rights,  a profile piece on his wife Eileen, and some brief comments about all this from his son Ian, Jr.

And now back to my usual format for this stuff…

In other news from Ireland, these items from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Irish Presbyterians back Syrian victims – from Belfast News Letter; “Representatives from churches around the world have been meeting
in Lebanon this week to consult with and give support to churches
working to bring about relief and peace in Syria. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland is represented by its
board of mission overseas convenor the Rev Cheryl Meban at
consultations organised by the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and
Lebanon (NESSL).”

Presbyterian concern on mental health issue – from Belfast News Letter about a conference the church held

From Scotland an exception to the trend that new Church of Scotland ministers are typically second career…

Church of Scotland’s Young Turk ordained aged 25 – from Scottish Express

Turning to Africa, news from Nigeria and Ghana:

Presbyterian Church, Muslim group laud Jonathan over anti-gay law – from The Guardian Nigeria

Nigerian school stakes claim to have set up Africa’s first printing press – from The Guardian; “The Hope Waddell Training Institution, a school in Nigeria founded in 1895 by Presbyterian missionaries, is laying claim to have set up Africa’s oldest press. But could it be so?”

Rev Martey urges Christians to enter politics – from Joy Online; in comments by the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana

In Asia:

Presbyterian Pastor On Trial On Extremism Charges in Kazakhstan – from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

and then two days later

Kazakh Court Drops Extremism Charges Against Pastor – from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; but some lesser charges have not been dropped

From North America:

Presbyterian pastor of NY church dies a month after gas station explosion in Conn. – AP article published by, among others, the Daily Reporter

And that is it for now. A few other things caught my eye in these two weeks but I am holding those for further developments or I might develop them beyond the scope of a headline post.

Presbyterian News Headlines For December 2013

Yes, I am going to attempt to do a whole month at once to get caught up. This does mean that by necessity I will be a bit selective about the headlines included.

The month began with a public safety helicopter crash in Scotland that saw the Church of Scotland on the front line with chaplaincy services and worship services of remembrance:

Chaplains at front line of Glasgow tragedy – from Church of Scotland press release

Prayers for helicopter victims – from BBC News

And in Kenya, ten youths were killed and thirty six more injured in a bus crash as they were returning from a Presbyterian Church in East Africa youth conference:

President mourns Mariakani accident victims – from Standard Digital News

In Louisville it was decided that the resources were not available to reopen the Presbyterian Community Center that had been closed a few months earlier:

No hope of reopening the Presbyterian Community Center in Smoketown, board says – from Courier-Journal

Concerning damage to churches, we have two fires and the theft of copper pipes:

Fire damage closes 900-year-old Aberdour church at Christmas – from Fife Today

160-Year-Old Long Island Church Goes Up In Flames – from CBS New York

Wyoming church recovering after copper pipe theft – from Times Leader, in Pennsylvania

In Africa, words from church leaders to politicians:

Ghana pregnant with bribery, corruption — Moderator – from CitifmOnline

ASUU Strike: Presbyterian Prelate urges government action – from WorldStage News; about a student strike in Nigeria

Two Presbyterian-related schools in the U.S. got court orders exempting them on religious grounds from the Department of Health and Human Services Affordable Care Act Contraception Mandate:

Judge rules Geneva College does not have to provide coverage for contraception – from Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Christian universities and seminary win against HHS mandate in federal court – from (Westminster Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania)

And finally, two more articles. The first a gift that allows a Presbyterian camp to continue and the second a new high-profile hire in the Church of Scotland Communications Office:

Woman, 81, leaves church camp $2.5 million from her estate – from WBRC (Birmingham)

BBC’s Rob Flett to join Church of Scotland comms team – from allmedia

And with that we close out the year. Best wishes for the new one and back with more headlines in a few days.

Tensions In Nigeria Lead To New Presbyterian Branch

As of a couple of days ago the universe of Presbyterian denominations got a little bit larger with the formation of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Nigeria.  This branch was formed when the Mid East Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria disagreed with their General Assembly over the rotation of leadership and so declared themselves autonomous.  How did we get here?

From a polity standpoint this seems to be about an agreement, possibly stipulated in their polity documents, that the position of Moderator of the General Assembly is to be rotated around the nine synods.  (I have looked and have not yet found The Practice and Procedure online so I can’t confirm the exact wording of the policy.)  Mid East Synod believed that the rotation should fall to them at the August 2010 Assembly but when a Moderator from another synod was elected and later installed they first filed a protest and then broke off on their own.

As I said, this started at the meeting of the General Assembly this past summer when The Rt. Rev. Prof. Emele Mba Uka was elected as the new Moderator.  With thanks to the Presbyterian Church in Canada for a story on the election , we know that not only was he elected by a unanimous vote but that a hard rain falling on the training institute the Assembly was meeting at, and only on the training institute, was taken as a divine sign.  Another article from the Daily Sun gives more of the back story and how two original candidates did not have their names placed in nomination and instead Rev. Uka’s name came into the picture at the last minute and he became the sole nominee.  The Rt. Rev. Uka is, as the professor title implies, a senior academic with numerous earned academic degrees, including a Ph.D. from Drew University.

The interesting thing is that nowhere in the reporting I have seen from the time of the election is there mention of any protest or dissent.  The election was unanimous after all.  Having looked over several news articles about the General Assembly and the election from the August and September time-frame there is not a hint of a problem.  In fact, the first mention of the dissent that I saw in on-line sources was from at the beginning of December.

At that time the article reports that elders from Mid East Synod had presented a petition to the denomination’s trustees opposing the selection of the Rt. Rev. Uka and asking to halt his inauguration, which was later that week.  The article also mentions that there was an earlier protest registered with the trustees but the date is not given.  Specifically, the petition is quoted to state of the actions the “grossly unfair and unconscionable way our Synod was denied our
inalienable right to produce the next General Assembly Moderator.”

Well, the inauguration went ahead on December 7, to which the PCN press release and pictures on the home page testify.

The next chapter in the story appears to be ecclesiastical discipline as the General Assembly Executive Committee issued an order that a number of members of the Mid East Synod are “suspended indefinitely… for acts of insubordination and lawlessness capable
of destabilizing the Church and causing a breach of public peace.”  This according to the PCN’s own press release. Those suspended included not only ministers but public officials including the deputy governor and the commissioner for works in Ebonyi State.  The officials are accused of “using State apparatus as Deputy Governor and Commissioner
for Works in the Ebonyi State Government to sponsor some rebellious members of
the Church in actions designed to destabilize the Church and cause
socio-political disharmony.”  (Clearly this church discipline is not just in the ecclesiastical sphere but related to civil consequences as well.)  The other ordained officials are accused of ecclesiastical infractions that violate the church’s policies.  The press release is long on accusations but there is not much information about disciplinary process or judicial proceedings — it is just stated as a decision of the Executive Committee.

The immediate media coverage seems to echo the December 28 decision of the church, as an article from Vanguard shows.  However, Vanguard was out the next day with the response from Mid East Synod that said “the decision was contrary to the norms and proceedings governing operations of the Church of Christ.”  While the quotes from the Steering Committee of the Synod include a lot of counter accusations and rhetoric, it does include the very Presbyterian statement that “for the avoidance of doubt, no other body or organ has the right to
suspend any member of the church except the session where he or she
worships.”  They also cite the lack of due process.

Now, a couple of days ago, the Synod called a press conference and, among other things, told the reporters (as quoted by )

“Whereas the Mid East Synod has the ecclesiastical right of self
determination in order to free herself from persisting enslavement,
perpetuation, and bondage; whereas members of the Mid East Synod being a
peace loving people not given to gangsterism and thuggery and violence
in the Church of Jesus wish to declare that in view of the foregoing we
are now Autonomous to be known and addressed as the Reformed
Presbyterian Church Of Nigeria with headquarters at Macgregor College
Afikpo and branches all over the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

(Synod spokesperson) Rev. Nwonu explained that their former church, Presbyterian Church of
Nigeria as presently constituted was being administered not by the
graded and constituted courts of the Church, rather, it was being
administered by the powerful interest groups who arrogate to themselves
the power to set aside the Church’s constitution, laws, policies and
procedures which have been guiding the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria
for over 164 years.

Where will this go next?  I don’t know and I’m not going to predict.  It is important to remember that the PCN is involved in conflicts in the north between different ethnic/social groups that also happen to be divided along Muslim/Christian lines. (My previous comments on the situation)  As recently as yesterday there were additional attacks in the area of Jos.  Regarding the church itself one possibility where this could end up is like the synods of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian in Malawi where the three synods are growing more autonomous and the General Assembly level has less authority and ability to coordinate and negotiate between the synods.  So, for the moment we now have the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Nigeria.

Ethno-religious Violence In Nigeria And The Presbyterian Response

Violence around the city of Jos in Plateau State of Nigeria has been moving in and out of the mainstream media headlines over the past week.  However, while this month’s attacks by Muslim Hausa speaking Funali herdsmen on Berom Christians has gotten some press it is also reported that this is a retaliation raid for Berom attacks on Funali settlements back in January.  And in the even bigger picture, as you can probably anticipate, this is part of a much longer and larger cycle of violence in the area.  I found a story from the BBC to be particularly helpful in providing the context for the conflict.  Here are some helpful excerpts:

A mosaic of distinct ethnic groups – Tiv, Jukun, Pyem, Kofyar, Berom, the Hausa-Fulani and many more – live along this dividing line between the Muslim north and mostly Christian south.

The fertile land and jobs were a powerful draw for migrants seeking work. People travelled to Jos from all over Nigeria.

Those patterns of migration are marked today by sharp divisions in the community.

People here are either classified as indigenes or settlers.

Indigenes are able to prove their ancestry in the state.

Settlers – whose grandparents and great-grandparents settled here – cannot.

Settlers find it difficult to get jobs in local government, or apply for educational scholarships.

Most indigenes are Berom Christians. Most settlers are Hausa Muslims.

Many Christians believe Hausa Muslim settlers seek to seize political control and impose Sharia law. They fear an extremist Islamist agenda and jihad.

Many Muslims believe the Plateau State government wishes to drive them out of certain areas.

The circle of violence, the emergence of vigilante groups and organised militia, the suspicion of the military within the Christian community and the lack of a political framework for talks worries those tasked with security.

There is a bit of coverage out there, some of it better than others.  From the admittedly incomplete reading that I have done I would recommend the BBC article, a New York Times piece, and an AP story from The Boston Globe.  General Christian voices include Christian Today and The Christian Post.  Local voices carried by include news stories, opinion pieces, and interviews.  In particular, there are some interesting comments in that interview with Barrister Yahaya Mahood who has previously represented Fulani settlers.  In the interview he says about earlier incidents:

They are not religious riots. They are ethnic clashes between those that are called indigenes and those called settlers. The dispute in the two communities is not over religion, its practice or right. It is purely economic. In both cases, people who settled 200 years who are purely traders and businessmen dominated the economy over those who say they are indigenes and who are public servants and farmers.

When asked for his solution to the current conflict he answered in part:

[I]f the ‘indigenes’ will not accept the ‘settlers’ as Nigerians with a right to stay anywhere in Nigeria and enjoy rights as Nigerians, then the federal government should move all the settlers out of Jos back to wherever and pay them adequate compensation. That is why I welcomed the Chief Solomon Lar Panel, made up of indigenes and settlers to sort out their differences. It is better than setting up Judicial Commissions of Inquiry.

We should allow Chief Solomon Lar panel to do its work. They know themselves. They know the problems and have the solution. The federal government must step in, be firm and rebuild the town as was done in Zango. Plateau State government should be neutral and fair to all, if the settlers are to remain in Jos. The leaders of the settlers should undertake to control their people and there should be mutual respect. Only that can guarantee peace.

That is a brief introduction to the situation.  Related to this I have seen both internal and external responses from the Presbyterian church.

From the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria the Moderator of the General Assembly, The Rt. Rev. Ubon Bassey Usung, has expressed views similar to those of Mr. Mahood.  According to the press report The Moderator “warned that the recurring ethno-religious crisis in Jos, Plateau State, if not checked immediately, might snowball into a full-blown war.”  The article goes on to say:

Usung  condemned the attack.  He advocated the setting up of a Conflict Resolution Committee  made up of Christian and Muslim leaders, government community chiefs and security agencies to check violence in the area.  “The committee should be able to preach peace among the members of the various communities and religions in the area and nip any crisis in the bud,” he added.

In solidarity with the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, The Rev. Harvey Self, has issued a statement which echoes Mr. Usung’s call for peace, security, and community work to heal the divisions.  The statement concludes with:

We also call on state and federal authorities in Nigeria to put an end to the culture of impunity by making every effort to identify and punish to the full extent of the law all those responsible for instigating and for carrying out these murderous attacks. In addition, we call upon state and federal authorities to make a concerted and sustained effort to deal with the underlying causes of these repeated outbreaks of ethnic and religious violence; namely, discrimination between settlers and indigenes, endemic poverty, and the continuing unresolved disputes over land. Finally, we call on all people of faith, everywhere, to pray and to work together for peace, healing, reconciliation, and acceptance of all human rights for the people of Nigeria.

We will see how this develops and which other Presbyterian branches speak out on it.  For now, I echo these words for us to “pray and work together for peace…”