ISSUES ON ANGLICAN MINISTERS’ RETIREMENT

SUNDAY, AUGUST 19, 2012.

ISSUES ON ANGLICAN MINISTERS’ RETIREMENT

BY

ERNEST ONUOHA

‘Every serving minister is a potential retiree’

THE Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is an ordered institution. It has cherished traditions, impeccable worship, Bible-based and living Theology and doctrines, among others. As part of its organisation, structure and administration, its ministers have a retirement age from active service.

Its Bishops retire at a mandatory age of 70 years while Pastors retire at 65 years. It is true that in some provinces within the Communion, Pastors may be allowed to stay on till they clock 70 years. Some allow Pastors above 65 years on contract basis before they are finally retired. Let it be noted that this is discretionary. It is therefore a privilege and not a right.

Ministers, called by God, are happy to serve Him and retire at the appointed time. To these: “no one can become a high priest simply because he wants such an honour. He must be called by God for this work, just as Aaron was” (Hebrews 5v4).

Because of the nature of the vocation of ministers, the first issue that comes to their mind about retirement is whether they have made adequate preparations in terms of housing, upkeep and welfare of children. There is no doubt that at point of entry into clerical office, one should expect that someday he would retire.

Naturally, a retiring minister should think about a personal house to accommodate him, wife and children, because he will certainly move out from the Church’s residence. If he is a Bishop, he might be lucky to be assisted by the Church to have a retirement house. Housing is therefore critical for a retiring minister.

At retirement, there will be a drop in monthly salary and the minister may have to depend on pension that might not be enough for him and his family. The direct implication is that his standard of living would need to be adjusted if he has to survive for a longer time. It is worst if he did not train his children properly while he was in active service. God forbid it. Such could suffer a heart attack.

A second concern is: ‘How does one remain relevant at retirement?’ It is very sad that most Anglican ministers retire and fade out of circulation. Some bear grudges against the system or village members especially if such feel they did not attain to certain heights in the ministry. I think, and rightly too, if God calls someone, failure of the system or disappointment from so-called village members should not be factor for demoralisation. God has ways of balancing things. He might decide to pay back through the children or grandchildren. Cases abound in the Communion of people who rose to the rank of Bishop without their fathers being Church agents, teachers or catechists. God never sleeps. He works in mysterious ways. The hymn writer (Hymns Ancient and Modern 181:4) says:

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,

But trust him for his grace;

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.

The Anglican minister is called upon to ensure that he is not out of sight and out of circulation, no matter the situation he finds himself at retirement. He is relevant at the grassroots Church or wherever he resides. He can still engage in counselling, teaching, preaching, and praying for God’s people in need. At this point, he could become a moving pulpit. The situation in Nigeria and around the world demands that men of God do not sleep but keep in touch with the Creator on behalf of His creation. Is it not God that said: ‘call upon me in the time of trouble and I will answer you’? (Ps. 50v15) Retired ministers should not grow weary in rendering this service to God’s people.

The third is: how further can the Church make use of its retirees? Former Heads of State, former Chief Justices of the Federation among others are usually in attendance at the National Council of States meeting at Aso Rock. By implication, this gives the retired persons a sense of belonging and right hand of fellowship. The beauty is that the nation can further tap from their wealth of experience.

We salute recent approach by the current Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Dahiru Abubakar, in inviting all ex-IGP’s on security situation in the country. Such move is commendable and instructive. There is nothing wrong if the Church uses its retirees and gives them hope and a sense of belonging and reassurance that their services and labours of love to God were not in vain.

The Primate of all Nigeria, Most Rev. Nicholas D. Okoh is commended for his bold step during the general synod at Vining Memorial Cathedral Church, Lagos, last year. It was an inspiring sight when one-time retired Primate of the Church of Nigeria, Most Rev. Joesph Abiodun Adetiloye, addressed the synod. I suggest in the near future that a convocation be arranged where serving Archbishop, Bishops and retired Archbishops and Bishops could come together to rub minds on issues affecting the Church. The same could be extended to serving ministers and retired ministers. That would be a lovely scenario.

Retirement is not a curse but a thing of joy. After a meritorious service, our retirees must be seen, heard and kept relevant especially in the Church they loved and cherished.

Ven. Ernest Onuoha
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,
Agbarha-Otor,
Delta State.

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