SUNDAY, JUNE 26, 2011
REFLECTION: ON THE SYNOD THEME 2011 OF THE DIOCESE OF AWKA
Recently, the new Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Awka, Rt. Rev. Alex Ibezim held his first synod at St. Faith’s Cathedral Church, Awka in Anambra State. The well attended synod had as its theme: THE GREAT COMMISSION; THE COMPASSIONATE CHURCH.
This theme was taken from the bible, St. Matthew’s gospel chapter 28:19; ‘therefore go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you… I am with you till the close of the age’.
The import of the theme in very many respects has some lessons for all believers to take to heart. Moreso, as it came at the point of ascension.
First, the command of Jesus was imperative. ‘Therefore go and make disciples’ it was not a suggestion but a task that must be done. If we place this side by side with Mtt. 9v37 ‘… the harvest is plentiful…’, we can then know that such a command needs to be carried out to the letter.
Unfortunately, the church seems to be relaxed and distracted. It should not be so. Rt. Rev. Alex was right: ‘an obedient church has no choice in the ‘Go ye’ than to be ready to comply with the injunction to the glory of God and the good of humanity’.
Secondly, the injunction is not only to the disciples but to all the church if the world must be evangelized. The task of sharing or witnessing is for all inorder to help redeem the perishing world. Acts. 1:8 says ‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’. We need not be ashamed in presenting Christ to the world and this has great link in the great commission.
Thirdly, the church as people of God must follow in the footsteps of her master. Mtt. 9v36: ‘when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’. Rt. Rev. Ibezim recommends that the church should be a listening and a caring church too. He continued: ‘A compassionate church keeps an open gate for ‘all sorts and conditions of men’. This is very characteristic of Jesus’ life and ministry. Yet, it is lacking in the church today. Though we may have some pockets of social services, these are skeletal. Our Lord and master was genuinely concerned and compassionate. Think about these:
(i) The multitudes Mtt. 9v36, 14v14, 15v32
(ii) The unfortunate Mtt. 20v34
(iii) Lepers Mk. 1v41
(iv) The bereaved Lk. 7v11-13
For Jesus ‘everybody is somebody’.
There is no doubt that the church of today is not living up to expectations particularly in attending to the social needs of the flock. It is observed that some leaders are now richer by day and some of their flocks are getting poorer day by day. The concern of the synod theme was to find a way to redirect the church to live up to her responsibilities for many are suffering in silence.
I think the church should re-read the admonition in the letter of James: ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world’.
Let it be noted that we are challenged as a people and as a church by the fact of the great commission. The primary role of the church is to present Christ urgently to the perishing world and at the same time takes care of their social needs. The early church understood it clearly and it was said of them. ‘Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved’. Acts 2v44-47.
It is our prayer that the Lord and the owner of His church will help believers to recapture this vision and pursue it vigorously. I think the Bishop of Awka, Rt. Rev. Alex has well added his voice.
VEN. ERNEST ONUOHA
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Retreat Centre,