The Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion may be walking on a slippery terrain with the recent suspension of one of its own, The Rt Rev Olukayode Adebogun, Bishop of Anglican Diocese of The Trinity (ADOTT).
The cathedral of the diocese is based in Indiana State in the US. But Bishop Adebogun resides in Canada. He shuttles between the US and Canada to oversee the diocese.
It is not clear the specific offense of Adebogun. Still, from the interchange between him and the church, it is safe to assume that his suspension may not be unconnected with his appearance at the court in the case involving the Church and ADOTT.
Before now, the Church of Nigeria had resolved during its general Synod in September 2023 to dissolve ADOTT on February 2, 2024. The decision was perhaps a move by the church to restructure its operations in North America.
Some people in the diocese were not comfortable with the decision and thus went to court. The church might have frowned at that act of insubordination because it felt the parties had not exhausted the provisions within the church before seeking legal redress. The consequence was the suspension of Bishop Adebogun.
Bishop Orji was also suspended
Ironically, the scenario that is playing out today, played out about two years ago when Bishop Felix Orji was suspended for his public utterance against the Church of Nigeria.
Orji was the then coordinating bishop of the Church of Nigeria Mission in North America. He eventually pulled out of the Church of Nigeria to join the Anglican Church of North America. (ACNA)
His argument then was that there was no need for the Church of Nigeria to perpetuate its organisational structure in the US since ACNA shares the same doctrinal beliefs with the Church of Nigeria.
ACNA was established by conservative Anglican bishops in the US in 2009 to protest the homosexual stance of The Episcopal Church which was the main Anglican Church in North America.
How Church of Nigeria got into the US
The question on the lips of many perhaps will be, how did the Church of Nigeria become an issue in the US since there have been Anglicans in those places long before Nigeria experienced the gospel?
Dr. Motunrayo Adetola, an Anglican based in Canada explained in a video shared online that it was the then Primate of the Church of Nigeria, The Most Revd Peter Akinola that started what was then known as CANA: Convocation of Anglicans in North America in 2005.
It was a necessity then because of the prevalent homosexual gospel of The Episcopal Church. Adetola explained that CANA intended to serve as a haven for conservative Anglicans in the US. It was after CANA was established that the Anglican Church of North America was established. Church of Nigeria was said to have played a critical role in the establishment of ACNA.
But then, CANA, which was already in place and had grown to produce two dioceses: ADOTT and Anglican Diocese of the West which was headed by Bishop Orji. The whole operations of the Church of Nigeria are however under the supervision of the Church of Nigeria Mission in North America (CONNAM)
After Bishop Orji left for ACNA, the Church of Nigeria had to redirect its operations. There was perhaps pressure from ACNA leadership who are partners of the Global Anglican Future Conference GAFCON on the Church of Nigeria (CON) to reduce its operations in North America.
There is also a suspicion of some interpersonal intrigues between the Primate and the Bishop of ADOTT. All this put together led to an acceleration in the decision to redirect the CONNAM mission. This was being done without carrying the two North American Diocesan boards of Trustees along.
The Primate and a majority of Nigerian Bishops at their retreat in Nnewi in September 2023 proceeded to dissolve the 2 Dioceses (ADOTT and ADOTW). This caused some disquiet within the dioceses, particularly ADOTT.
What ACNA wants
Adetola noted that “ACNA is not asking for a dissolution of these Dioceses but a surrender of these missions altogether like some other Anglican communions such as Rwanda and Kenya have done.”
But then, aggrieved members of ADOTT through their Trustees went to court to stop the dissolution of the diocese. The case came up for hearing on January 29. ADOTT was the plaintiff. Bishop Adebogun, Bishop Nathan Kanu, the coordinating Bishop North American Mission for the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, and the Primate of the Church of Nigeria, The Most Revd Henry Ndukuba were defendants in the case.
Of all the defendants, only Bishop Adebogun showed up in the court to answer questions. This perhaps might have irked the authority of the church who felt it was not proper for the church’s internal matter to be washed in the public space.
That is an assumption. But then, it will be too early to blame Adebogun for showing up in court. He is the bishop of the contentious diocese and his cathedral is in the State of Indiana where the case is being heard.
The court paper
There are conjectures that those who went to court might as well be the legs and eyes of Adebogun. The fact on the ground according to a court paper made available to Church Times is that ADOTT, though has a historical link to the Church of Nigeria, has not received subventions from its parent body. The Church of Nigeria has also not sent priests to the diocese since its inception according to the court document.
The diocese in contention comprises about 80 churches and parishes across the United States and Canada and serves between 800 to 8,000 members. ADOTT was incorporated as an Indiana nonprofit corporation in 2011. It has its own governing body and operates independently of the church of Nigeria to a large extent.
A missed opportunity?
Though leaders of CON may not like the idea of going public with its matter it would not have been out of place for them to honour the invitation of the court. Some people feel that would have been a great opportunity to make public reasons the diocese has to be dissolved. But the leadership of the church may well be acting on Biblical injunction not to go before unbelievers to settle matters.
Bishop Adebogun in an interview with Church Times in 2019 had given insight into some battles he had to fight with those who propagate the homosexual gospel in Canada and how he refused to bow to their pressure. He and Bishop Orji had pulled out of the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church because of the pro-gay stance of these Anglican communions.
Adebogun told our correspondent then that he started an Anglican Church in 2004 after leaving the Anglican Church of Canada and was able to grow the church to about 15 parishes as of 2019 when he granted the interview.
ADOTT and the dissolution
It is not a norm for the CON to dissolve a Diocese that has been existing for years. Could it be that the church does not want the diocese tag and that it would rather regard those churches in the diocese as being under CONNAM? These are just guesses. But with the facts on the ground, it seems the case is a tricky one and it may not go the way CON wants it. ADOTT may continue to exist against the wishes of the Church of Nigeria.
Who is Adebogun?
For those who may not know, Adebogun is an indigene of Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. He has been in Canada for close to 25 years. He is a dual citizen of Nigeria and Canada.
He works in the immigration industry and also the mortgage. In addition to being connected with the church, he’s a licensed Immigration Law Specialist and also a licensed Mortgage Broker. Since he became substantive bishop of the ADOTT in 2021 he has been fully occupied with the work of the ministry. It is only hoped that the matter between his diocese and CON is resolved amicably.