March 18, 2020

 

An Urgent Directive to the Clergy and Congregations of the Anglican Diocese of the West:

Mandatory Suspension of Church Gatherings

-- From: The Rt Rev’d Dr Felix Orji, OSB ECCK

 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:6-7

 

Dear Friends,

 

Effective immediately, I am directing all parishes within our Diocese to suspend all church-related public gatherings for the next two weeks.  This includes all church services and social gatherings related to your church and congregations. If for some reason you feel you must continue to gather for worship, the Rector must inform me in writing and include the consent of the Vestry of the parish. Be aware that your decisions and actions may have legal implications for the church if mishandled. 

 

Please note this directive is for the next two weeks or more, depending on your local authorities, city ordinance, or state. This is a critical period in curtailing the spread of the Coronavirus as stated recently by the Centers for Disease Control. I will alert you of future changes to this directive.

 

This action will demand a significant sacrifice for all of us. However, we must act now in the best interest of the common good so that our ministry and mission are not hindered in the future.  

 

I recommend the following actions to keep our congregations connected and engaged with the Church:  use your Internet and Social Media directors to set up a Live Stream every Sunday to allow parishioners to virtually attend services.  This can be done via your Church’s Facebook page or Instagram account.  You might also consider using another phone or digital camcorder to video your services and uploading those videos to your Church’s YouTube page for viewing at any time.

God will guide us in how to take advantage of digital applications to ensure that our congregations receive His word, pastoral care, and fellowship. 

 

The financial viability of parishes and our diocese is a legitimate concern for many clergy and vestries, so I strongly urge you to continue to give to your churches during this time.  

 

As we look unto Jesus, who is the author and finisher of our Faith, I ask each of you to do whatever it takes within the bounds of faith and reason to support and encourage one another, especially the elderly and the vulnerable within and outside the church. He remains sovereign over us and our present circumstances. He is with us and will see us through. 

 

Let us continue steadfastly in prayer, trusting the Lord for his gracious and powerful intervention in protecting us, healing the sick, and glorifying his name in this time of crises. 

 

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. -Joshua 1:9 

 

Yours in Christ,

 

The Right Reverend Dr Felix Orji, OSB. 

Diocesan Bishop | Anglican Diocese of the West

Missionary Bishop | USA & Canada

Church of Nigeria(Anglican Communion). 

 

 
 

Diocesan Standing Committee Resolution Concerning Publication of Ecclesiastical Discipline

Diocesan Standing Committee Resolution Concerning Publication of Ecclesiastical Disciplinary Actions - (March 4, 2018)

WHEREAS the strong Biblical underpinnings for ecclesiastical discipline (see, among other passages of Holy Scripture, Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 1 Timothy 1:20; and James 5:19-20) support application of the principle of personal accountability to members of both the clergy and laity through careful and proper utilization of discretionary episcopal authority, canonical operation of the diocesan Ecclesiastical Trial Court, and diocesan publication of final disciplinary decisions, all of which benefit the diocese in one or more of the following ways:

a. By providing a vehicle for restoration and reclamation of those whose misbehavior rises to the level of canonical offense;

b. By deterring others from similar misbehavior;

c. By purging the diocese of persistent and/or significant misbehavior and its inevitable negative impact on the spiritual health of the diocese;

d. By maintaining both clergy and lay confidence in the operation of ecclesiastical disciplinary authority;

e. By vindicating the honor of Jesus Christ and the holy profession of the Gospel; and/or

f. By protecting the diocese from the wrath of God that might otherwise rightly fall upon it if, once identified, persistent and/or significant misbehavior is permitted to continue, or if godly discipline is not maintained …

BE IT, THEREFORE, RESOLVED by unanimous vote of a quorum of the Standing Committee of the Missionary Diocese of CANA West meeting on March 4, 2018, that …

In the event a member of the diocesan clergy:

a. Is inhibited from all priestly and diaconal ministry;

b. Is released from Holy Orders and permanently deposed from all priestly and diaconal ministry; or

c. Is sentenced following final conviction by the diocesan Ecclesiastical Trial Court for one or more canonical offenses;

… said circumstance will be published to all diocesan clergy and staff, to the parish congregation where the disciplined member of the clergy serves (or served), and, thereafter, to those diocesan congregations whose respective Rectors, with the express assent of the Diocesan Bishop, believe that publication would serve a beneficial purpose; and

In the event a member of the laity of the diocese is sentenced following final conviction by the Ecclesiastical Trial Court for one or more canonical offenses, said circumstance will be published to all diocesan clergy and staff, to the parish congregation where the disciplined layperson is (or was) a member, and, thereafter, to those diocesan congregations whose respective Rectors, with the express assent of the Diocesan Bishop, believe that publication would serve a beneficial purpose.


* * * * *


BISHOP’S COMMENTARY …

For those who wish to know what constitutes a canonical (ecclesiastical) offense, we look to the ACNA (Provincial) Constitution and Canons, and to our own Diocesan Constitution and Canons.

Title IV, Canon 2 of the ACNA Canons provides:

Canon 2

Of Charges against Bishops, Presbyters, or Deacons

The following are the charges or accusations on which the Archbishop, a Bishop, a Presbyter, or a Deacon in this Church may be presented:

1. Apostasy from the Christian Faith; 


2. Heresy, false doctrine, or schism; 


3. Violation of ordination vows; 


4. Conduct giving just cause for scandal or offense, including the abuse of ecclesiastical power; 


5. A conviction by a court of competent jurisdiction for felony or other serious offenses; 


6. Sexual immorality; 


7. Acceptance of membership in a religious jurisdiction with purpose contrary to that of this Church; 


8. Violation of any provision of the Constitution of this Church; 


9. Disobedience, or willful contravention of the Canons of this Church or of the constitution or canons of the Diocese in which he holds office; 


10. Habitual neglect of the duties of his Office; 


11. Habitual neglect of public worship, and the Holy Communion, according to the order and use of this Church; 


12. Willful refusal to follow a lawful Godly Admonition.

And Title I, Canon 1, Section 2 of our Diocesan Canons states:

The Ecclesiastical Authority of the Diocese shall be vested in the Bishop and, in the absence of the Bishop, the Standing Committee of this Diocese and, if appointed, in the Missionary Bishop of CANA.  Clergy and lay members of the Diocese are expected to honor the Bishop and submit to his leadership in all things lawful and in accordance with holy scripture and Anglican tradition.

Almost all canonical offenses involve violation of one or more of the above-referenced Provincial and/or Diocesan Canons.  So, as you can plainly see, it is extremely difficult to “accidentally” commit a canonical offense.

There can be no meaningful peace without order, and no order without effective discipline.  I commend our Diocesan Standing Committee for having unanimously adopted this resolution, and I am confident that our Diocese will benefit from it.

– Bishop Felix Orji