By Mark Michael
The House of Bishops of the Church of Nigeria, the Anglican Communion’s largest province aside from the Church of England, chose the Most Rev. Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba, 60, as its new primate during a meeting at Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Asaba on September 24. Ndukuba will succeed the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh, Primate of All Nigeria in 2020, when Okoh’s ten-year term expires.
For most of his ordained ministry, Ndukuba has been a pioneering missionary in the majority Muslim northern region of the country. He was consecrated in 1999 as the first bishop of Gombe and in 2017 also became Archbishop of Jos, with oversight of the dioceses in the northeastern part of the country.
Tensions between Christians and Muslims have intensified in recent years in Northeastern Nigeria. There were three assassination attempts on the life of Ndukuba’s predecessor, Archbishop Ben Kwashi, whose home was also raided during fighting between Christian farmers and Muslim Fulani herdsmen in 2018
During his first provincial assembly as Archbishop of Jos in March, 2018, Ndukuba announced a church-based rehabilitation and restoration program for those affected by the clashes, including scholarships for orphans and relief for internally displaced people. He said that member dioceses would also work with the national government to secure funds for rebuilding churches that had been destroyed by the Fulani herdsmen.
A native of Imo State in Southeastern Nigeria, Ndukuba was described by Anglican Cable Network Nigeria as “a sound Biblical scholar, teacher, master liturgist, pastor and an accomplished evangelist. He loves the Lord Jesus Christ and has a great heart for the Word of God and also a prolific writer.” His works include a book, “Christ Above All: A Theology of the Epistle to the Hebrews.” Ndukuba has also served as the chairman of the Liturgy, Prayer and Spirituality Committee of the Church of Nigeria.
The Church of Nigeria reports it has 18 million members, and has expanded rapidly in recent decades, growing from 91 dioceses in 2002 to 161 dioceses in 2017. The church has also played a prominent role in the Anglican realignment over the past two decades. It notably redefined the Anglican Communion in its constitution in 2005 as “all Anglican Churches, Dioceses and Provinces that hold and maintain the ‘Historic Faith, Doctrine, Sacrament and Discipline of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church’.”
In 2006, the clergy and many members of several Episcopal churches in Northern Virginia declared themselves to have broken communion with the Episcopal Church. They became members of the Church of Nigeria by affiliating with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a body that had been previously established by the Church of Nigeria to minister to church members living in the United States. CANA is now an affiliate body of the Anglican Church in America.
Kwashi, Ndukuba’s successor as Archbishop of Jos, became General Secretary of the GAFCON Movement, the primary organizing force within the Anglican realignment in January 2019. The Church of Nigeria has sent large delegations to the GAFCON gatherings, and until last April, Okoh was chair of the GAFCON Primate’s Council.