THE CHURCH IN NIGERIA AND THE CRISIS OF MINISTERIAL AUTHORITY: RETRIEVING THE TRADITION

Peter Onyekwelu Okafor

Abstract


This article intends to defend the thesis that ministerial authority in the Church in Nigeria today suffers a crisis. It does not content itself alone with unearthing the symptoms of this crisis that seem to slow down the immense efforts and contributions of the Nigerian clergy to the pastoral ministry in this part of the world. Using an analytic theological method, the author researches into the theological roots of the crisis, and discovers the root-factor in the juridical ecclesiology prevalent in many Nigerian particular Churches which privileges the understanding of Church authority primarily in terms of the powers and jurisdiction of the clergy. To resolve this problem which has taken the Church by a storm, the writer makes “a cast into the deep” by retrieving the ancient Tradition on authority which has come down to us from the early Church as expressed in the texts of Tradition: Biblical, patristic and liturgical sources. We discovered that ministerial authority in the early Church had an essentially spiritual character. Genuine authority was regarded as moral and required men who were spiritually alive. There was no separation or dichotomy between spiritual and pastoral authority as both were exercised in hierarchical authority. This ancient paradigm of authority, an enduring heritage of the catholic tradition, is what we have presented here as a panacea for helping the Church to “come out of the woods” in the Nigerian context. It is a doctrinal and pastoral resolution of the crisis.

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