Twenty Five Years Anniversary of the Creation and Inauguration of the Diocese of Nnewi (Anglican Communion)
Written by Venerable Doctor Nelson ILUNO, Clerical Assistant to the Bishop of Nnewi
Diocese of Nnewi, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) is twenty five years old this year, February 14, 2021. The Diocese of Nnewi was born in 1996 at the height of the Decade of Evangelism. It was within the period when a Decade of Evangelism was declared by the worldwide Anglican Communion after the Lambeth Conference of 1988. The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) team led by the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of All Nigeria came back and decided on how to deal with the Decade of Evangelism. The House of Bishops decided that the best way to deal with the Decade is to make sure that every State must have at least a Diocese and a Bishop. The decision to focus on evangelism resulted in a great revival and Church growth in Nigeria. It was at that time that the Diocese of Nnewi came into being. Meanwhile, the history of the Diocese of Nnewi must be traced back to the Niger Mission at Onitsha on July 27, 1857, by Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther. With Onitsha as its headquarters, the Mission started to break fresh grounds by spreading the Gospel to the rest of Igbo land, beginning with towns and villages around Onitsha. Though, the first mission contact was received by the Obi of Uruagu, however, they could not stay because of a raging inter-community clashes. The second mission in October 1902, took root at Obi Uruagu, and became the spreading point of Christianity to all parts of the present Dioceses of Nnewi, Ihiala and Amichi.
It all started as a missionary station, which gradually developed and became a District in Onitsha Archdeaconry in the Diocese on the Niger. As God would have it, the Nnewi Archdeaconry was excised from Onitsha Archdeaconry in December 1979; and was formally inaugurated on the 16th day of February 1980; while the Venerable Christopher Obiefuna Iwuno was collated and installed same day as the first Archdeacon of Nnewi Archdeaconry. Venerable Clifford Uzoechi Okpala who was the Archdeacon of Awka Archdeaconry was transferred to Nnewi Archdeaconry (with its headquarters at St. Mary’s Church, Uruagu, Nnewi), to become the second Archdeacon from 1985 to 1990, following the retirement of Venerable Iwuno. The Venerable Godwin Izundu Okpala became the third Archdeacon of Nnewi Archdeaconry in 1990. He was able to clear all the debts the Archdeaconry couldn’t pay to the Diocese on the Niger. As a result, the Archdeaconry bounced back and there was need to split it into three. Thus, on December 12, 1991, the Nnewi Archdeaconry was reconstituted and spilt into three Archdeaconries, namely Amichi, Ihiala and Nnewi.
Approval for the Creation of the Diocese
Thus, on August 13, 1993, being the Joint Emergency Meeting of the Finance Board and the Diocesan Board of the Diocese On the Niger, the Bishop on the Niger, Right Reverend Doctor Jonathan Arinzechukwu Onyemeluwe remarked that he was of the view that time has come that Amichi, Ihiala and Nnewi Archdeaconries should be constituted into the Diocese of Nnewi, if the Archdeaconries meet all the necessary requirements for creating a new Diocese. The same Joint Meeting of the Finance Board and Diocesan Board of the Diocese on the Niger unanimously approved the proposal to constitute Amichi, Ihiala and Nnewi Archdeaconries into a Diocese. Immediately after the meeting, Amichi, Ihiala and Nnewi Archdeaconries formed a Planning Committee and various other Committees to make the Proposed Diocese of Nnewi a reality.
During the third Session of the Twenty Second Synod of the Diocese on the Niger held at St. Thomas Church, Oraukwu from 23rd to 27th June 1994, the Synod unanimously approved the creation of the Proposed Diocese of Nnewi on Monday June 25, 1994.
The Bishop, Diocese On the Niger, Right Reverend Jonathan A. Onyemelukwe made a formal application through His Grace, the Most Reverend Joseph Abiodun Adetiloye the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) to the Provincial Standing Committee of the Province of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) for the creation and inauguration of the Proposed Diocese of Nnewi on August 9, 1995. Thus, the Standing Committee of the Province of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) at its meeting at the Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity, Kano, on September 28, 1995, gave its approval for the creation of the Proposed Diocese of Nnewi.
The Episcopal Synod of the Province of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) at its meeting at the Cathedral Church of St. John, Sabongida-Ora, on November 28, 1995, elected a Bishop for the Proposed Diocese of Nnewi. The election was confirmed on January 8, 1996. Venerable Godwin Izundu Nmezinwa Okpala was duly ordained and Consecrated Bishop of the Church of God at the celebration of the Holy Eucharist on Sexagesima Sunday, on February 11, 1996, at the Cathedral Church of All Saints, Abuja, presided over by Most Reverend Joseph Abiodun Adetiloye, Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), and assisted by the Right Reverend B. C. Nwankiti, Right Reverend G. N. Otubelu, Right Reverend J. A. Onyemelukwe, Right Reverend T. E. Ogbonyomi, Right Reverend R. N. C. Nwosu, Right Reverend G. I. O. Olajide, Right Reverend S. O. Elenwo, and other forty one Bishops of the Church of Nigeria.
The Inauguration and Enthronement
February 14, 1996, was a date that would have a special place in the history of the Diocese of Nnewi; because of the inauguration of the Diocese and formal enthronement of the pioneer Bishop, the Right Reverend Godwin I. N. Okpala. The Service of Inauguration and enthronement had about twenty five Bishops in attendance. The Chancellor, Diocese on the Niger, represented by Sir Willie Mojekwu, read the Deed of Relinquishment by which the Bishop, Diocese On the Niger, Right Reverend J. A. Onyemelukwe relinquished his episcopal authority over the Archdeaconries of Amichi, Ihiala and Nnewi. The Most Reverend Joseph Abiodun Adetiloye officially constituted, created and inaugurated the Diocese of Nnewi. The Diocese was inaugurated on Wednesday, February 14, 1996, by the then Primate of All Nigeria, His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Abiodun Adetiloye in company of other Bishops from the Province, as the fifty-first Diocese of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). The first Bishop of the Diocese, Rt. Rev. Dr. Godwin I. N. Okpala, was enthroned at Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Uruagu, Nnewi, on the same day of the inauguration of the Diocese. The enthronement ceremony was performed by the three Archdeaconries of Amichi, Ihiala and Nnewi, namely, Venerable L. N. Enemuo, Venerable F. A. A. Eriobuna and Venerable Dr. Eb. C. Nwabufo respectively. All the Clergy and Laity in the Diocese of Nnewi pledged their loyalty and obedience to the Bishop, Diocese of Nnewi. The following is the jurisdiction relinquished by the Bishop On the Niger to the Bishop of the Diocese of Nnewi, which comprised the political divisions of Ihiala, Nnewi North and Nnewi South Local Government Areas and the ecclesiastical areas:
Amichi Archdeaconry comprising the Church Districts of
Ihiala Archdeaconry comprising the Church Districts of
- Ihiala – St. Silas,
- Ihiala – St. Stephen’s,
- Okija – St. Peter’s,
- Okija – St. Barth’s,
Nnewi Archdeaconry comprising the Church Districts of
- Ibolo, Oraifite
- Inyaba, Umudim Nnewi,
- Nnewichi Nnewi,
- Okofia Otolo Nnewi,
- Otolo – St. Thomas Nnewi,
- Umudim Nnewi,
- Uruagu Nnewi.
The First Synod and New Archdeaconries
The First Session of the First Synod of the Diocese of Nnewi (Anglican Communion) was held at Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Uruagu, Nnewi, from Saturday, 29th June to Wednesday, 3rd July 1996, with the Synod theme: ‘Alive Unto God.’ This incidentally is the motto of the Diocese: ‘Viventus Autem Deo,’ in Latin, taken from Romans 6: 11.
During the Nnewi Diocesan Board held in December 1996, the Bishop announced new Archdeaconries. The under listed Archdeaconries were excised and inaugurated in 1997: St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral Area Archdeaconry (with its headquarters at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Uruagu, Nnewi), Nnewi Archdeaconry (with its headquarters at St. Thomas Church, Otolo), Oraifite Archdeaconry (with its headquarters at St. Jude’s Church, Oraifite), Okija Archdeaconry (with its headquarters at St. Peter;s Church, Okija) and Osumenyi Archdeaconry (with headquarters at St. Stephen’s Church, Osumenyi). Thus, together with Amichi, Ihiala and Nnewi Archdeaconries, seven Archdeaconries had by 1997 been in place to administer and govern sixty one Districts. The Meeting of the Standing Committee of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) held at All Saints’ Cathedral, Onitsha, Anambra State, in March 1999, approved the Constitution of the Diocese of Nnewi and formally replaced the term “District,” the basic administrative unit in the Diocese, with “Parish.”
More Archdeaconries and Parishes were excised and inaugurated later. St. Andrew’s DCC Special Archdeaconry was inaugurated in 2004. Nnewichi Archdeaconry was inaugurated in 2006. Umudim Archdeaconry was inaugurated in 2007. Ozubulu Archdeaconry was inaugurated in 2007. Ukpor Archdeaconry was inaugurated in 2008. Okija West Archdeaconry was inaugurated in 2010.
Creation of Other Sees Out of Nnewi Diocese
The Diocese of Nnewi witnessed the inauguration of Ogbaru Missionary Diocese and relinquishment of some parts of the Diocese of Nnewi. On March 15, 2007, Umuzu and Ogwu-aniocha area in Okija Archdeaconry was excised to form part of Ogbaru Missionary Diocese, actually, the other part or the greater part of the jurisdiction used to be in the Diocese on the Niger
Diocese of Nnewi gave birth to Ihiala Missionary Diocese. Ihiala Archdeaconry in the Diocese of Nnewi was constituted into a Missionary Diocese; and was subsequently created and inaugurated on June 7, 2008. The Diocese of Nnewi relinquished the whole area of Ihiala Archdeaconry to the pioneer Bishop of the Diocese of Ihiala, Right Reverend Ralph Okafor.
Diocese of Nnewi gave birth to the Diocese of Amichi. On January 13, 2009, the whole area of Amichi and Osumenyi Archdeaconries in the Diocese of Nnewi (excluding Ukpor town) was likewise relinquished to become the Diocese of Amichi. The pioneer Bishop of the Diocese of Amichi, Right Reverend Ephraim Ikeakor, accepted the Episcopal Authority over the jurisdiction.
Before Ihiala and Amichi Dioceses were relinquished, the Diocese had sixty five Parishes; but long after the relinquishments of 2008 and 2009, there are more than eighty nine Parishes and sixteen Archdeaconries within the Diocese of Nnewi.
Diocese of Nnewi Has Raised Bishops
Some Clergymen who served at the Diocese of Nnewi have been elected and Consecrated Bishops in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion). The second Bishop of the Diocese of Aguata, Right Reverend Samuel Chukwudi Ezeofor was a Clergy of the Diocese of Nnewi until he became Bishop of Ogbaru Missionary Diocese in March 2007; and was translated to the Diocese of Aguata in 2018. Right Reverend Prosper Amah was made a Deacon in 2000 and ordained a Priest in 2001, by the Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Right Reverend Godwin I. N. Okpala. Bishop Prosper Amah became the second Bishop of Ogbaru in 2018, from the Diocese of Ihiala. Right Reverend Benson Chukwunweike was made a Deacon in 2006 and ordained a Priest in 2007, by the Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, Right Reverend Godwin I. N. Okpala. He served in the Diocese of Nnewi until he became the Bishop of the Diocese of Awgu/Aninri in March 2020.
Hosting of Provincial Meetings
The Diocese of Nnewi played host to a lot of national meetings since its inception and under the leadership of the first Bishop, Right Reverend Professor Godwin I. N. Okpala. Some of these meetings were held at Saint Andrew’s Church DCC, Nkwo, Nnewi, which include: Anglican Youth Fellowship (AYF) National Conference held in 1997, Anglican Children Ministry (ACM) National Training Camp held in 1998. Anglican Youth Fellowship (AYF) National Bible Study Conference held in 2001, Evangelical Fellowship in the Anglican Communion (EFAC) National Clergy Retreat/ General Convention held in 2005, Church of Nigeria Standing Committee and Mothers’ Union Executives Meeting held from 25th to 29th March 2008.
Diocese of Nnewi became the headquarters of the Ecclesiastical Province of the Niger when the Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, the Most Reverend Professor Godwin I. N. Okpala, became the Archbishop of the Province of the Niger in the year 2018. The Most Rev. Professor Godwin I. N. Okpala, the emeritus Archbishop of the Ecclesiastical Province of the Niger and Bishop of Nnewi Diocese, retired on September 17, 2019. Numerous projects, investments, establishments, achievements, mission and evangelistic activities transpired in the twenty-three to twenty-four years of the pioneer Bishop of Nnewi Diocese. Those verifiable facts are in books, history books, magazines and pamphlets. We omitted many of them here, because they cannot be contained in a short piece like this.
The Second Bishop of Nnewi Diocese
The present Bishop of the Diocese of Nnewi, Right Reverend Ndubuisi Chukwuka Obi, was elected Bishop on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, and Consecrated on Tuesday, September 24, 2019, by the then Primate of All Nigeria, Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh, at the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter, Asaba, Delta State, and consequently, enthroned at the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary, Nnewi, Anambra State, Nigeria, on September 27, 2019.
The second Bishop of the Diocese of Nnewi, Right Reverend Ndubuisi Obi, presided at the First Session of the Ninth Synod of the Diocese of Nnewi (Anglican Communion) held from Wednesday, 9th to Sunday, 13th September 2020, at the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary, Nnewi, with the theme: ‘You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1: 8). The Synod was hosted by Uruagu Anglican Community which comprised two Archdeaconries: Cathedral Area Archdeaconry and Cathedral West Archdeaconry. That was the third time the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary, Nnewi, will be hosting the Diocesan Synod since the Diocese of Nnewi was created out of the Diocese On the Niger.
It was on the day of Nnewi Diocesan Location and Appointments Board, December 17, 2020, that the sixteen Archdeaconries in the Diocese of Nnewi were reconstituted and spilt into twenty six Archdeaconries and Deaneries. The names and headquarters of the Archdeaconries and Deaneries are enumerated herein as follows.
- Otolo Archdeaconry: St. Thomas’ Church, Otolo, Nnewi.
- Oraifite Archdeaconry: St. Jude’s Church, Oraifite,
- Okija Archdeaconry: Basilica of St. Peter, Okija,
- Andrew’s DCC Archdeaconry, Nkwo, Nnewi,
- Nnewichi Archdeaconry: St. Mark’s Church, Nnewichi, Nnewi.
- Umudim Archdeaconry: St. Stephen’s Church, Umudim, Nnewi,
- Ozubulu Archdeaconry: St. Matthew’s Church, Ozubulu,
- Ukpor Archdeaconry: St. John’s Church, Ukpor.
- Okija West Archdeaconry: St. Barth’s Church, Okija,
- Ichi Archdeaconry: St. James’ Church, Ichi.
- Orsumoghu Archdeaconry: St. John’s Church, Orsumoghu,
- Uruagu West Archdeaconry: St. Andrew’s Church, Akaboezem, Uruagu, Nnewi.
- Otolo East Archdeaconry: St. Christopher’s Church, Ndiakwu, Otolo, Nnewi,
- Oraifite West Archdeaconry: St. Luke’s Church, Ibolo, Oraifite,
- Otolo Central Archdeaconry: St. Philip’s Church, Okofia, Otolo, Nnewi,
- Nnewichi East Archdeaconry: St. Paul’s Church, Abubor, Nnewichi, Nnewi,
- Umudim East Archdeaconry: St. Michael’s Church, Inyaba, Umudim, Nnewi,
- Uruagu East Archdeaconry: St. John’s Church, Edoji, Uruagu, Nnewi,
- Chapel of Redemption Deanery, NAUTH, Nnewi,
- Chapel of the Holy Spirit Deanery, OMGS, Umudim, Nnewi,
- Chapel of Glory Deanery, AGGS, Uruagu, Nnewi.
- Oraifite East Archdeaconry: All Saints’ Church, Irefi.
- Ukpor East Archdeaconry: St. Andrew’s Church, Ukpor.
- Ozubulu East Archdeaconry: St. Barth’s Church, Ozubulu.
- Azia Archdeaconry: St. James’ Church, Azia.
- Ihembosi Archdeaconry: St. Matthew’s Church, Ihembosi.
Cathedral Church of St. Mary, Nnewi is now standing separately as the matrix ecclesia (mother church). The Cathedral is no longer regarded or classified as an Archdeaconry. There is no doubt that the present administration has done much since the leadership in the Diocese of Nnewi changed hand. The same day of Nnewi Diocesan Location and Appointments Board, December 17, 2020, the Bishop made the following preferments:
- Venerable Doctor Godfrey Chiemeziem Mortanya
- Venerable Anthony Azubuike Ifejirika
- Venerable Doctor Nelson Ifeanyichukwu Iluno
- Venerable Henry Nzubechukwu Nduka.
- Venerable Doctor Charles Onyejaka Nnaemeka
- Venerable Chiadikobi Emmanuel
- Venerable Michael Mbamalu
- Venerable Emmanuel Kenechukwu Nnodu
- Venerable Harold Kingsley Odumezie Obiukwu
- Venerable Raphael Okechukwu Okeke.
- Venerable Prince Nnamdi Izuchukwu Chukwuma
- Venerable Ogochukwu Caleb Esomonu
- Venerable Odilichukwu Aghaegbunam Onyekaba
- Venerable Chamberlain Chiagozie Igwenazo
- Venerable Ibezim Onyekachukwu Okoye
- Venerable Kenechukwu Isaiah Obi
- Venerable Chike Nwachukwu
- Venerable Njelita Jidekene Ojukwu
- Reverend Canon Wilson Emeka Aralu
- Reverend Canon Chibuzo Victor Odunukwe
He appointed many of the new Archdeacons to head the Archdeaconry headquarters. Here, we intend to present highlights of our activities so far in the Diocese of Nnewi. We may not have to analyse everything in this brief history.
Vocational and Technical Institute: ADON Vocational and Technical Institute is our newest project in the Diocese. The Institute is located at the permanent site of the proposed Pentecost University. The Institute began this January 2021. The institute is there to provide a formidable platform to equip our teaming youths with employable skills and reduce the number of jobless people in our society.
Diocesan Hospital: We are rebranding the Nnewi Diocesan hospital, Akwudo, Otolo, Nnewi. A lot of changes have taken place since we came on board. The hospital compound or environment is wearing a new look. There is a new board. There is a new hospital Administrator. There is a drug revolving funds project that is yielding practical results at the hospital. The mortuary has been refurbished. The hospital services are increasing on a daily basis. The staff is up and doing since the new board came on-board.
Diocesan Land at Ihite, Okija: The Diocesan land at Ihite, Okija has been fully developed. It was fenced in the year 2020. Structures have been erected to serve the Diocesan Farm – DONAC Farms recently established there. We are doing everything worthy of commendation to reclaim and maximize the land at Ihite, Okija.
Diocesan Farm: ADON Ventures, Ozubulu, is now functioning at a full capacity as a modern farm. We released a huge amount into the farm project to enable us to meet up with the present demands and global standard. Many segments or sections of the Farm have been revived. They are now being managed by reliable hands. Presently, we have a Clergyman as the Farm Manager. The new board has added new life to the project.
Diocesan Cathedral: A successful land negotiation at Uruagu, Nnewi which cost the Diocese a huge sum of naira led to the construction of a bypass road at the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary, Nnewi. We are glad that we have secured the Cathedral premises now. We can now structure or restructure the Cathedral compound to suit our expectation. Refuse dump opposite the Cathedral is no more because we refused to allow it. We fought assiduously for it and succeeded. Very soon there will be a radical transformation of the Cathedral.
Annual Assessment: The financial contributions of churches to the Central Office of the Diocese was reviewed and reduced drastically to enable the stations consolidate and think more of development around them, as well as build a strong Christian faith among members. For instance, there is a Church which previously paid fourteen million naira. Today, they are paying only three million naira.
Inauguration of Anglican Communities: We have consolidated the Anglican presence in all the communities within the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Nnewi (Anglican Communion) within the space of one in the new administration. We mobilized the appointment of Coordinators and election of Executive members of the Anglican Communities. The Anglican Communities were inaugurated by the Bishop to be a platform to reach out to everyone in the community. We hereby encourage everyone to identify themselves with their communities. Join their activities. Encourage activities of the Anglican Communities that are going on in your place.
Bishop’s Daily Ministrations: The Bishop’s sermon every morning from 6:00am to 6:45am at the Chapel of Grace, Bishopscourt, Nnewi, is being broadcasted through various social media platforms. There are many viewers and followers who have benefited from the messages. I encourage you to join others to enrich your heart with the Word of God every day. Anyone interested in viewing or listening to our sermons can simply connect to the sermon through Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, etc. We made enough copies of the messages available at the Bishopscourt, Nnewi, for interested individuals.
Diocesan Security Outfit: Our Diocese now has a DONAC Security Service. We train, employ, and post Security personnel. DONAC Security officers are serving in our churches. We intend to gradually develop a stronger Security outfit.
Nigerian Police Chaplaincy: In line with our vision to impact every aspect of community, we have started fellowship in most of the Police Stations domiciled within the jurisdiction of our Diocese.
Prisons’ Ministry: We have continued to pay attention to the Nnewi Prisons. Sunday services and other church activities are steady at the Nnewi Prisons which is now called Correctional Centre. We are making arrangements to build a Chapel within the Prisons premises.
Mission Support: Periodically, we support members of our Diocese who are serving in Missionary Dioceses. We do this to help them concentrate in serving the Lord.
Retired Church Workers, Widows and Widowers: In line with our Diocesan Welfare Scheme recently released, we give financial support to our retired Church Workers, widows and widowers.
Women’s Ministry: Women’s Ministry, Diocese of Nnewi (Anglican Communion) under the leadership of Mrs. Ukamaka Obi, are doing great things. The Women’s Ministry recently renovated their hostel at Nsugbe. We expect that as soon as the academic activities commences at Nwafor Orizu College of Education, Nsugbe, students will return to their hostels. Of course, many have shown commitment to that effect. It is good to remark that the newly acquired land at Nnewi by the Women’s Ministry, is big enough to serve as a residential building as well as a business centre. The building plans are intact. The Bishop’s wife introduced a monthly programme for awaiting mothers. Twice in a year, she holds special retreats for ladies yet to get married. Presently, there are training manuals, follow-up and Bible study materials prepared and printed for preparatory classes before admissions into Mothers’ Union, Women’s Guild and Unique Ladies and Girls’ Fellowship. Of course, Girls’ Guild has been rebranded to suit the immediate needs. Their new name is Unique Ladies and Girls’ Fellowship. The Constitution of the Women’s Ministry, Diocese of Nnewi (Anglican Communion) was recently reviewed and hard copies printed for easy reference. The President of the Women’s Ministry facilitated the election of new Officers of the Women’s Ministry from the Diocesan level to the grassroots, and equally established Home and Abroad Meetings in the Diocese of Nnewi. There are many activities being carried out by the Women’s Ministry. We may not have enough space here to enumerate all their activities.
The truth is that many people are witnessing the move of God in the Diocese of Nnewi this time. Lives are being impacted. Restructuring, development, progress and advancement are very obvious.