1. ORIGIN: The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria was established in April 1846, when, at the invitation of the two kings of Calabar, a team of missionaries from the Church of Scotland Mission, led by Rev. Hope Masterton Waddell, arrived Calabar where they set up the first congregation of he Church. From Calabar, the Church began to grow. In 1858, it was constituted as the Presbytery of Biafra. This Presbytery of Biafra metamorphosed into the The Presbyterian Synod of Biafra in 1921. The Church continued to witness remarkable growth until 1945, when the Presbyterian Church of Biafra was constituted, with the Synod as its highest court. In the same year, the white missionaries handed over the Church administration to Nigerians. The Presbyterian Church of Biafra became the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Nigeria in 1952. By 16th June, 1960, the Mission Church integration was completed and the Church changed its name to the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria. In 1985, the Syond met in Afikpo and agreed to create Regional Synods with the General Assembly as the highest decision making body. This decision materialized on the 22nd August, 1987, when the General Assembly was inaugurated at the Duke Town Presbyterian Church, Calabar. After the creation of the General Assembly, two regional Synods were created in 1988. These were the East and the South-East Synods. As at today, the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria has nine Regional Synods.
2. FAITH & DOCTRINE: The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria is a part of the Holy Catholic or Universal Church. It is one of the results of the Protestant Reformation that was begun in 1517 AD. It worships one God Almighty, in the Trinity
of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It rejoices in the sovereign grace of God towards humanity and creation and confesses our Lord Jesus Christ as the eternal Son of God who was crucified for the salvation of humankind and who is the Head of the Universal Church. It believes in the Word of God as contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as its supreme rule of faith and life. The Church proclaims the gospel of the kingdom of God and invites all to receive the forgiveness of sins and the acceptance by God through faith in Jesus Christ and the gift of eternal life.
3. SPREAD: From its humble beginning in Calabar in 1846, the Church has been firmly established in Nigeria with congregations spread across the country. The Church has nine Regional Synods, over fifty Presbyteries and more than two thousand parishes, congregations, outreaches and mission fields spread across the entire country. It also has a Mission Presbytery covering the Republics of Benin and Togo. The Regional Synods are those of Akwa (covering Akwa Ibom State, with office in Uyo), Calabar (parts of Cross River State, with office in Calabar), East (parts of Abia State, with office in Ohafia), East Central (Enugu and Anambra States as well as parts of Ebonyi State, with office in Abakaliki), Mid East (covering parts of Ebonyi State with office in Afikpo), North (covering the Northern States of Nigeria, with office in Abuja), South Central (Rivers, Bayelsa and Imo States as well as parts of Abia State, with office in Aba), Upper Cross River (covering parts of Cross River State, with office in Ugep), and, West (covering Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun, Edo and Delta States as well as the Mission Presbytery of Cotonou/Lome, with office in Yaba, Lagos).
4. STRUCTURE: The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, like other Presbyterian Churches in the world, is ruled by Elders. These are classified into two - the Teaching Elders (ordained clergy) and the Ruling Elders (ordained laity). Both the Teaching and Ruling Elders come together to constitute the ‘courts’ of the Church through which they govern the Church. The Presbyterian Church of Nigerian has four courts - the Kirk Session, the Presbytery, the Synod and the General Assembly. The courts are the following:
i) Session: The Session consists of a Minister (or Ministers) and Ruling Elders who exercise rule under Jesus Christ in all matters affecting the spiritual well being and order of the Congregation/s.
ii) Presbytery: The Presbytery is made up of the Ministers and the representative Elders of the Sessions that constitute the Court as determined by the Synod. It exercises oversight and rule over the Ministers (including those on probation) and Students for the ministry as well as the Sessions and Congregations within its bound.
iii) Synod: This Court consists of all the members of Presbyteries together with such representatives of local interests of the Church as may be authorized by the General Assembly. The Synod acts as an Appeal Court over the Presbyteries within its bounds and also considers matters of local concern to the Church.
iv) General Assembly: The General Assembly is the Supreme Court of the Church. In all matters that concern the Church, its decisions are final. It exercises oversight and rule over the Sessions, Presbyteries, and Synods as well as the Church as a whole.
5. OTHER G. A. STRUCTURES:
a) GAEC:The General Assembly meets every two years. In between its meetings, the General Assembly Executive Committee (GAEC) meets quarterly to deliberate on behalf of the General Assembly on relevant Church matters. Decisions taken by GAEC are reported to the next meeting of the General Assembly for ratification or otherwise. The Prelate and Principal Clerk act as Chairman and Secretary of GAEC respectively while membership is drawn from other Principal Officers of the General Assembly, Past Principal Officers of the G. A., the Chief Legal Officer and other Legal Officers, Moderators of Synod, Trustees, G. A. Boards, G. A. institutions, G. A. Directorates, etc.
b) G. A. Boards: For the ease of the work of the General Assembly, the Church has constituted various Boards which are directly responsible to the General Assembly and report to the regular meetings of the General Assembly Executive Committee (GAEC). To this end, the Church operates the Board of Personnel & Training (BPT), Board of Trustees (BOT), Board of Faith & Order (BFO), Board of Finance and Medical Board (MB).
6. LEADERSHIP STRUCTURE: As has been stated earlier, the General Assembly is the highest governing body of the Church and is representative of the unity of the Synods, Presbyteries, Sessions and Congregations of The Presbyterian Church of Nigeria. The Principal Officers of the General Assembly, who are the national leaders of the Church, consist of the Prelate and Moderator of the General Assembly, the Principal Clerk, the Deputy Clerk and the General Assembly Accountant.
i. Prelate/Moderator: The Prelate and Moderator of the General Assembly is the national leader of the Church. He presides over the General Assembly and the General Assembly Executive Committee (GAEC) as Moderator and Chairman respectively. He is the Chief Executive of the Church.
ii. Principal Clerk: The Principal Clerk is the next Principal Officer in the hierarchy of the General Assembly after the Prelate/Moderator. He is the General Secretary of both the General Assembly and the General Assembly Executive Committee (GAEC). He is also the Chairman of the Board of Personnel & Training (BPT). The duties of the Principal Clerk can be classified in two major roles – the Principal Clerk of the General Assembly meetings, and the Principal Clerk (Executive Secretary) for the general administration of the Church.
iii. Deputy Clerk: The office of the Deputy Clerk is the next in hierarchy after that of the Principal Clerk. There is a distinct division of responsibilities between the Principal Clerk and the Deputy Clerk. While the Principal Clerk is responsible for the overall responsibility of the office, and is primarily responsible to the General Assembly, the Deputy Clerk is responsible for certain areas of responsibility within the General Assembly Clerk’s Office
iv. General Assembly Accountant: The General Assembly Accountant is the Treasurer of the Church. By responsibility, he/she is the custodian of the accounts of the Church and renders such account to the General Assembly in liaison with the Board of Finance.
7. CHURCH ACTIVITIES: Since its advent in Nigeria, the Presbyterian Church has been vigorously involved in evangelism and social action in fulfillment of its divine obligations.
a. Evangelism: From its humble beginning in Calabar in 1846,the
Church has been firmly established in Nigeria with parishes spread across the country. Congregations and parishes have been established in all parts of the country and a Mission Presbytery set up even as far as Cotonou and Lome covering the Republics of Benin and Togo respectively.
b. Education: Over the years, the Church has been involved in the education sub-sector through the numerous primary and post-primary schools established and run by Parishes, Presbyteries and Synods. It is interesting to note that in 1895, the Church founded one of the foremost educational institutions in Nigeria - the Hope Waddell Training Institution, Calabar. The institution has since been in the fore-front of producing the educated elites of this country, the number of which includes such names as the first President of Nigeria, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first Governor of Eastern Nigeria, Dr. Akanu Ibiam, Sir Dennis Osadebey, Prof. Eni Njoku, Elder Chief Dr. Okoi Arikpo, Chief Margaret Ekpo, Alvan Ikoku, to mention just a few. Further to its commitment to the education sub-sector, the Church operates two degree-awarding Theological Institutions, namely, Hugh Goldie Lay Theological Training Institution, Arochukwu, Abia State (founded in 1918 and affiliated to Abia State University) and Essien Ukpabio Presbyterian Theological College, Itu, Akwa Ibom State (founded in 1994 and affiliated to the University of Calabar). The institutions run certificate, diploma and degree courses in Religious Studies, Theology and other related fields. Another tertiary institution owned and operated by the Church is the Presbyterian health Institute, Uburu, Ebonyi State. The Institute runs courses in Medical Laboratory, Public Health, Dental Technology, Health Information Management, Nutrition and Dietetics, etc.
It is in furtherance of this enviable record in the education sub-sector that the Church has devoted itself to the establishment of a Faith-Based private university - Hope Waddell University. Located in Okagwe Ohafia, Abia State, the university aims to produce a new generation of leaders who are broadly educated, spiritually equipped, passionately engaged and committed to delivering excellent service to God and humanity.
c. Health/Agriculture: Health programmes are veritable tools in the hand of the Church for salvation. The Church, under a deliberate policy to care for the body as well as the soul, has over the years established and run hospitals and health centres in parts of the country. These include:
• Mary Slessor Joint Hospital (MSJH), Itu, Akwa Ibom State.
• Eja Memorial Joint Hospital (EMJH), Itigidi, Cross River State.
• Presbyterian Tuberculosis and Leprosy Hospital (PTBLHM), Mbembe, Obubra, Cross River State.
• Urban Health Services (UHS), Aba, Abia State.
• Presbyterian Mission Hospital (PMH), Ivenger, Benue State.
• Rural Improvement Mission (RIM), Ikwo, Ebonyi State.
• The Presbyterian Joint Hospital (PJH), Uburu, Ebonyi State.
• Ekoli Presbyterian Joint Hospital (EPJH), Ekoli-Edda, Ebonyi State.
The involvement of the Church in the agricultural sub-sector is also worthy of note. Of particular mention in this area are the Itu and Yakurr Farms.
d. Social Action (PCS & D): The Church believes that the vehicle through which it reaches the people with the gospel of Jesus Christ includes social action – a programme of assisting the needy in the larger society anchored on the philosophy that physical and material well -being prepares the ground for spiritual development. It has therefore set up the Presbyterian Community Services and Development Department (PCS & D), for the purpose of assisting the needy in the larger society. The PCS & D was established to articulate the social-action policy and programmes of the Church in the areas of HIV-AIDS prevention and care, emergency relief, women empowerment, justice and peace, destitute rehabilitation, agriculture and adult literacy. It is a fully established Faith-Based Organisation, funded by the PCN, overseas Partner-Churches and international donor agencies such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The work of the department is carried out under seven distinct sub-departments namely:
i) PRESBY AIDS: As the name implies, PRESBY AIDS was set up to educate Church members as well as the public on HIV-AIDS prevention and care and other related services.
ii) Emergency Relief: To cater to the immediate needs of those who have been displaced by any form of disaster by assisting them with food, clothing, shelter and cash as the case may be.
iii) Women Empowerment: To empower women to participate fully in politics, economic and other human activities at all levels through education and mass mobilisation.
iv) Justice & Peace: To engage in Conflict Resolution and facilitative mediation among warring communities or individuals in conflict, and, to fight human rights abuses. eg obnoxious customs and practices against widows.
v) Destitute Rehabilitation: To rehabilitate destitutes through training in various skills and providing micro-credit to establish cottage industries of their own, and, to facilitate scholarship for children of destitutes who are able to go to school.
vi) Hunger And Food: To train people in modern agricultural techniques and provide farming input such as crops, fertiliser and improved seed and animal varieties.
vii) Adult Literacy: Adults who have no formal education are provided with access to acquiring knowledge and formal education.
8. ECUMENICAL RELATIONS: The Presbyterian Church is a first generation Church with a wide circle of ecumenical relations. It is a member of the World Council of Churches, Reformed Ecumenical Council, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Christian Council of Nigeria, Reformed Ecumenical Council of Nigeria and the Christian Association of Nigeria, among others.
9. RELIGION AND POLITICS: The Church encourages its members and indeed Christians to be engaged in partisan politics but it does preach the practice of “politics of righteousness.” It is only when Christians practise politics according to the teachings of Jesus Christ that we can establish a godly society.
Now that everybody is complaining about the menace of Boko Haram and their continued success in destabilizing the polity, with the singular aim of rendering the nation un-governable – the time is very ripe for a full declaration of state of emergency in all its military ramifications to save Nigeria from the possible inferno of a civil war or the continued tragic slaughter of innocent Nigerians.
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