AUTHORITY AS SERVICE IN THE NIGERIAN-AFRICAN CHURCH: CHALLENGE OF THE TWOFOLD APOSTOLIC HERITAGE

Peter Onyekwelu Okafor

Abstract


The Church exists on earth as a community of salvation. Its aim is to serve the kingdom of
God by working for the salvation of the world and reconciliation of all things to God in Jesus Christ.
Authority in the Church exists neither as a power to dominate others nor as a coercive instrument, but
as an opportunity and grace to serve the ecclesial mission of the Church. And consequently, it must be
understood and practised as service in the life of the Christian community. In this article we argued that
a good hermeneutics of the twofold apostolic heritage of the Church in their mutual and complementary
interrelatedness, namely, an apostolic community and an apostolic ministry exercised by those with
ministerial authority in this community, is of utmost importance for the true understanding of the
meaning of Church authority understood and exercised as service in the Nigerian-African Church.
Toward this direction, we analysed the data of the Christian Scriptures with regard to the key concepts
of apostles, apostolic tradition, apostolic succession and authority. This enabled us to underscore that
authority of office in the Church must be subordinated to moral authority as verified in Jesus’ own
authority, as well as be linked and conditioned by fidelity to the Gospel and conformity to apostolic life
which are also some of the hallmarks of the concept of apostolicity of ministry. We equally underlined
the tendency towards clericalism often embodied and manifested in the exercise of ministerial
responsibilities in the Nigerian-African Church, and sought a way out of the challenges by, among
other things, drawing insights from the resources of African experience and culture, inasmuch as
authority is concerned.

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