Record shows that by the end of 1992, exactly one hundred and fifty years after Christianity, in the modern sense came to Nigeria, there were approximately forty dioceses in the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion (Omoyajowo, 97). This is considered unprecedented, especially considering the humble beginnings of Anglican missions in Nigeria. For instance, a hundred and fifty years ago, in 1842, there was no single Anglican diocese in the entire West Africa area. It was not until May 22nd 1852 that the first diocese, of Sierra Leone, was created and inaugurated. However, this inauguration became a boost to the work of evangelism in the West African sub-region. This has steadily led to the creation of more dioceses, geared towards carrying the gospel further.
In 1954, with the inauguration of the Diocese of Northern Nigeria, the gospel gained a rapid growth in the northern region. Owing to the growing need for evangelism in the region, the need began to arise for the vast Diocese of Northern Nigeria to be divided into more missionary dioceses. Two major factors could be responsible for the division of this vast diocese: one of the factors was the growing desire to reach out to other areas of the northern region. And the other factor was for more effective administration.
It was for these reasons that the Synod of the Diocese of Northern Nigeria, holding at St. Michael’s Anglican Church Zaria in 1978, unanimously agreed that the possibility of creating more dioceses out of the existing one be explored. The committee set up to look into that purpose immediately went into work, and their recommendations were taken to the Provincial Standing Committee which unanimously gave its approval to the move.
The steering committee for the proposed dioceses were then inaugurated, to enable them work towards their autonomy. By the time the new dioceses were created in 1980, the Diocese of Northern Nigeria then became:
The Diocese of Kaduna, comprising Kaduna, Niger and Sokoto States;
The Diocese of Kano, comprising Kano, Bauchi and Borno States;
The Diocese of Jos, comprising Plateau, Benue and Gongola States.
With this development, the road was widely opened for more evangelism, growth and development.
The Diocese of Jos was formally inaugurated on the 10th of January, 1980 with the Rt. Rev. S. C. N. Ebo as the first bishop of the diocese. The annual statistics of membership in the diocese as at 1980 stood at the following figures:
The Mission strategies, as earlier mentioned, have been of tremendous significance to the Anglican mission right from the inception of the missionary organisation. Just as in other dioceses in the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the growth of the missions in the Diocese of Jos has largely depended upon the methods and strategies adopted, and the vigour with which these methods were pursued have led to its development. This became relevant as reflected in the first synod address of the diocese, which was themed; “EVANGELISM”. This theme properly pictured the focus of the diocese from that beginning. Therefore, to realise this goal, a number of strategies as obtained in the CMS Missionaries statements were employed. Among them were Education, medical approach, Investment, the use of various arms of the church and so on.
Following the steps of the Church Missionary Society, the Diocese of Jos saw the need for and adopted the education method in its efforts to evangelize the natives. The Districts and parishes were urged to establish Nursery, Primary and Secondary schools, because, it was believed, that the path to save, defend and spread the gospel faster and more effective was through the use of education- for both the adult and children. The Diocese emphasized this in line with the popular slogan: “catch them young”, which became a reality in order for children to be taught the rudiments of Christianity from their youth (1990 Bishop’s charge, 33).
By 1984, Makurdi District had set up three new secondary schools (1987 Synod Report, 21), and by 1987, the same District had established twenty-nine primary schools and four Nursery schools. Also, by 1987, three churches within Jos District: St. Paul’s church, St. Piran’s church and Christ Church Bukuru, had each established Nursery and Primary schools.
Also, as part of its policy to reach out through education, the Diocese, in the 1980s continued to play a great role in the running of the activities of St. John’s College, which at that time was the only Anglican secondary school in Jos, and which was owned by the three dioceses. Moreover, the college was also at this point being grant aided by the Government of Plateau State (1985 Bishop’s Charge, 11). In 1981, the population of the students in St. John’s College stood at 659 (406 boys and 253 girls), and by 1987 the number had increased to 946 students, out of which 231 students were boarders, and the remaining 715 were Day students (1987 Synod Report, 27).
By 1988 the number of students had increased to 1008: 350 boys and 394 girls were Day students, while 134 boys and 130 girls were boarding students. However, it should be stressed here, as the records show, that St. John’s College did accommodate not only Christians or even exclusively Anglicans, but it catered both for Muslims and non-Anglicans as well. The reason for this is reflected in the words of Bishop Kwashi: By the time the Diocese of Northern Nigeria was carved out as a whole in 1954, it became obvious between 1965 and 1966 that the schools that we had in the whole Northern Nigeria were not enough to contribute to the needs of the Region’s education.
It must be stressed that in the Anglican Church, we do not look at it as educating only Anglicans…the old students were made up of Muslims and what have you. As Anglican Church we want people to understand what it means to be in the kingdom of God. We don’t care if you come to the Anglican church or not but let us contribute something to the community and to your life. That is our focus (St. John’s Year Book-2001, p.40).
One of the methods also adopted, which also slightly relates to the education method was the strategy of evangelizing young children. The various churches within the diocese made this a special responsibility which they pursued with a strong vigour. This they did, with the understanding that the future of Christianity and the society in general depends on how today’s children are moulded.
A good example of how the diocese took children evangelism seriously was in Yerwa district. The children’s evangelism in Yerwa was created in 1984 in order to bring the younger ones to the knowledge of Christ. Four men were trained and prepared to take charge of this ministry- and subsequently they also helped to train others. This strategy proved quite effective and fruitful, as the membership soon increased to about five hundred children. This children’s evangelism ministry had classes in English, Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo languages, in order to allow for a wider audience and participation. At the end of each year examinations were administered and prizes and certificates were awarded to students (1986 Synod Report, 24).
One of the challenges that confronted the Diocese of Jos right from its inauguration in 1980 was its lack of financial strength. The question of finance became a serious threat to the diocese, and on its own part, the diocese mapped out various ways of investments in order to gain some ways of financial support in its mission of evangelism. But even the choice of such investments were also deliberate as they in many ways also serve not only as ways to augment the financial strength of the diocese, but to also serve as means through which people who patronized those investments could be ministered to for Christ. The diocese, in the 80s, purchased a piece of land in Yerwa to be used for agricultural purposes. The harvest produce from this farm were sold and the diocese put the money to use, no matter how little it was.
The diocese also set up a bookstall investment, aimed at buying and selling books, especially Christian literature. As mentioned above, this was not only aimed at gaining profit, but to also evangelise through the circulation of Christian literatures. Record shows that in 1986 the bookstall invested in the value of 7,498.00 naira, which yielded a profit of 1,497.00 naira. The main stocks then were Bibles, Bible Guides, cards and books on such subjects as Christian marriage and family life (1987 Synod Report, 24).
The activities of youth in the Anglican ministry have always played remarkable roles in the Diocesan efforts of the mission within and outside the diocese. The Anglican Youth Fellowship of the Diocese of Jos was carved out of the Diocese of Northern Nigeria in March 1980. This youth arm of the church has the responsibility of promoting the spirit of brotherhood, quality of good leadership and the spirit of evangelism through visits, preaching tours and singing competitions. A number of new churches were set up through their activities (1984 Synod Report, 19).
They also made it a responsibility to set up other branches of this fellowship at District and at Parish levels. This was done in order to promote further grassroots evangelism.
As the most active evangelistic arm of the Anglican Church, they constantly launched out on campaigns and outreaches to unevangelised areas, and the resultant effect was the establishment of new churches and centres. They also held fellowships and organized spiritually enriching programmes such as Bible quiz, which encouraged members to study the Bible. Sometimes they also participate in activities at the National level as well (1987 Synod Report, 19).
Women contributions to missions include those of the Mothers’ Union and the Women’s Guild and the Girls’ Guild. As could be seen, even in the ministry of Jesus Christ, women were seen to be quite active participants. It was also the case in the Diocese of Jos in the 80s, where women contributed to the mission efforts of the diocese towards the spread of the church. By 1980 there were a total of one hundred members in the Mothers’ Union and one thousand in the Women’s Guild in the Diocese of Jos (1980 Synod Report, 17).
The women folk within the diocese concerned themselves with convening conferences and meetings where they embarked on Bible quiz, and competitions; and winners were awarded prizes. Such activities were aimed at deepening the Christian faith, life and the experience of the members so that they could be better equipped to make their mark in the general mission of the church. Such conferences were convened for the purpose of addressing major issues, ranging from home and family affairs to the demands and challenges of ministry.
An example of their efforts in the mission of the gospel to others could be seen in their reaching out (along with other sister churches), in 1980 to the Gindiri Blind Centre with some amount of money (1980 Synod Report, 17).