The Anglican church, environment and poverty : constructing a Nigerian indigenous oikotheology.
This research proposes a Nigerian indigenous oikotheology to assist the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) better meet the challenges of the “double earth crisis” of poverty and environmental degradation. The thesis begins by arguing that the crisis of poverty and the crisis of ecology are inextricably linked. It does this by examining the situation globally, in Africa and in Nigeria. It argues that for the church to be able to articulate the needed theological paradigm in response to the “double earth crisis”, it is important that it is adequately informed and equipped with environmental knowledge as well as the dynamics of the global capitalist system and its hegemonic influences. This understanding is imperative because these affect the environment and poverty nexus. The thesis then examines the response of the Anglican Church to the environment and poverty by situating this within the wider biblical, Christian and ecumenical history, and the history of the Anglican Church itself. It then looks at the Anglican Church in Nigeria by investigating the engagement of the three Anglican Dioceses in Anambra State (Nigeria) in environment and poverty issues. It also investigates the understanding of the diocesan clergy on these issues. Findings from the research field work indicate that a majority of the clergy exhibited an appreciable level of environmental awareness contrary to the hypothesis of the study. However, this knowledge is a “paper knowledge” because of its heavy reliance on the ‘traditional’ view of understanding of the environment. Thus it creates a huge gap between theoretical knowledge and practical commitment on the part of the dioceses. Collective will and practical commitment which are vital for the church’s engagement in poverty and environment issues are therefore lacking, and this leads to the church’s difficulty in significantly living up to its environmental responsibility in practical ways. In responding to the identified gap, the thesis examines ‘four generations’ of ecological motifs in theology, namely, dominion, stewardship, eco-theology and oikotheology. Oikotheology is an attempt to strengthen the weaknesses in the Christian ecological thoughts (from dominion to ecotheology) and hence provide an eco-theological framework that will engender commitment and action. However, because of the challenges with which Oikotheology grapples (strong eschatological influences and inaccessibility to African culture), it could not achieve this aim in the Nigerian setting. In a continued search for an eco-theological framework that is more African, the study articulates the synthesis of Oikotheology and African indigenous ecological ethics (a fifth generation) as a theological framework which would uniquely appeal to African Christianity in its attempt to collaborate with other disciplines in addressing the challenges of the environment and poverty in Africa and the world. Key to this synthesis is an examination of Nigerian Igbo proverbs-the egbe belu precautionary principle and onye aghana nwa nne ya in particular, and the African cosmology in general. This synthesis, considered in our opinion as Africa’s gift to humanity and Christendom, will no doubt significantly contribute to the global discussion on the current double earth crisis of environment and poverty. The thesis concludes with a series of practical suggestions including among others the formation of a National Commission on the environment by the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) as a way of fostering environmental education.