On 17th April 1951, with the consent of the Archbishop of Canterbury and according to Articles submitted by him after consultation with the diocese concerned ,the Diocesan Bishops of five West African Dioceses holding mission from the see of Canterbury solemnly declared that their dioceses were by their act and determination united in the Province of West Africa with the intention that its organization should be developed in accordance with the Articles hereinafter contained as a province of Catholic Church in full communion with the Anglican Churches.
The Archbishop of Canterbury relinquished his metro political jurisdiction under the Articles retained certain powers during an interim period until a full Provincial Synod with three Houses of Bishops, Clergy and Laity be brought into being and the Constitution and Canons be completed and approved.
The Synod of the three houses met for the first time in November 1957, following the Crowther centenary celebrations of the Niger Mission. The Synod then made arrangements to prepare its Constitution and Canons. At its second meeting in Lagos in August 1962 the Constitution was finally passed and met with the approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury on 1 March 1963, the date on which it came into effect.
Nigeria eventually, was carved into an autonomous Province in February 1979, the new Province of Nigeria was inaugurated , comprising the Diocese of Aba, Asaba, Benin, Egba-Egbado, Ekiti, Enugu, Ibadan, Ijebu, Kwara, Lagos, the Diocese of Niger, the Niger Delta, Northern Nigeria, Ondo and Owerri.
The Dioceses of Accra, Kumasi, Liberia, Gambia and Sierra Leone continued in the Province of West Africa.
On August 17th 181, the new missionary diocese of Bo, formed out of Sierra Leone, was inaugurated , sponsored financially by the Church of West Africa and the Diocese of Freetown (Formerly Sierra Leone). In the same year the four new Dioceses of Cape Coast , Koforidua, Sekondi and Sunyani / Tamale were formed from parts of Accra and Kumasi Dioceses.
On March 18, 1982 the Diocese of Liberia was admitted into full membership of the Province in St. George’s Cathedral, Freetown, Sierra Leone by Archbishop Ishmael Le Maire. On August 1, 1985 the Diocese of Guinea was inaugurated and its first Bishop consecrated on April 20,1986.
In 1989, the Anglican Church of Cameroon was admitted as the Missionary Area of the Province. On February 22, 1997 the Diocese of Sunyani & Tamale was divided into two autonomous units – Diocese of Tamale and Sunyani.
The six countries which make up the province are the Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and Cameroon (Central Africa). In addition, there are scattered missionary activities in Cape Verd Island, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo and Burkina Faso. The Province has received an invitation for a new opening in Mali.
Growth And Expansion Of The Province
Provincial Synod of the three Houses of Bishops , Clergy and Laity held its first meeting.
The Constitution and Canons passed by the Provincial Synod in Lagos, Nigeria
1st March 1963
The Constitution was approved by the Archbishop and became effective.
Nigeria carved into an autonomous Province and inaugurated.
17th August 1981
Missionary Diocese of Bo formed out of Sierra Leone and inaugurated.
Dioceses of Cape Coast , Koforidua- Ho, Sekondi , Sunyani/ Tamale inaugurated in Ghana
18th March 1982
Diocese of Liberia admitted into full membership
1st August 1985
Diocese of Guinea inaugurated
Cameroon admitted as a Missionary Area
22 February 1997
Diocese of Sunyani and Tamale divided into autonomous units
Diocese of Koforidua – Ho divided into two autonomous units
Cameroon elevated to a Missionary Diocese
Diocese of Wiawso inaugurated in February and first Diocesan enthroned in June
Cameroon attained full Diocesan status with the enthronement of first indigenous Bishop in April.
3. The Province Today
The current Archbishop is the Most. Rev’d Dr. Justice Ofei Akrofi who was enthroned on the 21st of October 2004 at the cathedral church of the most Holy Trinity in Accra. There are 14 Dioceses and 1 Missionary Area with the six countries that make up the Church in this Province. The Province has seventeen Bishops (4 Retired), 900 other clergy and 700 parishes minister to the needs of about 1,000,000 Anglicans. There are over 9,000,000 Christians in this area which has a total population of 45,000,000. 52% if the population is Muslim and 23% follow traditional religions, 20% is Christian, with the remaining 5% agnostic. Christians remain a small minority of the total population. The Church exists in an atmosphere of tension and civil strife thus making growth a slow process.
From the records, however, there has been substantial growth since the past 15 years. The number of dioceses has increased by three with the admission of Cameroon as a Missionary Area and the division of Sunyani & Tamale Dioceses and Koforidua and Ho Dioceses into two autonomous units respectively. The clergy strength has risen by 50% with the parishes enjoying a growth of 37.5%. However, protracted ethnic conflicts have drastically affected growth in total membership which could conveniently rise beyond the one million.
There are at present 14 (fourteen) dioceses from six independent countries which make up the Church in the Province namely:
Within Ghana(9) – Accra, Cape Coast, Ho, Koforidua, Kumasi, Sekondi, Sunyani, Tamale and Wiawso.
Outside Ghana ( 6) – Sierra Leone, Bo, Freetown, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Cameroon
The numerical strength of the Province are as follows:
Retired Bishops 7
For the past 12 – 15 years the church in the sub-region existed in an atmosphere of tension and civil strife which made growth a slow process. But thanks be to God that things are improving and even Sierra Leone and Liberia the two most badly torn up countries are now enjoying some sunshine and peace.
The Mission Of The Province
The primary mission of the Province is to witness for Jesus Christ through its life and work in all aspects of the lives of people in various countries, in order to achieve the abundant and holistic life envisaged in the gospel.
Our method of achieving our mission is Evangelism through teaching, preaching and other pastoral services. Our chief object is to bring into submission to Jesus Christ ourselves and those with whom we come into contact. That includes proclamation of the gospel, living a common life and striving to create a just and fair society. In pursuing this goal we execute a variety of programmes that would be classified as educational, evangelistic, agricultural, medical and pastoral.
The Province supports 4 (four) Theological Seminaries and 1 (one) Lay Training Centre viz.
Ghana: Trinity Theological Seminary (Ecumenical), Legon Accra, St. Nicholas Seminary, Cape Coast, Anglican Lay Training Centre , Kumasi
Liberia: Cuttington University College, Suacoco
Sierra Leone: Theological Hall and Church Training Centre, Freetown.
The Provincial Constitution
As is expected the has its own Constitution, the Articles and Canons of which bind the Diocese together in matters of policy, procedures and legal framework. For example Articles 1 ; which deals “ On the Dignity and Rights of Man” clearly states that
“In conformity with Christian principles , the Church of this Province proclaims that all men have equal rights , value and dignity in the sight of God while mindful to provide for the special needs of different people committed to its charge, it shall not allow any discrimination in the membership and government of the Church”
Cession Of Ghana As Province
The machinery is already in motion too for Ghana to become an autonomous Province and it only remains for it to fulfill and meet the conditionality and Guidelines set by the ACC .
Though the sub-region of West Africa is generally rich in natural resources, the absence of judicious utilization, external debt burden, ethnic conflicts , political instability, etc. has contributed to so much poverty among the people . Inadequate funding is therefore , the major problem of our Province.
Because the Church belongs to a world-wide communication such as ours it is natural and expected that there will and must be a long and strong companion relationship and link with Partners / Donors for their moral and financial support.
A special mention should be made here of the ACC, USPG, CMS, ERD, Trinity Church Canada and IDWAL who continue to support the Province and individual Dioceses . We are most grateful to them and our other host of friends without whom the Province would not have got that far.
Our thanks also go to USPG who through the Festina Loan has enabled the Province to have it own permanent secretariat which is situated in Accra. The first phase is already completed and in use.
We do realize that you too are facing financial difficulties and for that reason the Province and individual Diocese are making every effort to become self supportive.
On the whole the Province has adopted the following as priority areas of concern and challenges for the days ahead.
1. The Moral and Spiritual Development of its people
2. The Plight of children and women
3. Involvement in Community / National Development programmes
4. Health – related issues and fight against HIV /AIDS pandemic
5. Stemming of religious fundamentalism
6. Leveling the ground for the Youths , the Leaders of Tomorrow.
Today, there are over one million Anglicans out of an estimated population of 35 million.