On the re-opening of SLPP Office … “We would never encourage violence” John Benjamin...


The Anglican Communion on Sunday 4th August 2013 finally completed the processes of “Ordaining and Consecrating a new Episcopal Bishop in the person of His Grace the Rt. Rev. Thomas Arnold Ikunika Wilson as the 3rd Bishop of the Diocese of Freetown, (which also includes the North and interestingly, Bonthe) as successor to His Grace the Rt. Rev. Julius O P Lynch, whose 17 years Episcopacy ended on 24th July sharp, upon his attaining the mandatory retirement age of 70 years.
It was all pomp and pageantry complimented by four and half hours of High Mass at the Cathedral of St George in Freetown, second in perfection perhaps  just perhaps – to an Episcopal Ordination at the West Minister Abbey, whence the tradition originated.  It was a well attended service that saw worshippers overflowing into nearby streets as far as blocks away from the Church premises, thus belying the previously discomforting perception that our Anglican Communion was dying.
Visiting Heads
The occasion itself was graced by visiting Heads of Churches and Missions including Bishop Barnette of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Rt. Rev. Christopher Temple, President of Methodist Church Sierra Leone, the Rt. Rev. Henry Abioseh Samuels, Head of Vine Memorial Baptist Mission and the Rev. Dr. Mrs. Olivia Arimah Wesley, Principal, College of Theology and Management.
Holy Protest
By far the largest number of representative groups came from the Church of the Holy Trinity, Kissy Road, in full support their son and Vicar for over ten (10) years before his elevation into the Episcopacy. Virtually every organization of that Parish was well represented. An unfair proportion one might add. But perhaps to avoid a repeat of the situation that warranted the requested exit of some 25 Clerks of Holy Orders by the Dean of the Cathedral to make way for worshippers, (and all but one of whom (Rev. R M Y Sankoh-Cole) in reverent and holy fashion protested the “apparent slight” by disrobing before partaking of the Holy Eucharist), it will be fair if on such future grand occasions, only delegations strictly comprising not more than five (5) members per organization are invited the various Parishes.
Lay Readers
As a Lay Reader it is outside my purview to dilate on the merits or demerits of the actions of those Priests (our superiors), though of course in hindsight and based on the principles of “obey and complain”, also having regard to the existence of a forum to do so at their monthly Clergy meetings, an alternative and less conspicuous action of dissent would have sufficed. But I will leave their ultimate appeasement as the first litmus test for the new Episcopacy. It has to be acknowledged though that in my sixteen (16) years as a Lay Reader and as the Hon. President for the past four (4) years, Sunday 4th August was the very first time Lay Readers were not publicly sacrificed for the comforts of Priests. But unless my recommendation for delegated representation is carried, we might just be the next target.
Trinity Parish
By and large it has to be agreed that the Church of the Holy Trinity, Kissy Road, has for centuries been making a steady and positive impact on religion and politics in Sierra Leone, breeding several quality Mayors (including yours truly), a Speaker of the Legislature (Hon. Abel N Bankole Stronge, Judges of our Judicature, Magistrates, University Principals (Prof. Eldred Durosimi Jones and Victor Essenami Strasser-King) a Vice President of the Republic (Late Francis Mishek Minah) Parliamentarians (Hon. Mannie Betts-Priddy and Hon Rosaline Jariatu Smith), Teachers/Principals, Medical Doctors, Eminent Merchants and Traders etc. etc. etc.  and still producing more through the Grace of God. And as the good God continues working His purposes out, we might produce the next President of this country you know!!!
Consecration Team
The entire Episcopal Ordination and Consecration service was presided over by the Most Rev, Dr. Solomon Tilewa Johnson, Dip.Th, BA Hons (Dunelm), D.Min who is Archbishop and Primate of the Church of the Province West Africa AND Lord Bishop of the Gambia, ably co-ordinated by the Dean of the Cathedral, the Very Rev. Can Adjaie.E Nicol and assisted by a team of other Officiants comprising Co-Consecrators and Con-Celebrants in the persons of-:
–    The Rt. Revd. Emmanuel J S Tucker, Bishop of Bo, Sierra Leone
–    The Rt. Revd. Dr. Daniel S Mensah Torto, Bishop of Accra, Ghana
–    The Rt. Revd. Daniel S A Allotey, Bishop of Cape Coast, Ghana
–    The Most Revd. Dr. Daniel Y Sarfo, Bishop of the Internal Province of Ghana
–    The Rt. Revd. Dr Jonathan B B Hart, Bishop of Liberia and  -The Rt. Revd. Hon Dr. Jacob K Ayeebo, Bishop of Tamale, Ghana
Two among the above named Bishops PLUS Revd. Can. Kwaku C R B Hagan,  Revd. S I S Thomas, Mrs. Uche Ezirim and Can Dr. Nicholas A Asgil presented the candidate (Revd. Can. T A I Wilson ) for Consecration, whilst Revd. Franklin Browne and Revd. Modupe Gilpin-Macfoy served as the Bishop-Elect’s Chaplain and Master of Ceremonies respectively. Readers of the Old Testament and New Testament Lessons were the spouse and senior brother of the candidate, Mother Victoria Remilekun Wilson and Mr. Ralph Wilson respectively.
Primate Tilewa
My first contact with the Most Rev Primate Tilewa Johnson (circa 1999) was as a visitor to Christ Church in Serekunda, where he was already Bishop of the Gambia. It was pretty icy. But I enjoyed the sermon for that day (based on Matt.16:24; Mk. 8:34 and Lk.9:23  “Take up thy Cross and follow me”) so awesomely delivered by the young Dutch Pastor, that I obtained a copy from him to also later preach on. My encounter this time round proved the Archbishop and Primate Tilewa Johnson much friendlier, rather bon-ho-mous, spicing his utterances with hilarious comments or anecdotes every now and again and with adeptness for re-branding and re-packaging Jesus Christ as a modern marketable commodity in very high demand. And indeed, Christ entered many hearts through his mesmerized teachings.
In a recent BBC interview, the Archbishop and Primate advocated for a “no holds barred” religious form of worship within the Anglican Communion, insofar as it will enhance retention of existing members as well as bring in new ones.
In his 20 minutes homily based on John 21: 15-17 (which in fact was our Gospel reading), the Primate recalled the delicious lakeside fish and bread breakfast encounter of Christ on His 3rd post-resurrection appearance to the disciples, during which He posed a three-pronged question to Peter as a means of reminding him of the onerous responsibilities accompanying his new status as the great shepherd of the flock following His own (Christ’s) departure. The main responsibility of the new status of Bishop T A I Wilson the Primate reiterated, was in Christ’s command to Peter’s second reply which was to “Take care of my sheep”.
Scripture Text
Texting his Sermon on 1.Timothy 3:1-6, the Primate and preacher drew the attention of the congregation to the thirteen (13) pre-requisites or “dos and don’ts” for becoming a Bishop, which he admitted “are hard to even contemplate, let alone to strictly observe”. He said however that from his own short personal interaction with him, the candidate’s innate humility, perceived healthy soul, sober mind and a body not given to the excesses of alcohol and women, coupled with his confidence in the credibility and integrity of the short listing and endorsement processes followed by the electoral college to confirm the suitability of Thomas A I Wilson for the position as the new Bishop of the diocese of Freetown, have all greatly encouraged and sustained his hope for the growth of Anglicanism in Sierra Leone.
The new Bishop was encouraged inter-alia to embrace a participatory style of leadership as against manifesting dictatorial propensities, which the preacher described as “unrighteous, contrary to humanitarian laws and the principles of natural justice”. To be regularly mindful of the experience of Jesus’ washing of His disciple’s feet, be humble and dependent upon God 24/7 all of which attributes he said reflect the divine characteristics of a true shepherd.
The Primate and Preacher declined arrogating singular praise for Consecrating the new Bishop to himself alone, but rather considered himself as a “Chief Midwife” being ably assisted by six other “Bishopric Nursing Aides” to help deliver “baby” Bishop Thomas A I Wilson who will be handed over to the local Anglican Diocese for nurturing and constant support. “I will hate to come back in twelve months” he thundered, “only to find out that the child has developed spiritual kwashiorkor, especially” he ended “as it was you who as in Acts 1:24 confirmed that you earnestly prayed over the two candidates before arriving at the final choice of Thomas Wilson as your Bishop”
Capacity Building
In closing his homily, he Primate further encouraged the new Bishop to embrace and make his spouse Mother Victoria Remilekun his “unofficial deputy prelate”, so as to exemplarily demonstrate and enhance family values within the Diocese, to “breeze” into his new ministry with a humble but absolute confidence in God, and finally to always adequately equip his “under shepherds” by investing in their trainings and capacity building, so that they too can be effective ambassadors for Christ in the Anglican vineyard.
Floreat Former Bishop Lynch!!
To non-clairvoyants, it was impossible to decipher what was running through Bishop (Rtd.) Lynch’s mind as he watched the Consecration of his successor at aged just three (3) years less than when he was Consecrated in 1976. My gut feeling tells me however that if given an opportunity to re-live his Episcopacy for just one more week, fewer than ten (10) of those who comprised his choicest advisers would enjoy the privilege of a renewal of their passwords just to walk along Fourah Bay Road, let alone cross the Bishop’s Court gate. But that’s life. And it goes on!!!
Special commendation must however go to the former Bishop of Freetown for leading the Diocese over a period of seventeen (17) challenging years. As a mere “mortal man” he was conscious of his own frailties and in his valedictory sermon a week earlier, prayed for the reciprocal forgiveness for those he might have offended “for nothing” (like me – “hint know im master”  for my article –  “Anglicanism Betrayed”) as well as for those who might also have offended him, equally “for nothing”. The fact remains that he served God and his flock to the best of his ability for which we should remain eternally grateful. So here’s to wish for him and his family very happy retirement lives.
The Valedictory, Consecration and Enthronement Planning Committee deserve special commendations too. It  comprised Mr. Wordsworth Cole as the Chairman, The Very Revd. Can. Adjaie E Nicol as Co-ordinator, the Hon. Can. Justice Nicholas Browne-Marke as Adviser and a membership including Revd. Angella Kuwonu, Miss Isa Taylor-Young, Mrs. Henrietta P Johnson, Mrs. Augustina Asgil, Mrs. Melrose M Bob-Lucas, Revd. Harold G Johnson, Mrs. Elnora Metzger, Revd. Mrs. Yvonne Johnson, Mr. Samuel O G Campbell, Mr. Leslie K Nim-Dixon, and Mr. Samuel B Freeman. I doff my hat to all of them for working so assiduously and selflessly to make the entire arrangement, which was climaxed by a rousing reception at the Bank of Sierra Leone Complex, King Tom a huge success. God Bless you all as we walk together in confidence with the Lord into the unknown future.
By: W.R Bankole Johnson
August 08, 2013

Comments are closed.