|Urhobo Historical Society|
|THE LIFE AND WORK OF AGORI IWE|
FIRST BISHOP OF BENIN DIOCESE
Sam U. Erivwo, Ph.D.
|Originally Published in 1998 |
Reproduced in URHOBO WAADO by kind permission of Professor Sam U. Erivwo
BISHOP AGORI IWE’S ADMINISTRATION
In the course of Agori Iwe’s episcopate the Benin Diocese grew by leaps and bounds. Following his consecration and enthronement, Agori set out to administer his Diocese and did so with a high degree of administrative competence and impartiality. The request of Asaba Division before the creation of the Diocese that Asaba be made an archdeaconry in the New Diocese was complied with immediately. The Revd. O. A. Echenim was appointed Archdeacon of the Asaba Arch-deaconry. The Rev. G.P. Barnard, a white C.M.S. Missionary working then in the Isoko District was appointed by Agori, as Archdeacon of Warri Archdeaconry in Succession to Agori himself. Ven. S.O. Akinluyi, continued as Archdeacon of Benin Archdeaconry.
At the first session of the first Diocesan Synod of Benin Diocese held in Warri in 1962, the text of the Synod sermon was “We set sail”. And at the second session of that Synod the following year, the preacher of the Synod sermon, The Revd. E.D.C. Clark, remarked in his sermon “We have set sail and are well under way”. And in his Bishop’s charge, Agori Iwe remarked.
|“The first session which met 12 months ago at Warri, was an epoch making [one]. It was an inaugural synod. It was an Infant Synod of Benin Diocese. It was a Synod to draw up policies. Since that time, we have had our full Laws and Regulations to rule and govern our church life and affairs. We have had our Diocesan Officials rightly and properly appointed and installed: We have moved onward and are moving upwards as a complete autonomous ecclesiastical unit, with the church of the Province of West Africa, and within the Catholic Church”. (Benin Diocese, 2nd Session 1st Synod, 1963 Report, p. 25).|
There were as at that time twenty church Districts in the Diocese, divided into the three Archdeaconries:
|1.||Warri Archdeaconry, made up of Aviara, Oleh, Umuoru, Urhobo, Warri, Agbn, Sapele, and Ozoro Districts:|
|2.||Benin Archdeaconry, made up of Benin South, Benin North, Ora, Ishan, Districts, and Etsako provisional District, Akoko-Oke provisional District, and Ofua provisional districts; and|
|3.||Asaba Archdeaconry comprising, Asaba, Agbor, Kwale, Akwukwu-Igbo, and Ubuluku Districts.|
In the course of time these districts, grew such that some of them become Archdeaconries. Thus by 1976, a year before the retirement of Bishop Agori Iwe, we had in Benin Diocese, seven Archdeaconries: Benin, Ishan, Afenmai, Owan, Asaba, Isoko, and Urhobo.
BENNIN ARCHDEACONRY, had Ven. J.W.I. Idahosa as the Archdeacon, and St. Peter’s District, St. James’ Akpakpava District, Eko-Abetu, Iyekorhionmwon, Orhua, and St. Paul’s Church Districts in the Archdeaconry.
ISHAN ARCHEDACONRY, had Ven. J.O. Eseleh, as Archdeacon, and Ekpoma, Ubiaja, Ebele, Iruekpen Districts in the Archdeaconry.
AFENMAI ARCHDEACONRY, had Ven. G.K. Ajomo (J.P.) as Archdeacon, and Auchi, Uzairue/Fugar, Okpella, Otuo, Akoko Edo Central, Igarra, Akoko Edo West, Akoko Edo East, Akoko Edo North I, Akoko-Edo North II, and Akoko Edo North III Districts in the Archdeaconry.
OWAN ARCHDEACONRY, had Ven. S.O. Akinluyi C.O.N., J.P. as the Archdeacon, and Emai, Iuleha, and Uhonomora Districts in the Archdeaconry.
ASABA ARCHDEACONRY, had as at 1976, Ven. A.O. Ifeadi as the Archdeacon, and all Saints’ Church Asaba, Holy Trinity Asaba, Akuku, Ubulu-Uki, Idumuji Ugboko, Igbodo, Agbor, Owa-Ute, Abbi, Obiaruku, and Igbanke-Ozarra Districts and Owa-Oyibu chapelry in the Archdeaconry.
ISOKO ARCHEDACONRY, had the Ven. B.P. Apena (J.P.), as Archdeacon, and Oleh, Aviara, Ozoro, Bethel, Owhe, Ase Districts and Okpe-Isoko parish, Umuolu parish, Aboh Parish, and Patani parish in the Archdeaconry.
URHOBO ARCHDEACONRY, had first, Ven. J.A. Emoefe, and after him, Venerable E. Arawore, as Archdeacon, and Ughelli, Uwheru, Agvon, Jeremi, Warri, Sapele, and Sapele Christ/Church Districts in Urhobo Archdeaconry. It is thus crystal clear that by the end of Agori’s Episcopate in 1977, the Church in the then Bendel State (now Edo and Delta States) had grown tremendously.
The growth of the Church in the two States during these years was no doubt as a result of the emphasis which the Bishop placed on evangelism, as the supreme task of the Church. For example early in his episcopate, in his charge of the Second session of the first Synod in 1963, the Bishop under the topic Evangelism, said
|“The command of our Lord ‘Go forth…make all nations my disciples’ – appeared to be grossly neglected. We are prone to forget in our scheme of works, that there are other sheep which must be brought into this fold. That negligence may be proved against us. Out of a total of £10,000 budgeted for our work in the Diocese, not a penny was set apart for definite Evangelistic purpose. And of the many boards and Committees set up, not one was charged with this responsibility. As a Church, this is a serious omission. A motion is coming before this Synod to urge us to cure this dangerous apathy and to consider definite ways and means for bringing the Good News of our Saviour into the heathen hamlets and villages within the geographical boundaries of this Diocese. Let us heed the command” (Benin Dioceses 2nd Session 1st Synod Report, p. 30).|
This sad situation was indeed rectified by the Bishop and it accounted for the rapid growth of Anglican Christianity in the then Bendel State in his time.
The Revd. John O. Dafiewhare was sent to England to work in an English Parish and to study youth work. His return in 1964 enhanced the process of evangelisation and other services in the Diocese. The growth of the Church during this period is attested to by the fact that in 1962, the Rt. Rev. Agori Iwe conducted Services of confirmation, in which a total number of 2,206 persons were confirmed. Of the 2,206 persons confirmed, 1,372 came from Benin Archdeaconry, 466 from Warri Archdeaconry and 388 from Asaba Archdeaconry. The exercise was repeated in 1963, when for the first time in the Diocese, persons were confirmed immediately after Baptism, and the Bishop showed that the ordinance of confirmation and the Sacrament of Baptism actually belonged together in the early Church. A total of 13,220 persons were baptised in the Diocese. Of this number 4,094 came from Benin Archdeaconry, 7,523 from Warri Archdeaconry, and 1,603 from Asaba Archdeaconry. In that same year, 1963, 975 persons were confirmed in Benin Archdeaconry; 542 from Warri, and 468 in Asaba Archdeaconry. In December 1962 the Bishop ordained five persons – Robert S.A. Ayodele, Gabriel U. Imora, Patient W.D. Egwede, Ebenezer C. Orwuama, and John O. Agbonze – to the priesthood in Benin Diocese, while Timothy O. Umukoro, and Albert A. Agbaje were admitted to the diaconate.
During this period 1963 and 1964, a number of persons were also admitted to the ordained ministry in the Diocese. The Revd. Timothy Umukoro was ordained Priest, while Messrs Rapheal Oghoh, Peter Ereh, Luke Aliu, Francis Nwanguzo, and Peter Uademevbo were made Deacons, as was David Pain, the Bank Manager of Bank West Africa, Agbor. This was the beginning of a process which was perfected later by the Bishop, namely that of introducing the tent-making ministry into his Diocese, as a means of helping to meet the felt need of the Church.
Meanwhile, the Diocese was training personnel at various centres: Vining Training Centre Akure where the Diocese had 14 persons in training: Immanuel College, Ibadan where 7 persons were pursuing ordination course; and Trinity College Umuahia, where 3 persons were also training for the priesthood. In addition, there were also members of the Diocese in various Teachers Training Colleges, being trained as School Teachers. The Diocese had up to 851 persons being trained as teachers in 1963. Out of this number, 24 were given scholarship for higher Studies. 433 School Teachers completed their training as School teachers in 1963, and started to work in the Diocese, 4 Pastors and 2 Catechists also returned from Training that year.
While the Diocese of Benin was training personnel, it did not neglect extension and development of the physical structures. Thus the old Bishop’s court, where the assistant Bishop, Awosika had lived, was extended and renovated, a task to which Mrs. S.P. Oloyede and Mrs. E. Akinluyi, put in their very best. After the extension and internal decoration of the Bishop’s court, St. Matthew’s Church which was started in 1917, was completed and redesignated St. Mathew’s Cathedral in 1962. It was thereafter immediately put into use.
In the area of education, the proprietorship of the mission schools in the Diocese, which had agitated the minds of some people, was settled and vested in the Bishop as the sole proprietor of Church Institutions in the Diocese. He carried out the reorganisation of Church institutions with a high degree of competence. Academic standards in Church Schools as well as the moral tone of Church institutions were excellent, and a far cry from what they became, after the Government take over of schools in the 1970-‘s.
Church educational institutions wee also avenues of evangelisation: C.M.S. School Teachers also helped in Church services and administration. As fees were paid by parents, the educational institutions also provided a source of revenue for the Church. Educational institutions under the control of the Diocese at this time included Teachers Training Colleges, and Grammer Schools, for male and female. The Teacher Training Colleges for men were St. Peter’s Asaba; St. David’s Evboneka, St. Michael’s Oleh. The women were trained at Bishop. Tugwell’s Igbudu, Warri and Women Teachers Training College Benin City.
By 1964, Benin Diocese owned and ran eleven Grammar Schools for boys, and four for girls. These were:
- Boys: Holy Trinity Grammar School Sabongida-Ora; Afenmai Grammar School, Igarra; James Welch Grammar School, Emevor; Ika Anglican Grammar School; Ubulu-Uku anglican Grammar School; Eghosa Anglican Grammar School, Benin City; Anglican Grammar School, Ujoelen Ekpoma; Angelican Grammar School, Otuo; Anglican Grammar School, Evboneka; Akwukwu-Igbo Anglican Grammar School; and Okpara Water-Side Anglican Grammar SchooL.
- Girls: Anglican Girls Grammar School, Ughelli; Anglican Girls Grammar School, Benin City; Anglican Girls Grammar School, Asaba; and Anglican Girls Grammar School, Ibillo.