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EDITORIAL

Bishop Idowu-Fearon, A Bridge-builder At 70

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Bishop Josiah Atkins Idowu-Fearon on January 17, attained the biblical landmark age of three score and 10. He is also a respected clergyman within the Anglican Communion. But curiously, shepherding the flock of God was not his first calling. He made an attempt to be a soldier until, like David before him who was enjoying his life as a minder of his father’s sheep when he was anointed, Idowu-Fearon likewise answered the call.  He went on to become the Bishop of Sokoto, Bishop of Kaduna and later Archbishop of Kaduna Ecclesiastical Province, Church of Nigeria.

In his own words, “I came to Christ at the Nigeria Military School, Zaria in my second year (1964) and two years later (1966) the Lord called me to be a soldier in His Army. It was a profound transformation that turned his life around for good. His strong inquisitive mind propelled him as a student to accept that knowing and understanding the scriptures will enhance the calling he had received. This influenced his quest for education that took him to the United Kingdom, the United States of America and, of course Nigeria. As a bishop in Nigeria, and in particular in the religiously volatile areas like Sokoto and Kaduna, Idowu-Fearon cultivated the virtue of moderation that has made him famous as a proponent of Christian-Muslim dialogue. Acting on his bridge-building commitment, he co-founded the Centre for the Study of Islam and Christianity at Kaduna.

This tendency on his part to preach religious harmony and tolerance marked him out as God-sent to the places he served. And without his knowing it, his activities as a clergy man was monitored, assessed and commended. It was generally accepted that his ability to combine dedication to his Christianity with genuine respect for Islam as a religion made him suitable for his role of being the midwife of peace and understanding between Christians and Muslims. He also demonstrated his interest in things that are of significance to humanity such as when he served on the International Anglican Conversations on Human Sexuality.

After his decision to become an Anglican priest, and was ordained in 1971, Idowu-Fearon was consecrated a bishop 19 years after. He had earlier enrolled in Immanuel Theological College, Ibadan and later in 1976, proceeded to St. John’s College, University of Durham in the UK for a study in Theology. After Durham, he earned a Masters in Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian relations at Birmingham University and a second master’s degree in sociology from Nigeria’s Ahmadu Bello University Zaria. This was followed with a PhD in Sociology and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education from Ahmadu Bello University. Idowu-Fearon took up a research fellowship at the Ahmadu Bello University in the field of “determining the influence of politics and religion on development”.

Idowu-Fearon was determined to reduce the tension religion was and is still generating in the geographical area he found himself and there is no better way to achieve that than to study the faiths so as to understand the differences there are and build on the connections between them that links the two faiths to Monotheism- the believe in the existence of one Supreme Deity. And having studied Christianity, he devoted almost equal time to the study of Islam at the University of Jordan. From his ordination to the priesthood in 1971 to 1990 when he was consecrated bishop of the Diocese of Sokoto, Idowu-Fearon worked as the General Secretary for the Evangelical Fellowship of the Anglican Communion for Nigeria, and concurrently held the post of Warden of St. Francis Theological College, Wusasa from 1981 to 1984, when he became the Provost of St. Michael’s Cathedral.

After his consecration in 1990, Idowu-Fearon served at various times as a founding member of the Compass Rose Society, founding member and one of the first three Presidents of the NIFCON (Network for Interfaith Concerns) and as a member of a 13-Member Committee of the Archbishop of Canterbury that looked into the responses to Lambeth Resolution 1:10 of 1998, and on the Committee that produced the Windsor Commission Report of 2003. Idowu-Fearon served on the 2003-04 Lambeth Commission on Communion, which considered worldwide Anglican unity in response to divisive debates on homosexuality.

Within the Anglican Communion, Cross of St Augustine, presented to people who have given long and exceptionally distinguished service to the Church, is considered as a prestigious honour. Bishop Idowu-Fearon was so honoured by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace in London on June 20, 2013. In 2015, he began his work as Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council. Before leaving Nigeria for this posting, he held several extra-ecclesiastical positions such as chairman of Bridge Builders Association of Nigeria; member of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council, NIREC; member of the State Religious Harmony Council and was Nigeria North Area Committee Chairperson for the Programme for Christian-Muslim Relaations in Africa (PROCMURA). Idowu-Fearona is an Officer of the Order of the Niger (OON) and is married with children


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