Peter Jasper Akinola (born Abeokuta, 27 January 1944) is the former Anglican Primate of the Church of Nigeria. He is also the former Bishop of Abuja (Nigeria’s capital) and Archbishop of Province III, which covered the northern and central parts of the country. When the division into ecclesiastical provinces was adopted in 2002, he became the first Archbishop of Abuja Province, a position he held until 2010. He is married and a father of six.
A “low church” Evangelical, Akinola emphasizes the Bible and the teachings of the apostles (apostolic tradition) in a particular way. As one of the leaders of the Global South within the Anglican Communion, Akinola has taken a firm stand against theological developments which he contends are incompatible with the biblical teachings of Christianity and orthodox Anglicanism, notably setting himself against any revisionist interpretations of the Bible and, in particular, opposing same-sex blessings, the ordination of non-celibate homosexuals and any homosexual practice. He was a leading name of conservatives throughout the Anglican Communion, including the Convocation of Anglicans in North America.
Peter Akinola was born in 1944 to a Yoruba family in Abeokuta in southwestern Nigeria . His father died when he was four years old and due to financial pressures Akinola had to leave school early.He learned carpentry and at twenty he had a successful furniture business and as patent-medicine seller. He had finished high school by distance education.He left his business, to study for the priesthood. He studied at a Nigerian Anglican seminary and was ordained a deacon in 1978 and a priest in 1979 in the Anglican Church of Nigeria.
Returning to Nigeria afterwards, Akinola was assigned to create an Anglican presence in the new capital Abuja which was about to be built. He holds it one of his greatest successes to have created out of nothing a vibrant Anglican community there.In 1989 he was ordained bishop of Abuja and in 1997 archbishop of Province III of the Church of Nigeria, consisting of the northern dioceses of Nigeria. On February 22, 2000, he was elected primate of the Church of Nigeria, the second biggest church in the Anglican Communion, then numbering 18 million members. In 2002, he became Archbishop of the Abuja Province, a position he held until 2010.
On 15 September 2009, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, aged 57 years old, of Bendel Province, was elected the Primate of Church of Nigeria at the conference of the House of Bishops in Umuahia. He succeeded Akinola on 25 March 2010.
Soon after ordination, he moved to the United States to study at the Virginia Theological Seminary, where he graduated in 1981 with a Master Degree. Akinola was given the National Award of Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) in December 2003.
In 2006 Akinola appeared on TIME magazine’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people in the category Leaders and Revolutionaries. However, in 2007 TIME magazine suggested that he “has some explaining to do” in relation to his support for legislation criminalising “gay… organizations” and “Publicity, procession and public show of same-sex amorous relationship through the electronic or print media physically, directly, indirectly or otherwise”.
In 2007, the Nigerian newspaper ThisDay gave him together with 17 others a Lifetime Achievement Award, stating in its citation: “Called a bigot by some in the Anglican Church, his attitudes nonetheless represent a deep-rooted conservative tradition in African Christianity that is flourishing and growing.
” But he has been criticised by other sections of the international press, including the right-leaning Daily Telegraph which in an editorial on 23 March 2007 characterised him as one of the “extremists” who had “hijacked” conservative Anglicanism, and as “a deeply divisive figure” who has “defended new Nigerian legislation that makes “cancerous” (his word) same-sex activity punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.”
Akinola was at one time President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, an ecumenical body bringing together 52 million Protestant, Catholic, and African independent Christians.
During his Presidency, the National Ecumenical Centre in Abuja was completed, which had been a building ruin for 16 years.Akinola was voted out of his position as National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in June 2007, and replaced by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Nigeria, who polled 72 votes to Akinola’s 33 votes.This followed criticism of Akinola’s allegedly high handed leadership style and of his alleged failure to confront Nigerian President Obasanjo as other Christian leaders had.Subsequently, his candidacy as Vice President was rejected by the General Assembly of the Christian Association of Nigeria.
In October 2009, he reacted to the Vatican’s proposed creation of personal ordinariates for disaffected traditionalist Anglicans by saying that although he welcomed ecumencial dialogue and shared moral theology with the Catholic Church, the current GAFCON structures already meet the spiritual and pastoral needs of conservative Anglicans in Africa.
In November 2009, Akinola signed an ecumenical statement known as the Manhattan Declaration calling on evangelicals, Catholics and Orthodox not to comply with rules and laws permitting abortion, same-sex marriage and other matters that go against their religious consciences.
In 2010, upon his retirement as Primate of Nigeria, he launched the Peter Akinola Foundation, a “non-profit-making and non-governmental organisation that focuses on four main areas as Initiatives”, “Youth at Crossroad”, “Mission and Evangelism”, “Stand in the Gap” and “Anglican Unity and Self Reliance”.
Church of Nigeria:
Vision of the Church of Nigeria
One of his first actions as primate was to get together 400 bishops, priests, lay members, and members of the Mothers’ Union to elaborate a vision for the Church of Nigeria under chairman Ernest Shonekan, a former president of Nigeria.The vision elaborated was: “The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) shall be; bible-based, spiritually dynamic, united, disciplined, self supporting, committed to pragmatic evangelism, social welfare and a Church that epitomizes the genuine love of Christ.”
Part of the program of actions were, e.g.
• on central level
o translating the books of liturgy in further languages
o establishing a group of 3000 leading lay personalities who will take care of fundraising and relieve the bishops of this duty
o establish a legal support team to enforce the constitutional right of freedom of religion and worship
o establish colleges for theology and universities
o provide internet access for the dioceses
• for each diocese
o training fulltime itinerant evangelists
o on the job training for priests and their wives
o working out a social welfare program for less privileged people
o establish a hospital with at least 30 beds
o establish secondary schools
• on community level
o literacy courses for adults
o set up cottage industries for the unemployed