FIRST BISHOP OF BENIN DIOCESE
Sam U. Erivwo, Ph.D.
Reproduced in URHOBO WAADO by kind permission of Professor Sam U. Erivwo
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
There were as at that time twenty church Districts in the Diocese, divided into the three Archdeaconries:
||Warri Archdeaconry, made up of Aviara, Oleh,
Umuoru, Urhobo, Warri, Agbn, Sapele, and Ozoro Districts:
||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
Asaba Archdeaconry comprising, Asaba, Agbor, Kwale,
Akwukwu-Igbo, and Ubuluku Districts.
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
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,
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
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
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:
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
By 1964, Benin Diocese owned and ran eleven Grammar Schools for boys, and four for girls. These were: