“Inter” means the coming together of two or several bodies which were previously separated or divided. Thus, “interdenominational” means the coming together of different factions or denominations for a common purpose. There are interdenominational groups in the church. We have learned that before the Reformation in the 16th Century, there was only one church. It was called the Catholic (Universal) Church. But after the Reformation, the church split into two main factions or denominations: The Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Church. Soon, the Protestant Church split into various denominations. These include the Anglican Church, Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church, and the Baptist Church. With the rise of the Indigenous and Pentecostal Churches, the number of Protestant denominations has increased.
In the past, there was very little unity and cooperation among the various divisions and rivalries. The mother churches of the various denominations in Europe were sharply divided. Each of them wanted to show that the Christian doctrines that it teaches were the best. Hence, each denomination saw the others as rivals and enemies. They condemned and said bad things about other denominations apart from their own.
When the European Missionary Societies came to Nigeria, they brought along with them these rivalry and divisions. And Nigerian Christians were made to follow these rivalries and divisions. In the end, each denomination wanted to do God’s work but in a way different from the other denominations. This led to competition among them. Instead of coming together as one in God’s family to do God’s work, they remained divided. They did not cooperate with one another as they should.
The need for cooperation among the churches in Nigeria
Gradually, the various denominations in Nigeria saw the need to come together and cooperate among themselves. The Anglican Church ordained a missionary belonging to the SIM. In return, the SIM supervised the activities of the Anglican Church in the Jos area. In 1928, four churches: the activities of the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, and the Qua Iboe Church agreed to allow their priests to preach in one another’s church. The objective was to preach to their various congregations about the need for Christian unity and cooperation among themselves.
From 1930 onwards, some of the denominations agreed to come together to establish interdenominational educational institutions. The Anglicans and the Methodists came together to establish Igbobi College, Yaba, Lagos, and the Emmanuel College, Ibadan. The Anglicans, Methodists, and Presbyterians came together to establish The Trinity College, the Women’s Teacher Training College, and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, all in Umahia.
Interdenominational activities at the local, national, and international levels
The interdenominational activities of the various churches consisted of working together in unity and cooperating in many areas to help people and communities in particular ways at the local, national, and international levels. All this is an expression of Ecumenism (the many attempts by the various denominations to bring about Church Unity).
Interdenominational activities at the local levels
Christian unity and cooperation at the local level are seen in young Christians coming together to form young Christian organizations in towns and cities as well as institutions of learning. Members help each other to lead good Christian lives through Bible study and service to the community. They take part in community projects to provide social amenities such as roads, bridges, schools, clinics, markets, and libraries. Some of these organizations are The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA); the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA); the Boys Brigade (BB); the Girls Life Brigade (GLB); the Student Christian Movement (SCS); the scripture Union (SU); and Fellowship of Christian Students (FCS).
In addition to these young Christian organizations, the various denominations are cooperating at the local level to raise the standard of living of the people. Some have worked hard together to build schools, teacher-training colleges, and hospitals. Some of them lay emphasis on rural development. They have organizations such as the Christian Rural Advisory Council (CRAC), Faith Farm the Christian Rural Fellowship (CRF), and the Community Department Groups. They give the rural community practical training in agriculture, health education, and adult education.
Interdenominational activities at the national level
Christian unity and cooperation at the national level are connected with the activities of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). The Christian Association of Nigeria is made up of all the Christian denominations in Nigeria. It was established in 1976 and officially launched in 1980. It has five main objectives. They include the following:
- Act as a liaison committee for consultation and common action
- Promote understanding among the various peoples and strata of society in Nigeria and above all
- Propagate the gospel.
Through CAN, the Christian denominations unite and cooperate with one another on various local and national issues, especially health, education, social welfare, and politics. All previous joint activities of the Catholic Church and the Protestant Churches such as the translation of the Bible into Nigerian Languages are now coordinated under the one umbrella of CAN. CAN is the main forum through which all Christians in Nigeria have articulated their opposition to the government’s attempt to make Nigeria a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
Christian unity and cooperation at the international level
Christian unity and cooperation at the international level is linked with the activities of International Christian Organization such as the World Council of Churches. It brought together all the Protestant Churches in the world. The Christian Council of Nigeria is a member of this body. It has representatives at the headquarters of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland.
The World Council of Churches aims to bring about Christian cooperation and unity with fellow Protestants and with the Catholic Church. It undertakes projects in developing countries to improve the living conditions of the people. It helps in social, religious, economic, and political areas of national development. It also helped in the liberation struggle against apartheid in South Africa and all forms of oppression and injustice worldwide.
Significance of interdenominational activities
Interdenominational activities among the various churches in Nigeria have brought about Christian unity and cooperation at the local, national, and international levels. In spite of their differences, there is greater unity, fellowship, and love among us all. We now speak with one voice on all important national issues affecting the peace, progress, and prosperity of our nation. This is very important for the future growth and survival of the Christian church in Nigeria and the survival and stability of Nigeria as a nation.
Religious and moral lessons
- God wants you to take an active part in all interdenominational activities at all levels. Interdenominational activities at all levels between the various churches in Nigeria are designed to improve Christian unity and cooperation among all Christians. You must bring about further unity and cooperation among Christians at the local, national, and international levels. Also, you must learn to work for greater Christian unity and cooperation by joining young Christian organizations in the towns and educational institutions and being involved in all their projects to improve the spiritual, moral, and material aspects of the life of the nation.
- Christian denominations did not unite and cooperate with one another in the past and so remained divided and did not progress. You must learn to avoid things such as lack of unity and cooperation which bring about division and failure in the church and in the nation.
- Today, there is greater unity, cooperation, fellowship, and progress among Christian denominations as a result of our participation in all interdenominational activities at all levels which reminds us of the saying, “United we stand, divided we fall”. As a Christian, you must learn to actively participate in all interdenominational activities at all levels in order to achieve greater unity and progress for the Christian church in Nigeria and for Nigeria as a nation united in peace, progress, and prosperity.
God wants you to work for greater unity and cooperation through the activities of interdenominational organizations.