By Rich Odu and Sam Macaulay
There was an outburst of joy, celebration and thanksgiving to God in the Anglican Diocese of Owerri when the Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, on Wednesday, announced the election of a new bishop for the Diocese.
The new Bishop-elect, Ven. Chukwuma Oparah, PhD, was elected at the just-concluded Standing Committee Meeting of the church which took place at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter, Diocese of Minna, Niger State.
Ven. Oparah now succeeds Bishop Cyril Okorocha PhD who retired in June, this year.
Speaking on the development when contacted at his present church, Ebenezer Anglican Church Ekwereazu Ogwa in Mbaitoli LGA, the bishop-elect said that his election came as a surprise to him, adding that it was made possible by God’s mercy and grace.
He thanked God for it and called on everyone to note that whatever position one finds oneself in life, God has some assignments attached to it.
He added that one must endeavour to find out what the assignments are and should do everything possible to accomplish them, depending wholly on God.
The bishop-elect, who spoke from his rich experience in mission and evangelism, advised Christians to diligently carry out any assignment from God with love and faithfulness, knowing that “He that calls is able to equip” (1 Thessalonians 5: 24).
When Christian Voice called on him, many people were seen at the premises rejoicing and congratulating the bishop-elect.
Rev Canon Chukwudum Onwuka, who spoke to our reporter, was grateful to the House of Bishops and the Primate, Church of Nigeria, for the choice of Ven Chukwuma, who, according to him, is an academic of repute, as well as a young, visionary and dynamic person.
Reacting to the news in a telephone call, Sir Festus Nkwocha expressed joy at the emergence of an Owerri priest as bishop-elect in the person of Ven. Oparah and thanked God for his election.
Others who spoke expressed hope that the election of the new bishop would usher in peace in the diocese. They expressed gratitude to Bishop Emmanuel Maduwike of Ikeduru Diocese who has been serving as a Supervisory Bishop of Owerri since the stalemate that hit the diocese four months ago.
The faithful in the diocese also urged Bishop Maduwike to continue the good work until the new bishop is consecrated and enthroned.
The Bishop-elect was ordained priest on July 16, 1995, by Bishop Emmanuel Nglass of the Anglican Diocese of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, and was preferred Canon of All Saints Cathedral Uyo in 2002 by the same bishop who had then become the Archbishop of Niger Delta Province.
Oparah was later preferred Canon of the Cathedral of Transfiguration of Our Lord (CATOL) and Archdeacon by Bishop Cyril C. Okorocha in 2005 and 2013, respectively.
An erudite scholar who has numerous publications to his credit, the bishop-elect also teaches at the Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education (AIFCE) Owerri where he is the Head of Department of Religion and Cultural Studies.
The Venerable Chukwuma Chinekezi Oparah, PhD, JP hails from Amankuta Mbieri in the Mbaitoli L.G.A of Imo State. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Biblical Studies (New Testament Study), a Master’s degree in New Testament Study (Religious Studies), both from the University of Uyo, Uyo Akwa Ibom State, and a Bachelor of Arts in Education in Religion/Education from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Diploma in Theology from Trinity (Union) Theological College, Umuahia and a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology from Trinity College of Ministrial Arts, Aba/Honolulu University USA.
He had his secondary education at St Patrick’s School, Emene, Enugu State, and Obazu Community Secondary School, (OCOGRAM), Mbieri and his primary school at Udi Road Primary School, Asata, Enugu State.
He is an evangelical preacher, a strategist in church planting, kingdom expansion and Church Administration, who pioneered missionary and evangelical activities in the then ‘Missionary’ Diocese of Uyo. This has been affirmed by Jackie Brookfield of the Diocese of Portsmouth, United Kingdom in her book entitled ‘The African Odyssey’.
He has also served in different capacities in the Church, such as the Bishop/Archbishops’ Chaplain and Administrative Assistant to the pioneer Bishop of Uyo and first Archbishop of the Niger Delta Province (1994-2003) Most Rev. Emmanuel Nglass. He is also member, Episcopal Pastoral Team, Anglican Diocese of Owerri. He believes in “Ecumenism,” the unity of all believers irrespective of church denomination. He has served Imo State Government as the Sole Administrator of the Imo State Ecumenical Centre Project (2010).
He was the Director of Planning, Research and Strategy in Imo State Christian Association of Nigerian (CAN) and represents the Anglican Church in the CCN (Christian Council of Nigeria).
He is a fellow of Institute of Corporate Administration, a Fellow of Human Resources Management in Nigeria and a member of numerous professional bodies, including the Nigeria Association of the Study of Religion, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria, among others. He is a Jerusalem Pilgrim.
Ven. Oparah, as author and co-author of many books and articles in reputable journals, has attended many conferences locally and internationally also. He is gifted in Peace and Conflict Resolution.
He strongly believes in honesty, accountability and integrity in his relationship with God and man.
Ven. Chukwuma is married to Mrs. Chidiebere, a vice President in the Women’s Ministries, Anglican Diocese of Owerri, a Principal lecturer in Computer Science, Federal Polytechnic Nekede. Ven Oparah’s wife had served in many capacities within the institution such as Internet Administrator, Internet Cordinator (ICT) and Deputy Director Continuing Education Centre. The couple are blessed with five children – Miracle, Marvelous, Magnify, Mmesoma and Melody.
Oparah will be consecrated Bishop in November.