THE Bishop of Kaduna, in Nigeria, the Most Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has been appointed as the next secretary-general of the Anglican Communion.
He succeeds the Rt Revd Kenneth Kearon, now the Bishop of Limerick & Killaloe, in the Church of Ireland.
Dr Idowu-Fearon said that it was a privilege and an honour to be chosen for the position. "I am excited to take up the post of secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, and to continue the fine work undertaken by my predecessors in this office," he said.
His appointment has been welcomed by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Welby said: "I look forward to working closely with him in the renewal of the Anglican Communion amidst the global challenges facing us today."
The chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, the Rt Revd James Tengatenga, said that Dr Idowu-Fearon's experience in building bridges between Christians and Muslims would be especially helpful in the current climate.
Dr Idowu-Fearon became Bishop of Kaduna diocese in 1998, having been previously Bishop of Sokoto, Warden of St Francis of Assisi Theological College in Wusasa, and Provost of St Michael's Cathedral in Kaduna. He was for a period Archbishop of the Province of Kaduna.
He studied theology at Durham University, has a Masters degree in Islamic theology from Birmingham University, and is an acknowledged expert on Christian-Muslim relations.
Kaduna, in north-western Nigeria, was wracked by violent riots in 2000 after shariah law was re-implemented. Thousands died in the fighting, and the city has seen sporadic outbreaks of conflict between Christians and Muslims since then.
Dr Idowu-Fearon has worked to improve each community's understanding of the other's faith. In 2007, he told the Church Times that many Nigerian Christians remained ignorant of the reality of life in the largely Muslim north, and exacerbated the fragile situation with inflammatory rhetoric (Features, 2 March 2007).
In 2012 he condemned religious leaders in Nigeria who were "fanning the embers of hatred, bigotry, and arrogance". Writing in the Nigerian Vanguard newspaper, he said: "The denigration of an entire religion, its civilisation, and its adherents . . . is not Christlike".
He has long been involved in Anglican Communion business, having contributed to a number of interfaith initiatives, among other projects. In 2010 he wrote in the Church Times to urge leaders from the Global South - including the Nigerian Primate, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh - not to boycott the Primates' Meeting in Dublin in 2011 (Comment, 31 December 2010).
In 2007 he was appointed Canterbury Six Preacher. In 2013 he was awarded the Cross of St Augustine by Archbishop Welby.
Dr Idowu-Fearon, who is married and has two children, will take up his new post in July.