dropping the conference, leaving the GAFfes.

Archbishops Peter Jensen of Sydney and Peter Akinola of Nigeria have now met (separately) with Bishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem about GAFCON, the gathering proposed over this past Christmas for self-proclaimed "orthodox" bishops, clergy, and laity in Jerusalem. The organizers hadn't thought to meet with the Bishop of Jerusalem or with Mouneer Hanna Aris, the Primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, before sending out a press release saying that the were holding a conference in his diocese, and as it turns out, neither one of these bishops of the chosen site for GAFCON are even remotely pleased about its being held there any more than they are about not having been consulted before the site was announced.

But now Jensen and Akinola have met with Dawani -- separately, despite the meetings being only three days apart -- and Thinking Anglicans has posted the minutes of those meetings, which make for very interesting reading.

Apparently Archbishop Akinola didn't take kindly to the objections of his host: "[Akinola] stressed that liberty was important for Africa and that he could not allow anyone to tell his community what to do and to say." At no point, according to the minutes, did he acknowledge his host's concerns; he apologized only "for sending his letter to Bishop Suheil at a very inconvenient time (at Christmas) and at such short notice, but he said that he could not see how this conference could become a 'political problem'." Nor did Akinola ask his host what he might respond to or ameliorate the concerns of Jerusalem's Primate, bishop, and people.

Instead, he tried another tack. "Archbishop Akinola then said, that this was a pilgrimage and wondered what the difference was to other pilgrimages. The Rev’d Canon Hosam responded by saying that this was not only a pilgrimage, since the Archbishop himself was talking about a conference with an agenda. Archbishop Akinola replied that he would be happy to change the terminology and refrain from calling it a conference, in which case he would call it a pilgrimage."

Hosam has a point. Clearly the event was intended from the start as a conference -- hence the name 'GAFCON," the Global Anglican Future Conference. The front page of the GAFCON website refers to it as a "conference" fifteen times, including in every header, while the word "pilgrimage" appears a grand total of three times. At least the organizers finally added the picture of one person of color (Archbishop Akinola); the first incarnation of the website, the domain of which was registered in Englishman Canon Chris Sugden's name, had pictures only of white men (Sugden, Jensen, and Bishop Bob Duncan of Pittsburgh).

In any case, none of the Jerusalem Christians present were going to buy the line that GAFCON isn't really a convention -- at least not as it's currently being organized. And so, although he hadn't been asked his opinion on what might help, Bishop Suheil rather generously offered a suggestion: that Akinola's agenda be spilt in two, with the conference taking place in Cyprus so what happened in Jerusalem could be a pilgrimage only.

That's what closed the meeting, with no response from Akinola, who had earlier "repeated that his interests were not political, and that his major concern was about how to grow and how to be strengthened and exchange experiences." I'm not surprised that he did not immediately accept Suheil's suggestion, or even promise to think about it. I'd say it was clear from the start that GAFCON was not only a conference, but a conference with political intent. My hunch is that organizers "immediately felt that [Jerusalem] was the right venue," as Jensen put it, because of the resonance they hoped edicts from that gathering would have as a kind of reconvening of the "apostolic council" in Jerusalem described in Acts 15.

Acts, however, describes "the whole group of those who believed" as being "of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32), and it's clear that, not having consulted with the Jerusalem Christians before announcing a conference there, that GAFCON is not building that kind of community.

So who knows -- organizers may drop the "CON" from the name to further description of the event as not being a conference. It might be an even more appropriate name if they do -- the organization seems to have been nearly all gaffe thus far.

January 22, 2008 in ++Peter Akinola, Africa, Church of Nigeria, Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (4)

kudos to +Benjamin Nzimbi

George Conger at Religious Intelligence (hat tip: Stand Firm) writes of Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi's recent call for all politicians running for office in Kenya to be tested for HIV to set an example for the nation and destigmatize AIDS and HIV infection. And the archbishop is not asking of others something he has not done himself: he and the lay and clergy leaders of the cathedral congregation of All Saints in Nairobi were tested and announced that publicly. U.S. Senator Barak Obama visited Kenya (where his father was born) last year and he and his wife were tested for HIV there, saying, "Knowing your status is the first step in controlling the spread of disease. Let everyone be tested." +Nzimbi applauded Obama's action, arguing (in Conger's words) that "ignorance of the disease helped foster its spread," and that Kenyans must not "shun or judge those diagnosed with [AIDS]."

I'm glad to have occasion to applaud Archbishop Nzimbi for his courage and leadership on this point. May it prove to be something that our provinces can rally around together in mission!

July 3, 2007 in Africa, Church of Kenya | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Plight of African Christians


Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)
August 26, 2005
Posted to the web August 26, 2005

By Bugalo Chilume

In African culture, homosexuality is taboo. President Robert Mugabe has been widely reported to have said that homosexuals are worse than pigs, which didn't go down well with the West. Sam Nujoma is also known to have publicly unpalatable terms to describe homosexuality. In fact, he is reported to have ordered the arrest and deportation of homosexuals from Namibia.

Across the continent, homosexuality is a criminal offence, except in South Africa, where the minority white race was in power prior to majority rule - they ensured that the country's new constitution guaranteed freedom of sexual orientation before relinquishing power to the Africans.

Traditional Christian teachings frown upon homosexuality, as does African culture. It is against this background that the majority of African Christians, Anglicans in particular, are agonising over the consecration of Gene Robinson, an openly gay American divorcee of two, as bishop of an Episcopal Church, the American version of the Anglican Church. Most are horrified, and the consecration was met with harsh condemnation across Africa. The Kenyan Anglican archbishop is reported to have lamented that, "the devil has clearly entered the church. God cannot be mocked".

The majority of Anglican churches in Africa were against the consecration, with the notable exception of the South African church. Obviously, mindful of the provision of his country's constitution, Njongokulu Ndungane, the Archbishop of Cape Town, is reported to have welcomed Robinson into the church's fold: "Robinson has been consecrated by his province and that makes him a bishop of the church".

In white societies, homosexuality is an accepted lifestyle - even same sex marriages are recognised under law and enjoy the same legal rights as heterosexual marriages. Robinson's appearance at his nomination victory celebration with his gay partner by his side didn't cause much of a ripple in the white Christian movement. His consecration had been a foregone conclusion despite spirited opposition from church leaders of non-white races, who make up about 70 percent of the worldwide Anglican membership.

To the dismay of many African Anglicans, the Archbishop of Canterbury and spiritual head of the Anglican Church (a.k.a. Church of England) didn't rebuke the diocese in the US state of New Hampshire that firstly nominated and then consecrated Robinson. If anything, the archbishop was very accommodating in his remarks.

The current trials and tribulations of African Christians emanates from the fact that you cannot divorce indigenous culture from indigenous religion. When this happens, a society becomes dysfunctional, thus impeding its advancement economically, politically and spiritually.

Religion is the foundation upon which cultural values of a society are based; a framework within which these values function. By forsaking his own religion to embrace the religion of another race (white) that has totally different societal values from his, has left the African in a cultural limbo. As a result, African Christians, at least the Anglicans, are now in despair and utter confusion over the recent developments within the Anglican Church. Indeed, even without the consecration of the gay bishop, African Christians on the whole have always found it difficult to harmonise the spiritual demands of Christianity with their traditional African way of life.

Despite their opposition to the consecration of Robinson, there is nothing much the African and other non-white Anglicans can do to reverse this milestone in the Christian history, although they outnumber their white counterparts by far - clearly a master-servant relationship.

The consecration has taken place and the church has accepted it.

African Anglicans just have to bear it, toe the line and conform to the dynamics of the cultural values of their white masters, even if these are at loggerheads with their own African values.

Christianity is a religion of the white race, and therefore impervious to the cultural and social needs of its African and other non-white followers.

The near-hysterical opposition to contraceptives by the Vatican is incomprehensible, to say the least. Widespread poverty in Africa, where economic growth is largely stagnant, at best, makes it absolutely imperative that modern family planning methods be employed to contain runaway population growth; yet, the Roman Catholic Church instructs its many followers in Africa (and other developing parts of the world) not to use contraceptives. What is this?

Christianity is a white man's religion that he rightly wants to be in tandem with the dynamics of his own culture, and, needless to say, culture evolves over time to accommodate changing needs of society.

Given the comparatively pitiful low levels of economic development in the continent, African culture hasn't evolved to the same degree as European culture - hence the current deep cultural split between the races over the consecration of an openly gay bishop.

African Anglican ministers are reported to have accused their white counterparts of allowing their societies' increasingly secular morals to corrupt the traditionalist beliefs of Anglicanism.

What do they know? African Christians accepted the white man's religion when they were not party to its formation, now, what gives them the right to dictate to the owners of the religion?

Whites own the religion and should do whatever they damn well please with it!

In fact, over the years whites have made changes to their religion to suit the requirements of the times. Ineffectual gestures such as severing ties with the diocese of which Robinson is bishop is the most that African Anglican leaders can do to show their consternation at the consecration.

If, indeed, they believe that the consecration of an openly homosexual man as a bishop goes against the basic teachings of the Bible, and that it is an abomination, why don't they break away from the Anglican Church altogether? The church has broken up many times in the past to spawn new Christian denominations over less contentious issues.

The sad truth is that there is nowhere for them to go, no other spiritual home, for they were party to the destruction of their own true spiritual home.

Meekly, they will toe the line because they have been conditioned to always obediently follow the white man wherever he leads them, even if it is to their own deaths. Poor Africans.

Copyright © 2005 Mmegi/The Reporter. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

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August 26, 2005 in Africa | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sentamu Calls for Religious Revival


New Vision (Kampala)
August 15, 2005

By Henry Mukasa

THE Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, has called for religious revival in the country.

He delivered a powerful sermon that moved hundreds in the congregation at Miracle Centre Cathedral, Rubaga.

Referring to his elevation to the second highest post in the Anglican Church, Sentamu said there was hope for Uganda.

"Churchill called this country the pearl of Africa. In the 1970s, Amin was the embarrassment of Africa. It's slowly crawling back and we want it to be the real pearl of Africa," Sentamu said.

"We can be rich. We can develop but without knowing God, that's nothing. The Uganda Martyrs died so that Christ is known in this country. They didn't die in vain, and they were young," he added.

Hailing the dominance of the youth in the Cathedral, founded and run by his brother Pastor Robert Kayanja, the Archbishop said the Church was assured of continuity.

"If the youth are not there, the Church tends to be tired," he said, referring to Jesus' likening of the ancestry of God's kingdom to the youth.

He said, "When I see what is happening today, revival is about to break out." Nodding almost at every sentence Sentamu uttered, Kayanja was excited at his elder brother's presence. Kayanja described Sentamu as a mentor and family kingpin.

Sentamu called for unity, saying acting individually gave people wrong visions.

Copyright © 2005 New Vision. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

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August 15, 2005 in Africa, Church of England, Church of Uganda | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Medical Test Now Mandatory for Anglican Priests


This Day (Lagos)
August 14, 2005
Posted to the web August 15, 2005

By Chuka Odittah

Head of the Anglican Communion in Africa, Primate Peter Akinola has made periodic medical examination a mandatory exercise for all Anglican clergies.

Dr Christian Ebesike, Director of Social Welfare of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) stated this in Abuja during a forum for religious, traditional leaders and the media on immunisation and child survival in Nigeria.

Ebisike disclosed that henceforth it had become mandatory for all practicing Anglican priests to undergo complete medical examination at least once every two months. The cost of such exercises he said were picked by the church or public minded persons who were relevant to such programmes.

Ebisike explained that Primate Akinola's decision was to forestall cases of sudden death often recorded among clergies while in active service.

According to him, the new rule was a way of proffering a holistic approach to the physical and spiritual needs of the priests, adding that in christianity, one could not exist in isolation

He said the nature of examinations specified included HIV tests, blood pressure, diabetes tests and any other that may be necessary.

Ebesike said such support service was aimed at providing the priests with an enabling support to perform their duties without distractions.

He also stated that the Anglican church is currently in the forefront of Compassionate evangelism, which he said entails the distribution of food items, clothes and financial assistance to needy members whenever necessary.

Copyright © 2005 This Day. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

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August 15, 2005 in ++Peter Akinola, Africa, Church of Nigeria | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Anglican Church’s new power plan

Monday August 15, 2005
By Big Issue Writer

Kenya’s second largest Christian denomination could have at least five archbishops and one primate in two years if changes proposed by a committee of the Anglican Church are adopted.

The church, which has 5 million members, also intends to appoint two new bishops for mission work in reforms observers see as intended to manage the succession schisms that have followed the election of the archbishop.

Squabbling over the creation of new dioceses, notably Kajiado and Katakwa, over ethnicity, politics and personality clashes have always simmered under the surface of the church’s leadership.

Now the church plans to lump its 29 dioceses into regional archdioceses. Then it will appoint new bishops specifically for missionary work in areas where its influence has been weakened.

"These will be bishops without judicial authority or physical office and will be working under a senior bishop," said Bishop Eliud Wabukhala, who chaired the five-man committee that has recommended the reforms.

The Missionary Bishops will be assigned to remote parts of Kenya, mainly in the North Eastern and parts of Eastern Province, where members’ needs are not sufficiently catered for by the local diocese.

The creation of the archdioceses is expected to follow the pattern established by the Kenya Anglican Youth Organisation. The Anglican dioceses are grouped into six regions: Coast, Western, Nairobi Central, Lake, Mt Kenya and Kennard.

Coast comprises Kitui, Machakos, Taita Taveta and Mombasa dioceses; while Western brings together Butere, Katakwa, Maseno North, Mumias, Nambale and Bungoma dioceses. Nairobi Central holds Nairobi, All Saints and Kajiado dioceses.

Lake Region brings together Maseno West, Bondo, Southern Nyanza and the parent diocese of Maseno South.

The Mt Kenya Region lumps together the dioceses of Embu, Meru, Mt Kenya West, Thika and Mt Kenya South. Kennard, an acronym for the Kitale, Eldoret, Nakuru and Nyahururu dioceses, is also in the pipeline to become an archdiocese.

Wabukhala said the changes would be implemented if they find agreement with the wishes of church members, who are still being consulted through the diocesan synods. They will then be ratified by the Provincial Synod, the church’s parliament.

Wabukhala, the Bungoma Diocesan Bishop, is also the chairman of the National Council of Churches in Kenya. The committee also includes representatives of the laity and clergy, among them Mbeere Bishop Gideon Ireri, who heads the ACK Justice and Peace department.

The reforms were initiated by former Maseno South Bishop Henry Okullu in the 1980s and recently jumpstarted by Dr Eliud Wabukhala of Bungoma See after Okullu’s death in 1999.

Much of the technical work, based on reference of models in sister churches of South Africa, Nigeria and the parent church in England, has been done.

"We are now [engaging] the laity and clergy at the grassroots level to hear their views," Wabukala said.

Church members are submitting their recommendations through the respective parish councils and the diocesan council. The committee is seeking members’ views on how to name the proposed archdiocese and their seat.

They will, for instance decide if the seat of the archbishop should be at the parent diocese, in this case, the urban diocese would be at the provincial headquarters with all the facilities an archbishop would need for his work.

In the Anglican Church, the dioceses are autonomous, with their respective constitutions although when it comes to doctrinal issues they are subservient to the greater Anglican Church of Kenya under the archbishop.

Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi exercises spiritual authority and rights of supervision over the 29 dioceses, which in effect allows him to be involved in the election and ordination of bishops and cannons.

He convenes and presides over the Provincial Synod, the church’s parliament, or its Standing Committee and the House of Bishops and the Episcopal Synod.

The archbishop is also the church’s spokesman on international matters and can officially visit any diocese and represent the Kenyan Anglican Church in international Anglican fellowship, known as the Anglican Communion.

Archbishop Nzimbi, the diocesan bishop of All Saints Diocese, will rise to take the title of Primate, which will put him in the league with heads of churches such as Nigeria and Church of England — which have more than one archbishop.

Most of his current duties such as overseeing management of the dioceses, ordinations and chairing of the meetings will be taken over by the archbishops, who will chair the respective houses of bishops and synods to address local issues.

However, the Primate who will also be the archbishop of Nairobi, will retain his job as the premus inter pares (first among equals) and not only the spokesman but also the representative of the Kenyan Church.

Though regionally-based, the archbishop’s elections will be a national affair where all the bishops will participate as provided for in the church’s constitution.

Wabukhala said: "We would not be adding the numbers really, the new archbishops will be picked from those we already have and with minimal expense."

It is hoped that by decentralising the church’s operations, the bishops will be free to attend to the pastoral needs of their flock rather than spend most of their time in meetings and travelling to the headquarters, as is now the case.

"With a focused stewardship, the church will be spiritually and financially healthier," he said.

With the proposed arrangement, conflicts will be easily and quickly resolved by the regional House of Bishops instead of being channelled to Nairobi, where they could drag on for long.

The reform comes at a time when Kenyan Anglican Church is emerging as a crucial plank alongside Nigeria’s in the new awakening in Africa, aimed at charting an independent path from influential gay-embracing Western churches.

Kenya hosts the headquarters of the continental organisation of the Anglican bishops and is at the forefront of mobilising the Anglican affiliates across the globe to reassert the church’s orthodoxy.

The Church was now thinking outside the box and had borrowed heavily from the secular world in its strategy on management, said Bishop Wabukhala.

"Virtually, all the dioceses have set up special committees in charge of the recruitment and retention of staff," he said, and they are excited by the prospects of the premier theological college such St Paul’s United Theological College, Limuru, being elevated to a full-fledged university.

From seven prelates in 1970 to current 29 bishops, the Church’s House of Bishop is star-studded, bursting at its seams with a crop of youthful clerics who are well-educated, ambitious and progressive.

While the future looks seductive, the past has not always been rosy in what was once branded the Church of Politics of Kenya.

While critics may see the division as balkanising the church, proponents argue that it promotes unity besides raising the church’s profile and bringing it closer to the people.

The unity will be infused in the fact that all bishops will be participating in the election of new archbishop.

Ideally the archbishop’s seat is ceremonial and the holder is merely a first among equals, given that each diocese is autonomous and has its own constitution.

A bishop has more power than the archbishop given that he has judicial authority and oversight over his diocese and may ignore or even defy the archbishop.

What would have posed a problem would have been the distribution of the church’s property but this has been taken care of by a strategic policy in which resources are placed under a registered company.

It is expected that the decentralisation of a reformed Anglican Church would spur the revival of the church at the grassroots where it has been losing out to the robust evangelicals.

The history of the Anglican Church in Kenya dates back to 1844 when the first missionary from the church missionary (CMS), Dr Johann Ludwig Krapf, arrived in Mombasa and is bound to take a notable turn with the implementation of the new organisational structure and the changes that come with it.

Its first archbishop, Festo Habbakuk Olang, an alumni of Alliance Boys High School, led the church for 10 years, handing over to most the Rev Dr Manasses Kuria in 1980. Archbishop Kuria was later succeeded by Dr David Gitari, who retired in 2003.

The church acquired a notoriety in the 1980s and 1990s when its leaders, such as Dr David Gitari, Dr Henry Okullu and Dr Alexander Muge rubbed the political establishment the wrong way and offered refuge to anti-Government groups holding protests in Nairobi.

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August 15, 2005 in Africa, Church of Kenya | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack