Kevin is a theology student at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. He has a BA in Philosophy, dabbles in art, and has a passion for all things sci-fi. He’s also a High Church Anglican with a Pentecostal past that he’s sometimes proud of. When not writing guest posts for Political Jesus, he blogs over at Ex Animus.
Andrew Brown of The Guardian would like to let us know that it’s not racist to oppose the appointment of John Sentamu as Archbishop of Canterbury on the basis of his “African” style. After all, the problem with him isn’t that he’s black, it’s just that he’s culturally inferior.
His African style, he says, is one that is “autocratic, and prelatical.” Sentamu, as a bishop of God’s church, exercises actual authority, and the particular brand of “enlightened” “liberalism” represented by Andrew Brown can’t stand that. Africans aren’t racially inferior, but they damn well better tow the party line. Sentamu’s style just ain’t English enough for them, and English is better.
Desmond Tutu is okay (and don’t misunderstand me, I have the deepest respect for Tutu) because his style fits them. Sentamu is different, and Brown doesn’t know what to do with him. Sentamu is an English patriot, and opposed to gay marriage, yet at the same time cares for issues of social justice. All of these things make sense for an East African man of God, but there’s at least some hint in Brown’s article that these discrepancies are all parts of Sentamu’s “ambition to manipulate the press.”
Then there’s this dirty trick. Sentamu has an “African” leadership style, Brown says, and this style is autocratic. Then, without transition, he’s telling us about how popular the prosperity gospel is in Africa, and how John Sentamu’s younger brother is a “prosperity gospel” preacher. I’m right there with Brown in thinking the prosperity gospel is repugnant, but notice what he did. 1) Sentamu is African and autocratic. 2) Prosperity gospel is popular in parts of Africa 3) his brother is a prosperity gospel preacher. Nothing is said of John Sentamu’s views of that particular theology, Brown doesn’t out and out call him part of that movement, but the way he puts that paragraph together makes the reader, assume he is. Also, there’s nothing especially African about the prosperity gospel, plenty of it going around over here in North America too.
More to the point though, it’s right that an African should lead the Anglican Communion. The fact of the matter is that Anglicanism, like the rest of Christianity, isn’t white man’s religion anymore. Around twenty million Anglicans are from the UK, US, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, while over thirty-eight million Anglicans are in Africa (BBC News). The African Church is growing too, while the numbers in the West continue to dwindle. In the face of an international crisis in Anglicanism, African bishops stepped up with strong leadership while the Archbishop of Canterbury waffled, and the Episcopal Church litigated. To select an African as Archbishop of Canterbury, and thereby head of the Anglican Communion is simply to acknowledge ecclesially a present fact of life – Africa leads the Anglican Church.
There’s a lot of turmoil in the Anglican Communion today, and I honestly don’t know if it can survive. I’ve made it my home though, so I sure hope it will, and if anything can save it, it’s going to be an African of strong leadership, and not another impotent English latitudinarian.
May God’s grace guide the Church.