Too African To Lead The Anglican Communion?: A Guest Post

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.

Arms of the See of Canterbury, governing the C...

Arms of the See of Canterbury, governing the Church of England, mother of the Anglican Communion. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

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6 thoughts on “Too African To Lead The Anglican Communion?: A Guest Post

  1. Amanda

    Thanks for this Kevin. I’ve been following this process of selecting an new ABC quite closely, and I find the whole process fascinating.
    As an evangelical who is currently attending an Anglican church, I find myself trying to reconcile our good little church with the mess that is currently the Anglican Communion. It will be interesting to see who the next ABC is.
    (and then, at a local level, our diocese is also looking for a new bishop. So much change this year).

    1. Kevin

      You’re welcome Amanda.

      I guess there’s always a disconnect between good little churches and worldwide communions. Worldwide communions are a necessary good of our catholic faith, but human sinfulness can make them a mess.

      Given the polity of the Anglican Communion, your diocese search for a new bishop is going to have much more immediate impact on your church.

      If you don’t mind my asking, what diocese are you in?

      1. Amanda

        The diocese of Qu’appelle in southern Saskatchewan. Our exiting bishop is headed to the diocese of Calgary. That was a fascinating election to watch as there was a disconnect between who the laity wanted (our bishop), and who the clergy of the diocese wanted (not our bishop).
        Our diocese is small “o” orthodox, small “e” evangelical, and small “c” catholic. The church that I attend has a fairly large group of parishioners who either study at, or work for, an evangelical Christian college. But even with that academic bent, our little church is not a complete anomaly in our diocese which is nice, especially when I look at the state of some of the other dioceses in Canada.

  2. Pingback: Another Adventure in Anglicanism — Over at Political Jesus | Cheese-Wearing Theology

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