Friday, September 03, 2010

Report from Entebbe: Hundreds of Anglican Bishops from Africa gather for All Africa Bishops Conference

From the Church of England Newspaper, by Bishop Martyn Minns:

The tables were turned in Entebbe, Uganda this week as hundreds of Anglican Bishops from all over Africa gathered for their second All Africa Bishops Conference (AABC). The first took place six years ago in Lagos, Nigeria in October, 2004 with the theme – “Africa  Has Come of Age” – this time the theme was “Securing the Future: Unlocking our Potential”.

Both the Prime Minster of Uganda, the Honorable Dr. Apolo Nsibambi, and the President of  Uganda, His Excellency Yoweri K. Museveni personally welcomed the Conference. They also  hosted a five-course formal dinner at the palatial State House, Entebbe, accompanied by a  full orchestra playing revival hymns. Both men turned the tables on the assembled bishops  by using the opportunity to both establish their credentials as sons of the East African  Revival and also deliver challenging biblically based sermons. Their words were  refreshingly direct.

The Prime Minister called on the participants to sit lightly on their status as bishops and stay true to the plain teaching of Scripture. The President reminded them of the dangers of  religious intolerance and challenged them to follow the example of Jesus especially in his  commitment to preach the Word, feed the hungry, heal the sick and love the downtrodden. The messages were delivered with clarity and conviction and well received.

Throughout the conference there were many calls on the various governments of the countries represented to be faithful stewards of their people’s trust and their nations resources. This healthy interchange between church and government leaders was a reminder that Anglicanism has historically embraced the call to serve the common good through deliberate engagement with those in civil government.

At the first AABC conference the Archbishop of Canterbury was conspicuous by his absence, this time he came and preached at the opening Eucharist. In his carefully nuanced sermon on Jesus as the Good Shepherd Dr. Williams warned the gathered bishops to listen to their people and take risks.

In his Conference address Archbishop Ian Ernest, Chairman of CAPA (Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa) responded by making it clear that Dr. Williams was there to listen to the voice of the Anglican Communion in Africa and not take risks on its future. He went on to state that the existing leadership structures of the Communion had failed, were increasingly irrelevant and unrepresentative of the majority of the Communion. This view was echoed Archbishop Henry Orombi, Primate of Uganda and host of the conference, who declared to one reporter “the Anglican Church is very broken. It (church) has been torn at its deepest level, and it is a very dysfunctional family of the provincial churches.”

These challenging words were delivered respectfully but there was no mistaking the determination and resolve. In a meeting with the Primates, Dr Williams was left in no doubt that unless he was willing to follow through on the numerous decisions to exercise discipline towards The Episcopal Church (USA) and its fellow travelers, the Anglican Communion focused on Canterbury will continue to disintegrate. Both Archbishops Ernest and Orombi also made it clear that the days of deference to the West as the sender of missionaries and resources were over. They are now ready to turn the tables and re-evangelize the West understanding that Gospel mission is no longer from the “West to the rest” but from “everywhere to anywhere”.

The conference itself was a combination of enthusiastic worship, energetic expositional Bible Studies and a wide variety of plenary presentations and group discussions that dealt with many of the practical issues that confront Anglican Churches in Africa. The spectrum was wide including issues of climate change, HIV/Aids, corruption, neglect of women and children and the need for economic empowerment.

At times the language for these sessions sounded more like that of a United Nations development conference and several participants cautioned that while the church must engage in practical social concerns it must always do so mindful of its distinctive role as the Body of Christ with spiritual resources that are indispensible if we are to see a lasting transformation of the  communities where they serve.
In keeping with African tradition the tea breaks were generous and it seemed that much of the real work of the conference took place as leaders from across Africa met, drank tea, shared experiences and prayed together.

One of the most moving moments in the Conference took place when bishops from those countries experiencing violent conflict were invited come forward and kneel for extended prayer from the rest of the conference participants. This willingness to be humbled before one another and before the Lord is, of course, a distinctive element of the East African Revival and was embraced by all present.
The overall attitude of the conference was a recognition that while many problems remain the remarkable growth that they have all experienced in the past six years is a sign that they are ready to take on the challenges before them. The Gospel they proclaim is Good News of Great Joy for all people and it showed in Entebbe.

Read it all here.  Bishop Minns is a Missionary Bishop for CANA, Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and a member of the Anglican Church in North America College of Bishops.


Daniel Weir said...

It is worth noting that Central Africa and South Africa have rejected the CAPA communique's embrace of the Anglican Church in North America as a replacement for the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada.

Unknown said...

Well, that makes three of us - for the record neither am I. I"d rather see something like what we have in the Philippines.


Anonymous said...

Of additional interest is the ties of the Kenyan, Ugandan, Rwandan churches to the East African Revival. In some ways, that tie sheds light on why these churches have been so insistent that TEC "repent" rather than "regret" its decisions. Confession and repentance are key concerns here as well as personal conversion and witness. For those whose Anglicanism does not stem from the more evangelical or enthusiast side of Anglicanism, possibly Southern Africa, and certainly the theological decendents of DeKoven and Jackson Kemper in the US, , the confessional posture of the revival and its aftermath (commemorated every ten years) may feel alien. I have recently read Bishop Atwood's blog, Ekklesia Society Society, for example, in which he discusses how his clergy, and others, might introduce such "altar calls" and other opportunities for individual Christian confession and witness into services. For those for whom attending church services is to participate in an an act of corporate worship, such practices as Bishop Atwood suggests which showcase as they do the faith of the individual, might prove not only alien but distracting. EmilyH

Bill C said...

EmilyH certainly hits the nail on the head. Alter calls are so alien:

[Acts 2:37] Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” [38] And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [39] For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” [40] And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” [41] So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

And alter calls are so counter-productive. Just consider the decades of decline of the Anglican Church in those countries that have been touched by the East Africa Revival, and contrast that with the rapid and continuing growth of TEC. Hmmm – maybe I’ve got my facts reversed.

Although the early church was not big on alters they assumed people responding to preaching by calling out to be saved:

[Rom 10:13] For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” [14] How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

Preach - hear - believe - call on the name of the Lord to be saved. This is still the pattern of an alter call today. It is no more alien to the church today than it was to the church on the first Day of Pentecost. In fact, it is part of the original apostolic way of reaching as many people by as many means as possible.

And presenting oneself for the first time as a living sacrifice is certainly a legitimate part of corporate worship.

Anonymous said...

Bill above wrote "And presenting oneself for the first time as a living sacrifice is certainly a legitimate part of corporate worship" I am more than a bit confused by this statement as I see the corporate worship itself as a living witness made by one man for all and for all time. There has been much Anglican conversation about how culture affects both doctrine and praxis. My point here is that culture, what is comfortable for some, maybe much less for others. I believe the word you are looking for is "altar" rather than "alter" unless you were referring to some sort of change and I didn't grasp your meaning. EmilyH

Bill C said...


Thanks for correcting my "alter" (sic) typo. You are better than a spell checker. It only checks spelling, not meaning.

I am more than a little surprised that you are more than a little surprised by my comment, "And presenting oneself for the first time as a living sacrifice is certainly a legitimate part of corporate worship". This comment of mine is an almost direct paraphrase from the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans, "[Rom 12:1] I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.", by which Paul exhorts the Roman Christians, and by extension every Christian, including you and me, and every new believer, to present ourselves as living believers set apart for a holy purpose. Jesus was, of course, the unique sacrifice for the sin of everyone who believes in him and follows him, but in Romans 12:1 Paul reminds us and exhorts us that it is God's intention for us, as believers, to be "set apart for holy purpose" - to be a "living sacrifice".

He further explains this in the next verse, "[2] Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.", wherein the Apostle Paul gives a compressed summary of what our calling as "living sacrifices" is to be - to search for God's will and follow it, not the pattern that the world presents to us.

To Paul's original Greek-speaking recipients of the letter to the Romans, his comment in Rom 12:1 would be even more emphatic than to us. In Greek, the root meaning of the word we translate as "to sacrifice" is also "to butcher or kill", which is what happened to animals when they were brought to the pagan Greek or Roman temples. So, for those hearing Rom 12:1 read in their church, they could even more clearly see this as an allusion about death of the old self that conformed to the ways, values, whims and fads of the world and instead a life continually set apart for obedience to God's call for holy living.

Anonymous said...

I certainly agree that the allusion of death to one self makes sense, particularly in a Pauline context. For Paul is certainly concerned with a newness of life in Christ Jesus. The emphasis I see here is not on the "killing or sacrifice" for its own sake, but by contrast, for transformation. Thus, we may have an issue here of translation and focus. For me the liturgy is a context for celebration of the sacrifice of the One, once for all. I am uncomfortable with the "altar call" approach because, 1. It tends to focus on someone other than the Lord. 2. Its peer pressure can be used to influence others to come forward who are not really ready to do so (I have actually attended a Billy Graham Crusade and discussed with others why they did so) 3. It can become a "Look at me. I am saved. See how humble I am" occasion, one certainly not affirmed in the Scriptural recording of Christ's words about prayer. (Matthew 6:5)

I am not saying there is no context for personal witness. The Billy Graham Crusade, for example was a context totally outside of liturgy. But an appropriate context might need to be rethought. Revivals in mid-18th century and early nineteenth century US history provided such a contest...although the likes of such as B.B. Smith strongly warned of their enthusiasm. EmilyH

Bill C said...

I apologize, but I do not think that I can continue this dialog very effectively.

I say something like, "The Apostle Paul says to the church and to current Christians, including you and me", and you abstract what he said into something you call a "Pauline context". I don't consider the words of the Apostles to be abstract contexts. They are commands, explanations, and exhortations to the church when written and still today true and non-abstract.

If the Apostles writings - as recorded in the New Testament - were mere abstract contexts, I would have tossed Christianity as a myth long ago.

Daniel Weir said...

It is worth noting that "living sacrifice" is singular. I believe Paul calls us to make this one offering as the Church in union with Christ.

Observer said...

Mr Weir - "bodies" and "brothers" are not singular in ROm12:1-2..... the sense of the passage relates to individuals and making a repeated offering....each of us making a daily offering?

Daniel Weir said...

I understand that "bodies" and "brothers" are plural, but that, IMV, makes my point, i.e., that are several bodies are part of a single offering. This is consistent with Paul's understanding of our relationship with Jesus, i.e., as members of the Body of Christ, and not as isolated individuals.