Friday's Church Times has a recap of the African All Bishops conference by Pat Ashworth and, at the same link a sidebar essay by an attendee, The Rt Revd Michael Doe, the general secretary of USPG.
Ashworth usefully pulls together what is known and definitely worth a read whether you did or did not follow news from the conference. One omission: there's nothing said about Bob Duncan's strong disappointment that the conference was focused on the problems of poverty and corruption.
(From the comments below Simon Sarmiento notes that Ashworth's report breaks news regarding the primates communique as distinguished from the conference communique. Ashworth reports "The Province of Central Africa is listed as a signatory to the Primates’ document, which is declared to have been 'agreed upon by the primates and the representatives of primates who were not able to attend'. It was confirmed on Wednesday, however, that Central Africa had not signed.")
Doe gives some fresh insight to the conference:
British Anglicans should surely give thanks for the growth and vitality of African Churches at a time when we often find ourselves struggling. Yet, for all of us, there is the danger of superficiality. One Nigerian bishop told me: “Our church is five miles long, but only a quarter of an inch deep.” Numbers are not everything.Here's the link.
We should also rejoice that their faith leads them so directly to tackle the social and even political issues that confront Africa today. Theirs is a holistic gospel, which must take root in the communities they serve.
Equally, we should rejoice that they are no longer spin-offs from the Victorian missionary age, but Churches growing in confidence and developing their own style. I cannot help thinking that they will be better able to do this without Western donors and American conservatives trying to influence their agendas. Such points of inculturation also raise questions about worship: the conference drew on the inheritance from 19th-century hymnody, much of it Revivalist, and even more what might be called American “charismatica”. There was hardly anything representing African culture.
The conference raised two other issues, which may also be seen in the context of the Victorian missionary inheritance. The first was leadership: excellent Bible studies by Dr Zac Niringiye, an Assistant Bishop in the diocese of Kampala and formerly with CMS, called on the bishops to exercise their power more as servants than the kind of authoritarian episcopacy that came with the missionary age. He spoke openly of the conflicts that exist within some dioceses, especially when bishops are being appointed. He even dared ask whether the absence of women was one cause of the problem.
Yet the greatest bid for power came again from the Primates themselves: as at the GAFCON meeting in 2008 (News, 4 July 2008), and the Global South Encounter in Singapore this year (News, 30 April), these leaders are calling for the Primates’ Meeting (rather than the more representative Anglican Consultative Council) to determine the future of the Communion. They believe that the proposed Anglican Covenant needs to be strengthened by such centralised authority. Yet it is doubtful whether they will be willing to attend the next Primates’ Meeting, given the suspicions many of them have about the current leadership. So the Archbishop of Canterbury, under attack by conservatives and liberals alike, is caught between a rock and a hard place.
The second issue connected with their missionary heritage is how far these bishops are in danger of repeating the mistakes made by those a century ago who believed they alone had the whole truth, and should therefore impose their beliefs on the whole world Church.
I cannot help thinking that they will be better able to do this without Western donors and American conservatives trying to influence their agendas. Such points of inculturation also raise questions about worship: the conference drew on the inheritance from 19th-century hymnody, much of it Revivalist, and even more what might be called American “charismatica”. There was hardly anything representing African culture.