Anna Arco's Diary

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Africa and the Anglican provision…

Our friends over at the Intentional Disciples blog have been following the news developing in the wake of last week’s surprise announcement about the Anglican provision . While much of the world’s attention (and ours too) has focused on the Church of England and the Traditional Anglican Communion, some commentators have looked at what the Anglican provision–the Personal Ordinariates–might mean for Africa.

Some, like the American commentator known as the Anchoress have speculated that African Anglicans could re-invigorate the Catholic Church, while the Wall Street Journal suggests that Africa’s Anglicans are more cautious about the move, but are considering it.

Sherry W at Intentional Disciples points out that that the debate seems to have ignore evangelical Anglicans (many of whom are in Africa and were the driving force behind the conservative Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) ). She says:

“I expect that we may see not just thousands but probably hundreds of thousands of Anglicans enter the Church over the next 5 – 10 years as a direct response to the Pope’s initiative. (To put this in perspective, remember that even a half million entering the Catholic Church only represents a little over 1/2 of 1% of the entire body Anglican. it is more important psychologically than numerically.)

But what puzzles me is the tendency during this discussion around the Catholic blogosphere to ignore the existence of the 800 lb gorilla of the Anglican world: evangelicalism. Anglican evangelicals have very different concerns than do Anglo-Catholics and are much more likely to retain a basic suspicion or indifference to Rome.

“Anglican evangelicalism comes in two basic flavors: classic reformed and contemporary charismatic. Evangelical Anglicanism is a huge factor in this country, in the UK, and certainly in African and Asian Anglicanism. This is because, unlike Anglo-Catholicism, evangelical Anglicanism is primarily mission-driven rather than liturgy-driven. Both streams of evangelicalism are intensely missional and are the engine behind Anglican growth outside the west.

In a later post, Sherry reports on the reactions of several African Anglican bishops: Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of the Church of Uganda has said that the Pope’s gesture was uneccessary for Anglicans in Africa who have resisted the West’s liberal innovations while the Kenyan Archbishop Eliud Wabukala has said there is no possibility of him joining the Catholic Church.

She says:

Anglo-Catholicism is a deeply western movement, emerging in the early 19th century in the quintessential heart of intellectual England (Oxford) in response to developments in western thought and culture. Like traditionalist Catholicism, it is still overwhelmingly western and it seems that most of those Anglicans who will take advantage of the opportunity to enter the Catholic Church will also be western.

She comes to the conclusion that the Anglican provision is a big moment in Western Anglicanism, but not perhaps, global Anglicanism.

Like Sherry, I also associate African Anglicanism with the evangelical branch of that Church and was therefore slightly puzzled by the enthusiastic reports about African Anglicans taking up Pope Benedict’s offer. One former Anglican (who hails from the African sub-continent) explained it for me.

The 19th century saw two great Anglican missionary movements spread across Africa. The first was the Church Mission Society which had a distinctly Protestant flavour while the second was the Universities’ Mission to Central Africa which was “high Anglican”. The former evangelised in countries like Kenya and Nigeria whereas the latter was more present in countries like Ghana, former Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia) and South Africa. Here, apparently the Churches have much more in common with the Catholic Church than with their Protestant brethren.

It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next 20 years or so–not just in Europe, Australia and North America but also in the African South. Whether many will avail themselves of the provision remains unclear.

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