THE CHAIRMAN of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) has called upon the African church to put aside its differences and engage with its theological opponents within the Anglican Communion.
CAPA should eschew a political solution to the divisions over doctrine and disciple Archbishop Ian Ernest said, and focus instead on the church’s transformation through Christian witness.
In his Sept 3 presidential address read to the joint meeting of primates and standing committee of CAPA in Nairobi, Archbishop Ernest, Primate of the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean and Bishop of Mauritius, said CAPA must resist becoming one interest group among many within the Anglican Communion.
“The Church is going through trial times. This is nothing new, and it is certainly not the last time that our Communion faces challenges,” Archbishop Ernest said. But what was new at this “critical juncture” was a “process of profound change. Our deliberations at this meeting will not only affect our lives today, but will contribute to shape the future of the Anglican Communion worldwide. Future generations will read the minutes of this meeting. These are both exciting and challenging times, and we must act with utmost responsibility,” he said. “Our large family of love — the Anglican Communion” had been “distressed by unilateral decisions” taken by the North American churches which “threaten the unity of our communion,” he said.
Archbishop Ernest also expressed “concern about the violence of arguments” that had so hardened positions that it raised serious concerns “about our ability to resolve such differences.” However, he did not despair, for it “is in love, and with hope in our hearts, that we meet today, as we pray for unity and look to work together to build the church of God.”
Within the context of African Christianity, the church was facing a number of new challenges, as well as long term problems. The Church in Africa needed to face up to the challenge of militant atheism, ethnic and tribal jealousies, oppressive regimes, and sectarian divisions. While there was good news to report from Zimbabwe, the problems in Darfur remained. To respond to these challenges, as well as to the wider divisions within the Anglican Communion, CAPA must “build up its strategy to be faithful to God’s mission.”
However, “we, unfortunately, are retreating into a collection of lobby groups that are divisive and this phenomenon runs the risk of making the Communion a federation of closed ecclesial systems.” The proper path for CAPA was to be “transforming agents” for Christ in the world. “Jesus needs us to be his hands to serve, his feet to visit, and voice to speak for Him. This is our task. But very often as a Church we fail at this task. We belong to the Community of suffering and service, of faith, hope and love which carries saving mission to all people.”
“We can challenge the world if we abide in Christ,” Archbishop Ernest said, and “let CAPA be the prophet of its time by being different, loving but effective.” “My appeal to you” is that we “leave aside the different opinions we may have about the present situation in the Communion. We have to seek to maintain that spirit of togetherness within the Council of the Anglican Provinces of Africa, so that we may leap forward to be a witness of what it means to abide in Christ,” he said.
“The African Continent needs us. So, it is only in our togetherness that we can demonstrate to the World how unity in spirit and deeds can transform the lives of many,” he said.