Archbishop Henry Orombi: ‘We need to go to the foot of the Cross…’

Archbishop Henry Orombi (Church of Uganda) visited the Diocese of Singapore and the Diocese of Sabah (Province of Southeast Asia) in mid May. The aim for the visit is to learn more about the church in Southeast Asia and to see how both Provinces can mutually benefit each other. In this interview with Lucilla Teoh from Global South Anglican News, he shared his thoughts on a variety of subjects.  Q: What do you see as your priorities since you took up the responsibility as Archbishop of the Uganda two years ago? We are working on three priorities.

Firstly, Youth: I would like to see young people come into the church, kept in the church, and prepared for the future. I believe very strongly that once we can mentor young people, help them to understand the church, and to be responsible. We are actually doing 2 things: 1) Keeping them within the church. 2) Helping them to LEAD the church TOMORROW. Until we can pass what is in us to the young people, it is easy to lose it.

I also believe very strongly that young people have the energy, and therefore they can be used in many areas where energy is required. And as we use them, they can feel valued. Many young people have very little confidence in themselves, but we (the church) need to help them to know that we value them.

Self-sustainability: I believe that being a receiving church for a long time, we have developed a dependency syndrome that is not good for the church. We have resources, the people, and property. It is time for us to tap into our people and our property, in order to have finances that can help us to launch out. We have received and freely we receive, therefore we should freely give out as well. So, our church needs to know that God has put resources within the church, and that these can be used for the mission and the means of the church. Therefore until we can turn around to look at what we have, and then tap it for the growth for our church, we remain simply dependent on handouts.

We decided since Nov 2003, that we would not accept any money from the American church (ECUSA), which has given us a lot of money in the past. This is because of their theology and practice. Now that was a very risky decision, but it calls for self-examination. Where then, are we going to turn our faces? The first thing is to look to God, who holds us accountable for our resources.

Education: We believe very strongly that as we educate our people, they will understand the thinking of the world. And it will enable us to be able to communicate the gospel because we need to know people in order to communicate the gospel to them. Plus, the fact that as we train people for instance, in our Uganda Christian University, we need to train people who are going into the open world, with Christian principles in them.

I was giving an example of our law faculty, where we have one of our best students, who we sent out into the judiciary and then into private practice. Also, the person in charge of the law in Uganda also sent his son to the Uganda Christian University. For us, that shows that there is so much trust in the University, in the Faculty of Law. He is a Christian man, who sits in my cathedral.

We feel that we are turning out people who are influential who have principles, and we need them in a country like ours. The Chief Justice’s son was trained in our university.

And so, through those kinds of training, we can send out people who can influence people for Christ, through education. Q: How can the Church in Uganda and Southeast Asia cooperate and partner together for ministry and missions?

Let me start by perhaps applauding the fact that the church in Southeast Asia and the Church in Uganda are receiving churches. They were planted by missionaries. The church here (Singapore) is 150 years old. The church in Uganda will be 130 years next year. So they are about the same age. Therefore, I think our problems would be similar. We are young, vibrant churches. We are churches, which are very bent on missions.

Now with regard to the church in Southeast Asia, let me talk about the church here in Singapore. You have a church that seems to be very serious about missions. It has lay people who are knowledgeable in the things of the marketplace. There are certain things in Southeast Asia in terms of practice of the Anglican Church here, which could be shared with us.

Now where can we be useful to each other? I believe if we can get our lay people to compare notes, in terms of their professionalism. Our lay people could spearhead in organising help in our investment sector, where the church is trying to get the best out of their resources. I think your people here in Singapore could help us to share your understanding and knowledge. It will not be paternalistic. It needs to be a partnership. And it can be very useful for us. We could ask somebody from America, but it would turn out to be paternalistic, and we don’t want that. We want people who have walked just a few steps ahead of us, in terms of age, to walk with us. So what they know they share with us, what we know, we share with them.

So there needs to be a lot of visiting one another, to investigate possibilities, where things can be done on both sides. That comes out of knowing what we are going through, what you are going through. Part of my visit here is really to see the church in Singapore in action and to meet people. We are also meeting on a higher level, like the meeting with your politicians, but that is only one side of it. I think the whole church needs to handle ‘cross-pollination’, and then see how we can help each other. And I think if we do that, we are going to build a very strong Global South church, because we know the strengths and the weaknesses of one another. Where we are weak, the church of Southeast Asia can help; where they are weak, the church in Africa and Uganda can help. In that way, we are both able to grow.

Q: We heard that you have good relationship with those from HTB, including Bishop Sandy Millar and Rev Nicky Gumbel. How has Alpha blessed the churches in Uganda?

Alpha is beginning to be a broader blessing with time. For instance, in October, the Alpha International is coming to hold a big national conference in Kampala. We’ve already received communication from them, requesting Uganda to offer facilities for the regional office in Africa, shifting it from South Africa into Uganda.

I think the blessing that Alpha will be to Uganda, ultimately, is the fact that we have consecrated Sandy Miller, the bishop, with Uganda’s blessings, for the rest of the world. I have known Nicky Gumbel and Sandy Miller, the two key people in Alpha, since way back. As such, out of this long-standing relationship, I am now encouraging Uganda, as a province, to embrace Alpha as a tool for evangelism and outreach.

I think that the momentum is going to be built up. It has slowly started to trickle in already. There have been people who have been conducting Alpha. But now, we are broadening it up, to get the province aware of, and to use, the tool of Alpha. So in the near future, we are going to see a lot of activity and interaction between Uganda and Alpha London, and maybe even globally. Q: What are your wishes for the Provinces in Global South?

Firstly, I feel we should carry on visiting one another to see how we can bless one another. In February, the Primate of the Southern Cone (South America) came to visit us. We took him to one of our rural diocese, the city and the Christian University. He came to see what is happening in Uganda, and I am sure now he has got a little knowledge of us. When he goes back, he has a better idea of the opportunities for partnership with our church.

In Africa, under the Council of African Provinces, we are attracting Eastern Central African people to our university. So now we have students from central Africa coming to Uganda Christian University, and we also want to find other institutions, which can be of help to us in Uganda. We are opening an office in Kenya, so that students from Kenya who would like to attend our university can channel their application. The Primate of Kenya is going to provide us a space to use there.

Secondly, I feel that when we have understood something happening in one part of the Global South, which can bless the rest of the Global South, we need to come together and see how we can use that to bless one another. Opening our provinces to one another is one of the best things we can do for each other. I see a future for the Global South. We are building up a place of togetherness. We went to Cairo last year, for the Third Trumpet Encounter. I thought that was extremely wonderful, because we sort of got the best of our provinces to come together, to think together, as the Global South, in the light of the Communion.

When we begin to think and act in that way, I think we are going to bless the Communion. We are on the right track right now. We could do better, if we get along with each other. I think we will. Q: How has the crisis in ECUSA affected your Church?

Firstly, our church has started to feel that we cannot do all the programs that we are doing currently. Secondly, self-examination is the next thing we are doing. Thirdly, we would rather look for partners in the Communion who can work with us, not only on a physical level, but also on a spiritual level.

The fundamental reason why we have parted company (with ECUSA), as far as money is concerned, is because we do not want to think money is the most important thing. No. I think that if we want to be partners, then we have to share in the mission that Christ left for us. Peter and John said to the crippled man, “…silver and gold we do not have, but what we have we shall give you. In the name of Jesus Christ, get up and walk…” I think that is the core of our gospel.

The Americans seem to think that money should be the most important thing, and we want to say to them, “The church will exist without the American dollar, because our primary call is to get out there and reach people with the good news.”

Q: How do you think the current crisis/differences in the Communion will be resolved? Where do you think the Communion is heading?

These questions do not really have a straightforward answer. But, if we are to resolve our differences within the Communion, we really need to come back to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Global South is very clear about where they are, and what their relationship with the faith handed to them is. The Global South is not even offering anything new at all. I think the Global South would like to remain as a body within the Anglican Communion, proclaiming the gospel that works in terms of the transformation of lives. The innovations we see in America and in Europe are certain things, which, we very strongly believe, are outside of Scripture. Their interpretation of Scripture has gone way off from our historical faith.

All we are asking of them is to reconsider the foundations of our faith. That (the foundations) is where we (the Global South) are. I don’t think we are offering anything new at all. Are we going to resolve this? The Lordship knows better than we do. As long as people are going to remain obstinate, it is going to be difficult for people to come together. How do you work together unless you agree on the Scriptures? And the point of agreement is really at the foot of the cross, where we find our commonness.

And if we are willing to go to the foot of the cross, it should be possible. Global South Anglican News