[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has urged Anglican leaders in Africa not to “fall in line” with “socially progressive” views and programmes “which suggest that the Bible is wrong”. Speaking to members of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) during their meeting in Rwanda, Dr Idowu-Fearon said that the Church “will not crumble or bow the knee to a godless secular culture that despises the Bible and what it teaches” and urged the Churches in Africa to remain focused on serving the people of the continent.
He made his remarks in a wide-ranging address in which he praised the Anglican Communion as “the one organisation throughout Africa which is trusted to deliver on projects.”
He said that, after a year in his present role, he had come to appreciate the “important and central position” that Anglican churches in the “incredible, diverse, beautiful and challenging continent” of Africa “occupy on the world stage.”
He said: “Through our work, we are the source of the gospel, of education, of democracy, of civil society and political parties; and of the reduction of maternal and child mortality on our continent,” he said. “These were not imports from outside. These resulted from the work of our African grandfathers and grandmothers in the faith.
“They were the village evangelists, and catechists, and schoolteachers, and nurses and farmers and labourers and parents who brought to our continent the living Word of God, Jesus, through the written word of God, the Bible in the power of the Spirit.
“It was Bible-believing Christians who have transformed the face of Africa in the last 150 years and we can transform it again.”
He criticised the views expressed by some commentators in the West which sees the Church in Africa as being “fifty years behind the rest of the world.”
He said: “Their view of progressivism places them at the forefront of historical and social development – with us Africans bringing up the rear. Even worse, deep down, they think that all of us, whatever our faith and commitments, have our price.
“They really believe that it will only be a matter of time before we fall in line with their view of the world, of culture, of marriage, of community; either through conviction or, if not, then through convenience.
“But I want to suggest to you – our fathers in the faith – that you can change this view by determining to focus on securing the development of the poorest and most left behind in our societies.
“Our African Churches can never be social progressives in the sense beloved of the West. We will never allow our churches to be taken over by views and programmes which suggest that the Bible is wrong. We will not crumble or bow the knee to a godless secular culture that despises the Bible and what it teaches.
“Actually, our African churches are already progressives. We are seeking to live our lives in accordance with the will of God in the kingdom of God which is the real future for humanity that measures all human progress. And that kingdom is marked here on earth by the priority it gives to the poor in the ministry of the gospel and the concerns of the people of God.
“We will never allow ourselves, or our identity, or our churches, to be defined by the pride of those who see us as lagging behind them in our economies, our politics, our communities, our families, and our theology.”
Dr Idowu-Fearon said that he was “deeply disturbed” by seeing how Christians determined to maintain Anglican orthodoxy are being “swept aside by a campaign to change the churches’ teaching on marriage and so-called rights of equality.”
But he said that the real challenges facing the Church were the need to deal with poverty, a lack of drinking water, support for people with HIV/Aids, the need to “build a new generation of leaders” and the protection of “our churches and our nations in the face of militant Islam.”
He said: “Very few of our provinces have the skills, resources or networks to address these problems. And so we tend to leave these problems to others. We then become totally embroiled in the agendas of other people in the Communion which, while important, are not central to the life of our churches or our nations.
“Yes, it is important that we maintain our faithful witness to the truth of the Scriptures and the churches’ teaching on marriage as set out in Lambeth 1.10. That will never change. But our churches are called to do far more than that.”
He suggested that CAPA could “give a lead in embracing these challenges with practical responses, with on the ground action to empower and enable our people”. He said that a co-ordinating body could “build partnership links of integrity” with international organisations and churches who want to engage with African Anglican churches to create “trusted channels of resources and skills that our people need to fulfil their calling to love their neighbours in practical ways.”