The next Primate of the Anglican Church of Tanzania, Archbishop-elect Maimbo Mndolwa, is to consult widely with the bishops and lay leaders of the province as it prepares for its half-century anniversary in 2020. The province was created in 1970, when the then-Province of East Africa gave birth to the Provinces of Kenya and Tanzania. After his enthronement on 20 May, Bishop Maimbo will visit the bishops and diocesan leaders as he prepares a new strategy to “revive God’s work” in Tanzania.
Speaking to the Anglican Communion News Service today (Tuesday), Bishop Maimbo said he viewed last week’s election with “a mixture of feelings”. Upon his enthronement, he will combine his role as primate with his existing role as Bishop of Tanga. “On the outside you feel as if you are called to the ministry to do God’s work,” he said, “but in the deepness of heart, you feel thoughts of fear, that if you are working in the diocese, which needs you more, then you are elevated to this position, how will you divide the work?
“But as Paul guides us, the Lord who has called us to do both will enable us.”
The Church in Tanzania is growing. Its 28 dioceses cover almost the entire country. “We are honoured to thank God that among the members of the Church we have those who are revivalists, we have those who are evangelical, we have those who are Anglo-catholics,” Bishop Maimbo said. “And with all the traditions that we have, we remain united as one church.”
There are no official counts of religious adherents in Tanzania. Questions of religious affiliation were removed from census returns in 1967. In 2007, the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report cited estimates that Christian and Muslim communities in the country were roughly equal, with each accounting for 30 to 40 per cent of the population, with the remainder made up of other faiths, indigenous religions, and atheists. Those figures are based on the results of the 1967 census which showed 34 per cent of the population were Christian and 31 per cent Muslim. In 2010 the Pew Research Centre published data from four surveys conducted between 2004 and 2008, which, on average, showed that the Christian community had risen to around 61 per cent of the population.
The Bishop of Tanga, Maimbo Mndolwa, will be enthroned as Archbishop of Tanzania on 20 May.
Photo: Anglican Church of Tanzania
Roman Catholics make up the largest group of Christians in Tanzania. This is followed by Lutherans and then Anglicans. The breadth of Anglican churchmanship traditions in the country has its roots in the early missionaries. Some were sent by the Anglo-catholic Universities Mission to Central Africa, which drew upon students from the prestigious universities at Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and Dublin; others were sent by the evangelical Church Mission Society in Australia and New Zealand, and others were sent by the church in Germany.
That pioneering mission work has led to a confident church which is preparing to celebrate its 50th anniversary as an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. And mission is at the centre of its plans. Bishop Maimbo will continue his 2025 Mission programme in the Diocese of Tanga, but is now preparing on a new national mission as the diocese prepares for its half-century; and his focus is clear: it is “reviving God’s work”.
“We will need to have a new mission, a vision statement which will come following the celebration of our 50 years in 2020,” he said. “With God’s help, after the enthronement service I will go around and meet the bishops [and] the leadership of the church [in] the dioceses, and try to collect the information on where they think they want us to go, what they think we can do to work together to revive God’s work in the nation. That will create my sermon for the celebration in 2020!”
For now, Bishop Maimbo asks for prayer for “energy, for strength, so that we may revive God’s work,” he said. “Wherever things have not gone right, we need God to direct us, to help us, to guide us, to make sure that we are working in his own direction, not on our own.”
He added: “I would welcome anybody who wants to join us at the enthronement service on 20 May to tell us so that we can come together and pray together and share together stories of God’s work. If anybody wants to come, we would appreciate to know before time. We are welcoming everybody who wants to come.”
Bishop Maimbo is the third new Anglican Primate to be elected in Africa this month. Bishop Justin Badi Arama of the Diocese of Maridi will be enthroned as Archbishop of South Sudan on 22 April, and Bishop Laurent Mbanda from the Diocese of Shyira will be enthroned as Archbishop of Rwanda on 10 June.