Senior Anglican leaders in Africa are considering how the Church should engage more with politicians and other influential figures on the continent to help improve society. The topic was one of several discussed by Primates at a meeting of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) in Nairobi, Kenya, last week. There were several new faces at the gathering following a series of new appointments and the creation of a new province in Sudan.
The Primates also discussed theological education, climate change, gender-based violence and the conflicts in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They also agreed to organise funding so that every bishop across Africa can afford to attend the Lambeth Conference in 2020.
CAPA chair, Archbishop Albert Chama of the Church of the Province of Central Africa, said it had been a very positive meeting. “There has been a lot of charity and give and take,” he said, “even suggestions that I never thought people would come up with.”
He said the idea of giving financial support to ensure all African bishops could come to Lambeth 2020 was an example of the Church in Africa taking responsibility for itself.
The theme of the three-day meeting was “Releasing our potential to realise possibilities for Africa”. Archbishop Albert explained that the idea was to look at how the Church could work with centres of influence. “We as a Church are influential but we want to go to these centres of influence . . . and one of those is politicians,” he said. “How do we engage them? We need not fear them but to open up.
“We need to say ‘no’ to something that is not right; we say ‘yes’ when they have done a good job. But we also constantly pray for them. It is by working with centres of influence that we are going to see good governance, justice – and issues of corruption will be tackled because we will be able to say to them ‘this cannot go on’.”
The Primates expressed solidarity with the people of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo which have been ravaged by conflicts. CAPA primates sent a delegation to South Sudan in 2016 and pledged to do the same to support peace efforts in DR Congo. They also discussed engaging more with regional bodies such as the East Africa Community (EAC) and the African Union (AU).
There was a lengthy discussion on theological training and its importance in the life of the Church. The Primates resolved to support and encourage more African theological discussion which was increasingly vital in the face of contemporary issues such as conflicts, technological development, migration and people trafficking.
The discussion on climate change was particularly poignant: more than 130 Kenyans have died in flooding since March and 45 were killed while the conference took place after a dam collapsed north of Nairobi. There are reports this morning (Monday) that some people are still missing. The conference prayed for the families affected by the disaster.
The Primates also heard how much of the south of the continent is still affected by an acute water shortage. The leaders committed themselves to encourage the Church to take a lead in acting against climate change through simple low-cost measures such as tree-planting.
During the week the conference also heard an address from the Archbishop of Canterbury and an update from the Chief Executive of the Lambeth Conference Company on progress towards the 2020 gathering for all Anglican Bishops in Canterbury, England.