Meet the Most Revd Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the new Secretary General of the Anglican Communion
What was a defining moment in your ministry up until now?
The defining moment in my ministry of building bridges between Christians and Muslims was the day I broke down weeping while presenting my essay on "The Status of a Non-Muslim in an Islamic State" to my class in Birmingham in 1981. It was crystal clear to me that the Lord was calling me to the ministry of promoting a culture of respect and understanding between these two religious communities.
What do you bring uniquely as a Nigerian to this leadership role of a global Christian communion?
As a Nigerian I hope to bring to this new rolethe ability to maintain highly productive, positive relationships with a range of stakeholders and partners in a multi-cultural, international framework of complex relationships and policy. In my twenty-five years as bishop, I’ve learned a culture of respect for people with different opinions and the promotion of peaceful coexistence through the discipline of dialogue.
Some have sounded the death knell for the Communion due to disparate understandings of certain biblical teachings. Is unity in diversity possible, can the Communion encompass all who call themselves Anglican/Episcopalian?
A major problem in the Communion is that we have lost the Anglican theological understanding of the Church as explained by Richard Hooker, William Palmer and other [classical] Anglican [theologians].
There is therefore a need to re-think: are we willing to be committed to this specific ecclesiological understanding or do we desire to leave and join other groups with a different theology of the Church?
I think we should stay within and fight for what will bring glory to the Lord and not divisions. If, on the other hand, Anglicans – lay, clergy and bishops – believe it is time to change this specific way of being church, a forum for well-informed debate should be provided for the three houses.
What do you see as the biggest growing edge for the Anglican Communion in the next five years?
The biggest area of potential of the Communion lies in the 70% of Anglicans who represent the Anglican via media, or“middle way”, as expounded by Richard Hooker.
I would like to improve networking, focusing on this group, and at the same time encourage every Anglican to be an agent of change in whatever part of the Communion the Lord has placed her or him.
Debating issues is a characteristic of Anglicanism. We need to promote this culture among all so that the bishops play their role better as leaders who listen and take decisions on issues based on what their members have had the opportunity to contribute.
What do you think will be the steepest learning curve for you personally?
Achieving consensus and seeing each other as members of the same family, [providing checks and balances for] each other and preventing arrogance and condemnatory spirits. This will certainly be tough but not unachievable.
What excites you about this new ministry?
We do not know each other in this Communion. I am excited to promote inter-diocesan and provincial visits to synods and conventions, and local ways of making the Gospel relevant. I believe the Communion will become healthier if there is a growing understanding of our diversity.
An expanded version of this interview was printed in the August Issue of Anglican World, the Anglican Communion's quarterly magazine. Subscribe to Anglican World for more stories and reflections from the global Anglican Communion.