Anglican Communion fights, problems between blacks and whites
There was nothing unusual about Nigerian Archbishop Henry Ndukuba leading the 2021 dedication rites for Holy Trinity Cathedral Church, which was packed with Nigerian Anglicans and a dozen bishops .
But this historic service was held in Houston, and the cathedral is not part of the Diocese of Texas or the American Episcopal Church. Some of the clergy present at this event from the Church of Nigeria’s North American Mission have been recognized as Anglicans by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Some were not.
This puzzle was complicated recently during Lambeth 2022, which Nigeria boycotted, with churches in Uganda and Rwanda.
Other bishops from the Global South, during Lambeth clashes with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby over the status of doctrines on marriage and sex, refused to receive Holy Communion with openly gay and lesbian bishops.
“There is a deep asymmetrical quality to the Anglican Communion, where the voice of the bulk of its members is either absent or muffled,” said Reverend David Goodhew of St. Barnabas Church in Middlesborough, England.
He is the author of a series of articles on African Anglicanism for Commitmentthe blog of The Living Churchan independent Anglican publication founded in 1878.
“If you add up the number of bishops who have not shared Holy Communion in Lambeth…it’s a very large number,” he said. “I was surprised at the number of descriptions that said this Lambeth was a success. I don’t know how one makes that claim when it would seem that the bulk of the bishops of the Anglican Communion cannot come together to receive Communion. It seems like a catastrophe.”
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Conclusion: Anglicans in the global south are experiencing a ‘volcano of growth’ and remain ‘at loggerheads’ with declining churches in the UK, North America and other Western countries.
While most bishops in the Global South serve growing flocks – around 75% of the active faithful of the Anglican Communion of 77 million members – many Western bishops lead what Goodhew called “micro-dioceses” with less than 1 000 active members or “mini-dioceses” with less than 5,000.
The Church of Nigeria, meanwhile, claims 17 million members and the Center for Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Seminary near Boston estimates active participants at 22 million.
Other churches that skipped Lambeth 2022 were Uganda, with 10 million members, and Rwanda, with 1 million members.
The Church of England remains the hub of power in Anglicanism. It has 26 million members, but weekly attendance in 2019 was around 679,000 – before the COVID-19 crisis. The American Episcopal Church reported 1.57 million members in 2020, with weekly attendance falling to 458,179.
Lambeth officials said 650 bishops attended, but Canterbury refused to release a list of attendees, making it impossible to compare the number of Western bishops with those in the South, many of whom struggled to obtain visas due to ongoing travel complications.
In a Commitment essay – “Lambeth 2022: is white privilege making the calls?” — Goodhew challenged Anglicans to reflect on the growing doctrinal and financial tensions between the countries of the South and the colonial powers that once sent missionaries to them.
“Yes, the episcopal charism of a bishop does not depend on the number of faithful in his see. But when nearly all micro-dioceses are in the west, and when western bishops are disproportionately present at Lambeth 2022, that is white privilege in action,” he wrote. “Lambeth 2022 is taking place even though the bishops of half of Africa’s Anglicans have refused to come. Their dioceses make up one third of the total Anglican Communion. Western bishops can say that “it was their choice not to come”. But it’s not a good look.”
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Thus, he argued: “The Anglican Communion created the equivalent of the ‘rotten boroughs’ of 18th century England, where a small number of voters could send people to parliament, while millions were deprived of their rights. In Anglicanism, every bishop is equal – but some are far more equal than others.”
A question looms: what about Lambeth 2032?
“The elephant in the room is just going to get bigger,” Goodhew said. “There are, obviously, a significant number of Western dioceses that are not of significant size. The likelihood is that in 10 years that number will be larger, most likely much larger. …
“It’s entirely possible that the structures of Anglicanism will be very different by then. It’s a sign of madness to keep doing the same thing, expecting different results.”