Out of Africa
The leader of nearly 18 million Nigerian Anglicans challenges the West's theology and control.
July 15, 2005
Philip Jenkins, in his groundbreaking The Next Christendom, wrote that a "global perspective should make us think carefully before asserting 'what Christians believe' or 'how the church is changing.' All too often [such statements] refer only to what that ever-shrinking remnant of Western Christians and Catholics believe. Such assertions are outrageous today.
The era of Western Christianity has passed within our lifetimes, and the day of Southern Christianity is dawning."
In the Anglican Communion, the third-largest Christian body in the world with more than 70 million adherents, there is no better representative of that shift than Nigerian Archbishop Peter Jasper Akinola.
To grasp his importance as a leader of global Anglicanism, consider Holy Communion. For most Anglicans, Communion (or the Holy Eucharist) is the center of weekly worship. The Book of Common Prayer recognizes Communion and baptism as the two primary Christian sacraments. Like millions of other Christians, Akinola (pronounced Ah-key-ola) and other conservative Anglican leaders consider Communion an outward and visible sign of God's redemption of the world. They also believe it should be a sign of Christian unity, grounded in agreement on important doctrines.
Akinola, like most other Global South bishops, believes the Episcopal Church has harmed the Anglican Communion's unity by approving Gene Robinson, who lives in a long-term homosexual partnership, as its ninth bishop of New Hampshire. They express similar concerns about the Anglican Church of Canada, led by Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, which has affirmed the "integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships."
When the highest-ranking bishops (called primates) met in October 2003, the ...
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