The other day Daniel Thompson wrote a short blog post titled “The Changing Face of Christianity” in response to the announcement that Rowan Williams is resigning as the Archbishop of Canterbury. In it he made the suggestion that it may be time for Anglicanism to recognize that it has shifted its center. While it may have a geopolitical home in the United Kingdom the quickest growing part of the communion is Africa. Wouldn’t it make sense for Anglicanism to be lead by someone who represents this reality?
John Sentamu is the Archbishop of York and the front runner to do just that according to some. Sentamu was born in Uganda. So it could be that the Archbishop will be from a part of the world where Anglicanism is thriving.
Thompson received his idea from a New York Times article by Ross Douthat. In “Agonies of an Archbishop” he writes that Anglicanism isn’t the only communion that needs to consider choosing someone to represent the global movement that reflects the changes we see. Roman Catholicism needs to do the same. Douthat thinks that when Pope Benedict XVI dies the church must strongly consider a Latin American or African to replace him. He writes,
“….Roman Catholicism’s decline in the West has likewise been accompanied by striking growth in the developing world. (As the number of Catholic seminarians has dropped in the United States and Europe, for instance, it has risen by 86 percent globally since 1978.) In both churches, this geographic and demographic shift is putting a strain on institutional structures that evolved in a more Eurocentric age.”
And he said the following about Williams and Pope Benedict XVI:
“To be an Anglican bishop in Britain today, for instance, means shepherding a shrinking native-born flock alongside growing immigrant churches, trying to make religion relevant in a cosmopolitan and often anti-Christian culture, and figuring out whether the continent’s growing Muslim communities contain potential allies, potential rivals, or both. But to be a bishop in, say, Nigeria — where Christianity is expanding rapidly, secularism is almost nonexistent, and Islam looks like a mortal foe — means something very different. And asking a Welsh-born theologian to steward a Communion that probably holds more churchgoers in Lagos than Liverpool is a recipe for constant agony.
“Here Rowan Williams has borne some of the same burdens as Pope Benedict XVI. The outgoing archbishop of Canterbury and the former Joseph Ratzinger differ theologically and in the scope of their ecclesiastical authority. But both men are European academics trying to speak to Western audiences while leading an increasingly global and post-European church. Both have confronted the same issues (Islam, secularism, sexuality) and both have stumbled into public controversies when their soft-spoken styles collided with intractable challenges.”
Is this what we see? Is Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism being led by “European academics” even as the church moves away from such a leadership paradigm? Is the church too Eurocentric in hierarchy to accurately represent the global church?
What do you think? Should Anglicanism be lead by someone like John Sentamu? Should the next Pope be from Africa or Latin America?
I am part of neither of these traditions, so my opinion is really just that, an opinion, and not a suggestion. To say that the ‘leader’ ought to be of a certain area is not global at all. If Anglicanism or Catholicism shifts its center to Africa, because that happens to be where its main population is, it is just African now instead of English. Any church’s senior leader should be Jesus and he was Jewish. How many Christian groups are centered in Israel? Not many. We do not need Jesus to be American, Latin, or African, because he represents his entire Church. My point is that if a church is to be global, its leadership ought to be based upon them being the right leader, and not upon where that particular group’s main population is.
Having said that, it certainly reflects poorly on a group to claim to be global, and yet its leadership be homogeneous in nationality. This is a good step only if the leadership reflects the entirety of the church’s span. It is a bad step if from now on all archbishops or popes are African. If there is only one church in Iraq, an Iraqi ought to have the same potential as an African or Latino.
“But both men are European academics trying to speak to Western audiences while leading an increasingly global and post-European church.”
The problem isn’t the increasingly global church, rather the problem is the increasingly irrelevance to the European church.
I don’t imagine that all the leaders would become African, but it would seem to make sense that the Archbishop might be from somewhere other than Great Britain.
It’s really a matter of which communion you’re talking about. The Anglican Mission in the Americas has been under Rwandan leadership since breaking away from the larger Episcopacy. Though initially a promising idea, it has been a difficult relationship to navigate: http://www.christianpost.com/news/breakaway-anglican-group-experiencing-schism-70502/
I’ve attended an AMiA church, since moving to Chicago. It’s been nice to have majority world leadership expressed from the pulpit. Hopefully, the community can maintain good relationships moving forward. Schism sucks. Our church’s Lenten focus is on unity, and our leadership is doing a great job of fostering that in our region. Worldwide may prove to be a different story.
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