Afro-Anglican Parlay Agrees On Statement

Episcopal News Service. July 11, 1985 [85150]

BARBADOS (DPS, July 11) -- A conference entitled "Afro-Anglicanism: Present Issues, Future Tasks" has produced a "consensus statement" that is likely to shape the agenda of black Anglicanism -- and therefore a good portion of the Church -- for the coming decade.

Held here at Codrington College, the official seminary of the Province of the West Indies, the Conference was a memorial to the Rev. Canon Robert Chester Spencer Powell, who served as director of the Africa Desk of the National Council of Churches from 1975 until his death in 1981.

The purpose of the conference was "to provide a forum for the sons and daughters of Africa in the Anglican Communion to share and reflect on the problems, challenges, and opportunities of black Anglicanism." The planning committee, chaired by the Rt. Rev. Walter D.

Dennis, Suffragan Bishop of New York, considered this to be a timely theme "in light of the fact that the Anglican Communion is now overwhelmingly a church of color, owing to the growth of the church in Africa, Asia and the West Indies."

The conference was attended by approximately 200 participants -- bishops, priests and lay people from Africa, England, the United States, Central America and the West Indies. A score of bishops, including the Most Rev. Justin Ndandali, Archbishop of Burundi, Rwanda and Zaire; the Rt. Rev. Dunstan Ainani, Bishop of Lake Malawi; the Rt. Rev. Prince Thompson, Bishop of Sierra Leone; the Rt. Rev. Luc A. J. Garnier, Bishop of Haiti; the Rt. Rev. Michael Eldon, Bishop of Nassau and the Bahamas; the Rt. Rev. Clive Abdulah, Bishop of Trinidad; the Rt. Rev. Henry B. Hucles, III, Suffragan Bishop of Long Island; the Rev. Cornelius Wilson, Bishop of Costa Rica; and the Rt. Rev. Edward Haynsworth, executive for World Mission at the Episcopal Church Center. The delegation from England was led by the Ven. Wilfred Wood, Archdeacon of Southwark, and Bishop-designate of Croydon. Many people involved in theological education were also present, including the Rev. Dr. Robert Hood of the General Theological Seminary in New York City; the Rev. Dr. Sipo Mzimela, a South African on the faculty of St. Paul's College in Limuru, Kenya; the Rev. Dr. John Githungu, also of St. Paul's; and the Rev. Ashton J. Brooks, director of the Center for Theological Studies in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic.

The opening service of solemn evensong was held at Codrington College. The officiant was the Rt. Rev. Drexel Gomez, Bishop of Barbados and Makhulu was the preacher.

After introductions and speeches of welcome, the conference was opened with a keynote address, "Why are we here," by conference treasurer, Canon Frederick Williams. Four principal papers were presented: "Ethiopia Shall Yet Stretch Out Her Arms: Afro-Anglican Linkages 1701-1900" by the Rev. Dr. J. Carleton Hayden, chairman of the Department of History at Morgan State University; "Afro-Anglicanism: Meaning and Movement" by Dr. John Pobee, a Ghanaian who is assistant director of the Program on Theological Education at the World Council of Churches in Geneva; "Global Interdependency: Afro-Anglican Perspectives" by the Rev. Canon Burgess Carr, a native of Liberia who is associate professor of Pastoral Theology at Yale University and former secretary general of the All-Africa Council of Churches; and "Evangelism and Justice" by the Rev. Dr. Edmundo DeSueza, a native of the Dominican Republic who serves as coordinator of the Office of Planning of the Episcopal Diocese of Costa Rica.

The mixture of backgrounds and experience seemed to create its own excitement, and participants expressed a feeling that something very important was beginning to happen and that one could look forward in hope to the future of the Anglican Communion and the increasing contributions of Afro-Anglicans to its development and growth. This sense was bolstered by workshops covering a wide variety of subjects, including: Dialogue with Traditional African Religions; Minorities in Black Anglicanism; Theological Education and Black Anglicanism; and Women in Black Anglicanism. In addition, the bishops present participated in workshops designed to examine issues of importance for Afro-Anglicans in preparation for the 1988 Lambeth Conference.

The position paper, "The Codrington Consensus," that emerged from this was the work of a drafting committee chaired by the Rev. Dr. Kortright Davis, a native of Antigua who is professor of theology at the Howard University Divinity School in Washington, D.C. The Codrington Consensus may be summarized as follows:

It recognizes the commonality of our inheritance as Anglicans and the diversity of cultures among Afro-Anglicans and others.

  • It recognizes the heritage of many of the participants as one of poverty and oppression, but also the fellowship of all Whose gathered in the one holy Catholic and Apostolic church.
  • It stresses that Anglicans, particularly Afro-Anglicans, must now begin to reach out and influence the world for the good of God and his Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion.
  • It asserts the validity and effectiveness of black cultural inheritances and symbols as against any attempt to subvert or deny that heritage and symbolism in favor of European symbols and heritage.
  • It celebrates the heroes and heroines of the black Christian tradition in general, and Afro-Anglican Christians in particular.
  • It recognizes the danger to God's people of all forms of religion which would seek to deny their freedom to find God and to trap them into ways of behavior which are contrary to the liberating nature of the Gospel.
  • It recognizes that with the increasing number of Anglicans in the world who are of African descent or are themselves African, the Anglican Communion is increasingly African in its constituency.
  • The document recognizes that there are challenges before Afro-Anglicans and those challenges lay upon Afro-Anglicans great responsibilities, among which finding means by which to bring African culture and heritage into the worship of God; the removal of the vestiges of colonial privilege and state-established privilege; the re-orienting of theological perspectives so that the diverse African experiences of God and the world can be taken into the fullness of the Anglican experience; and the restructuring of theological education to equip lay and ordained ministers to witness within their cultures.

In addition, the consensus also recognizes the necessity to search for authenticity and develop methodologies for evangelization and the rendering of justice which would respond to the needs of oppressed peoples throughout the world, many of whom are Afro-Anglicans or are in places where Afro-Anglicans are ministering at this time.

Several resolutions were also adopted by the conference on Afro-Anglicanism, among which were the following:

  • A resolution on the ministry of women which affirmed the ministry of Afro-Anglican women in the Church and urged the ordination of Afro-Anglican women to the sacred orders of the Church, and encouraged their participation at all levels.
  • A resolution on disarmament which recognized the victimization of people, particularly in Africa, due to the threat of militarization, as much from conventional weaponry as from the nuclear threat to the world.
  • A resolution expressing a strong desire to develop modes of communication among Afro-Anglicans which would facilitate interchange of ideas and perceptions and strengthen historical relationships among Afro-Anglican peoples.
  • A resolution on disinvestment and divestiture of companies and financial institutions doing business in the Republic of South Africa, as part of an effort to dismantle the apartheid system of government in that country.
  • A resolution applauding the appointment of the Ven. Wilfred Wood as Suffragan Bishop of Croydon, and as the first black bishop in the Church of England.

The conference, which was under the patronage of the Most Rev. W. P. Khotso Makhulu, Archbishop of Central Africa; the Most Rev. Cuthbert Woodroffe, Archbishop of the West Indies; and the Rt. Rev. John T. Walker, Bishop of Washington; was funded by grants from several bodies. Among these were the Episcopal Commission for Black Ministries, the Coalition for Human Needs, World Mission in Church and Society and the Office of Communication, all offices of the Episcopal Church Center in New York; the Episcopal Church Foundation; Trinity Parish in the City of New York; Trinity Institute; the Anglican Church of Canada; and the Office on Africa of the National Council of Churches. The planning committee, whose honorary chairperson was Bernice Fletcher Powell, Canon Powell's widow, also included the Rev. Canon Harold T. Lewis, staff officer for Black Ministries, who served as secretary; the Rev. Canon Frederick B. Williams, rector of the Church of the Intercession, New York, who served as treasurer; and the Rev. E. Don Taylor, rector of the Church of the Holy Cross, Decatur, Ga., conference chaplain; and Mrs. Claudette R. Lewis, of New Haven, Conn., conference coordinator.

All of the papers delivered and developed in the Conference are to be edited and published for the Church. In addition, the entire conference was videotaped, and books, articles, and a videotape presentation will be issued in the near future. In this way, it is hoped that they can serve as a continuing resource for the Church-at-large.

At the end of the conference proceedings, there was a closing Eucharist, held in St. Philip's Parish Church, at which the preacher was the Rt. Rev. Neville deSouza, Bishop of Jamaica. He challenged the conferees to take the spirit of the conference back to their homes throughout the Anglican Communion.