By Jan Butter in Kampala
Four hundred bishops from Africa announced today that 'business as usual' was no longer an option for the Anglican Church there and that Africans should "take their destiny into their own hands".
On the sixth and final day of the All Africa Bishops Conference in Uganda, the bishops issued a communiqué filled with commitments contesting the status quo in areas including politics, poverty reduction, violence against women, theological education and conflict.
The five-page statement was a clear challenge from the Anglican bishops of Africa to the Church, the continent and the rest of the Anglican Communion, and it pulled few punches: "While we will always be prepared to listen to voices from other parts of the global Communion, it is pertinent that the rest of the world listens to the unique voice of the Church in Africa," wrote the bishops.
"The Anglican Church in Africa has continued to witness growth so that the centre of gravity of Christianity today appears to be shifting to the continent. Nonetheless, the Church's relevance and impact on global mission and to social, economic and political transformation of the continent remains a challenge."
It was to these last items that most of the document's 'commitment' statements referred. The Church, the bishops said, needs to address the causes and effects of poverty and injustice on the people of Africa.
"We must be actively involved in working with partners at all levels to ensure equal access to medical care, food security and the promoting of good health practices to prevent the major causes of death on the continent, with particular attention to primary health care for African families, especially mothers, children and the elderly.
"The Anglican Church in Africa must join the global movement that refuses to stay silent about the current socio-economic and political state of affairs. We should stop agonising over the deplorable state of African underdevelopment and start organising towards a proactive, pragmatic engagement with good governance and infra-structural development."
They also made several demands on those in authority, particularly in Africa. Such demands included ones on human rights abuses: "We call for and actively work to bring about an end to all forms of abuse and forms of slavery. We demand the protection of our people, particularly our women and children, from human trafficking, sexual immorality, abuse and violence, and structural, cultural and domestic violence."
There were also calls for national leaders to meet global poverty reduction targets: "The successful hosting of the World Cup by South Africa…demonstrated how Africa's potential can be unleashed. This should inspire and motivate the Church as well as political leaders to proactively promote and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015."
The bishops' document stated also that "the inherited model of theological formation and educations has been identified to be inadequate" for the African Church. It said that rather theological curricula would be developed on the continent that would enable its leaders to be "more relevant to the practical and spiritual needs of contemporary society". They also reaffirmed their commitment to "Anglican orthodoxy and authority of Scripture" and the "Biblical standard of the family with man and woman as its foundation".
On the Anglican Covenant bishops wrote: "Whereas we accept the rationale for an Anglican Covenant, we realise the need for further improvement of the Covenant in order to be an effective tool for unity and mutual accountability."
The communiqué also contained statements on tackling climate change and on encouraging the Anglican Church in Africa to become more financially self-reliant and more strategic in its planning: "After a long period of African underdevelopment and misconceptions of African identity, it has become increasingly pertinent for Africans to take their destiny into their own hands.
"By setting and achieving their own strategic goals, based on the Biblical model of Christ's mission, African Christians can define their own identity, recover their self-esteem and reach their potential under the guidance of the Holy Spirit."
The bishops also spoke out on several trouble-zones on the continent including DR Congo, Sudan and Madagascar and called on national and international authorities to work harder to bring peace to these conflict-affected countries.
Notes to Editors
1. The 2nd All Africa Bishops Conference (AABC) from the 23rd – 29th August 2010 is at the Imperial Resort Hotel, Entebbe, Uganda. It was organised by The Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA).
2. The conference brought together Bishops from 400 dioceses in Burundi, Central Africa, DR Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Seychelles, Mauritius, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tanzania, Egypt and Uganda. www.africanbishops.org
3. The Anglican Communion Office serves the Anglican Communion, comprising around 80 million members in 44 regional and national member churches around the globe in more than 160 countries. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/
4. Media queries about the Anglican Communion in relation to this conference should contact Mr Jan Butter on +256(0)700882038 or email@example.com