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Jim Crow in the Anglican Church?

by Terry Mattingly at Get Religion

Photo by Unseen Histories / Unsplash

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 or so bishops.

But this historic service was held in Houston and the cathedral is not part of the Diocese of Texas or the U.S. Episcopal Church. Some clergy at this Church of Nigeria North American Mission event were recognized as Anglicans by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Some were not.

This puzzle became more complicated recently during Lambeth 2022, which Nigeria boycotted, along with the churches of Uganda and Rwanda. Other Global South bishops, during Lambeth standoffs with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby over the status of doctrines on marriage and sex, declined to receive Holy Communion with openly gay and lesbian bishops.

"There is a profound asymmetric quality to the Anglican Communion, where the voice of the bulk of its membership is either absent or muted," said the Rev. David Goodhew of St. Barnabas Church in Middlesborough, England. He is the author of a series of articles about African Anglicanism for Covenant, the weblog of The Living Church, an independent Anglican publication founded in 1878.

"If one adds up the number of bishops who didn't share Holy Communion at Lambeth … that is a very large number," he said. "I have been startled by the number of descriptions that said this Lambeth was a success. I don't know how one makes that claim when it would appear the bulk of the Anglican Communion's bishops couldn't come together to receive Communion. That looks like a disaster."

Bottom line: Global South Anglicans are experiencing a "volcano of growth" and remain "at loggerheads" with the shrinking churches of the United Kingdom, North America and other western nations. While most Global South bishops serve growing flocks – roughly 75% of active worshipers in the 77-million-member Anglican Communion – many western bishops lead what Goodhew called "micro-dioceses" with under 1,000 active members or "mini-dioceses" with fewer 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. The other churches skipping Lambeth 2022 were Uganda, with 10 million members, and Rwanda, with 1 million members.

The Church of England remains Anglicanism's power hub. It has 26 million members, but 2019 weekly attendance was about 679,000 – before the COVID-19 crisis. The U.S. Episcopal Church reported 1.57 million members in 2020, with weekly attendance falling to 458,179.

Lambeth officials said 650 bishops attended, but Canterbury declined to release a list of participants – making it impossible to compare the number of western bishops with those from the Global South, many of whom struggled to obtain visas due to lingering travel complications.

In a Covenant essay – "Lambeth 2022: Is White Privilege Making the Calls?" – Goodhew dared Anglicans to ponder the growing doctrinal and financial tensions between the Global South and the colonial powers that once sent them missionaries.

Read the rest at Get Religion