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Friday, 13 July 2007

Archbishop of Uganda on the Anglican Communion

There's a rather good article by the Archbishop of Uganda, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, here.

Most of this blog is about very local matters, but the Anglican churches in Street and Walton will have (should have) an interest in the world-wide Church we are part of.

There's a reminder in the article that the two largest Anglican province memberships are in Africa - Nigeria and then Uganda.

I have the privilege of serving as archbishop of the Church of Uganda,
providing spiritual leadership and oversight to more than nine million
Anglicans. Uganda is second only to Nigeria as the largest Anglican
province in the world, and most of our members are fiercely loyal to
their global communion. But however we come to understand the current
crisis in Anglicanism, this much is apparent: The younger churches of
Anglican Christianity will shape what it means to be Anglican. The long
season of British hegemony is over.

And there's a stirring reminder that the Ugandan Church began with martyrs:

Tertullian’s oft-quoted statement “The blood
of the martyrs is the seed of the church” is the story of the faith in
Uganda. On his first visit to Uganda in 1885, the Englishman and
missionary bishop James Hannington was martyred as he tried to cross
the river Nile into central Uganda. Bishop Hannington was coming to
Uganda from Kenya and decided to approach the Buganda kingdom from the
east. Unfortunately, unknown to him, there was a Baganda belief that
its enemies would approach the kingdom from the eastern route. So the
king, the Kabaka, sent warriors to meet this
encroaching enemy. Before they killed Hannington, on October 29, 1885,
he is reported to have said, “Tell the Kabaka that I die for Uganda.”

Less than a year later, on June 3, 1886, the
king of Buganda ordered the killing of twenty-six of his court pages
because they refused his homosexual advances and would not recant their
belief in King Jesus. They cut and carried the reeds that were then
wrapped around them and set on fire in an execution pit. As the flames
engulfed them, these young martyrs sang songs of praise. Far from
eliminating Christianity, the martyrdoms had the opposite effect: If
the faith of these martyrs was worth dying for, then it must also be
something worth living for. Christianity began to spread like wildfire.

Martyrdom, however, is not a thing of the
past. As recently as 1977, the archbishop of the Church of Uganda,
Janani Luwum, was martyred at the hands of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
Archbishop Luwum spoke out boldly against the injustices and atrocities
of Amin. This, however, ushered in a swift and merciless reaction from
Amin. The archbishop’s home was plundered during a 1:30 a.m. raid on
February 5, 1977. This brought a piercing censure of Amin from the
Ugandan House of Bishops. Church leaders were summoned to Kampala and
then ordered to leave, one by one. Luwum turned to Bishop Festo
Kivengere and said: “They are going to kill me. I am not afraid.”

On February 16, 1977, Amin had Archbishop
Luwum arrested on trumped-up charges of treason. Thrown into a cell
with several other political prisoners, the archbishop said, “Let us
pray.” Then they were taken to Amin himself, brutally beaten, and shot
to death. “While the opportunity is there, I preach the Gospel with all
my might, and my conscience is clear before God that I have not sided
with the present government which is utterly self-seeking,” Janani
Luwum wrote. “I have been threatened many times. Whenever I have the
opportunity I have told the president the things the churches
disapprove of. God is my witness.”

The influence of these martyrs on the faith
of Anglican Christians in Uganda cannot be underestimated. The Church
of Uganda has been built not only on the apostles and prophets, with
Christ Jesus as the cornerstone, but also on its martyrs. The faith and
moral vision for which our martyrs died can never be denied by the
Church of Uganda. Their courage and complete confidence in the God of
the Bible and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has left an
indelible mark on Christianity in Uganda.

Orombi acknowledges that the English Church has had its martyrs too -
he mentions Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley. And he leaves us to remember
that they died quite a long time ago. He pays tribute to other
Englishmen, too:

The evangelical tradition in the Church of England produced William
Wilberforce, whose lifelong mission to eradicate slavery and the slave
trade liberated our people. It produced Charles Simeon, who inspired
the beginning of mission societies that shared the gospel of Jesus
Christ with us and many others. It produced Bishop Tucker and other
missionaries, who risked their lives to come to Uganda. These and many
more Anglican evangelicals brought us the legacy of the Protestant
Reformation in England. Their commitment to salvation through faith in
Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture has continued among us to this

His article is strong on the Bible, not as a carcase to be dissected by scholars but as a living channel of God's word.

The Bible cannot appear to us a cadaver, merely to be dissected,
analyzed, and critiqued, as has been the practice of much modern higher
biblical criticism. Certainly we engage in biblical scholarship and
criticism, but what is important to us is the power of the Word of God
precisely as the Word of God—written to bring
transformation in our lives, our families, our communities, and our
culture. For us, the Bible is “living and active, sharper than a
double-edged sword, it penetrates to dividing soul and spirits, joints
and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb.
4:12). The transforming effect of the Bible on Ugandans has generated
so much conviction and confidence that believers were martyred in the
defense of the message of salvation through Jesus Christ that it

The conclusion of the Archbishop's article - and I urge you to read it all if you care about the Church of England and its sister Churches worldwide - is an explanation why Ugandan bishops will not be accepting the Archbishop of Canterbury's invitation to the next Lambeth
Conference if American bishops and archbishops who have, in the Archbishop's view, denied the authority of the Bible.

In December 2006, the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda
unanimously adopted “The Road to Lambeth,” a statement drafted for a
council of African provinces. Among other things, it stated, “We will
definitely not attend any Lambeth Conference to which the violators of
the Lambeth Resolution [1.10] are also invited as participants or
observers.” Accordingly, if the present invitations to the Lambeth
Conference stand, I do not expect the Ugandan bishops to attend.

For myself, I am with Archbishop Orombi in his faithfulness to the Bible, his desire for revival and his admiration of the martyrs, rather than with those who reject the hard way that leads to life and embrace instead the opinions of the secular media and the philosophy of 'if it feels nice, do it'.

But that is just my belief. What is yours?

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