Monday, July 14, 2008

In the top 20

In case you were wondering what happened with the last of the 50 most influential Anglicans, etc., etc., here are the Africans in the top 20:

10. John Sentamu - Archbishop of York

Yorkshireman of the Year in 2007, the Ugandan-born John Sentamu has become immensely popular in Britain - his adopted country after being forced into exile following incurring the wrath of dictator Idi Amin.

A high court judge in the country, he was locked up for 90 days and beaten before he escaped to England, where he read theology and trained for ministry in the Church of England.

His enthusiastic brand of learned and muscular Christianity quickly brought him to notice. He was appointed Bishop of Stepney in 1996 and at that time served as advisor to the Stephen Lawrence Judicial Enquiry, he later chaired the Damilola Taylor review.

In 2002 he was appointed Bishop of Birmingham and in 2005 became Archbishop of York.

In an interview before his enthronement he gained the affection of the British public by calling for a rediscovery of pride in their cultural identity, warning against multiculturalism. He has also become well known for his symbolic protests.

In 2006 he pitched a tent in York Minster and fasted in solidarity with those suffering from the Middle East Conflict. In a BBC interview with Andrew Marr, he cut up his dog collar as a symbol for the way President Mugabe is stripping Zimbabweans of their identity. He also campaigned for the release of BBC journalist Alan Johnston.

He is a loyal supporter and friend of the Archbishop of Canterbury and widely tipped as a potential successor.

6. Desmond Tutu - Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town

The Nobel Peace prize winner is widely regarded as the greatest Anglican of the 20th century, and still commandss enormous influence, affection and respect today.

His courageous stand against apartheid gained him unprecedented support for the better part of three decades.

It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that the infrastructure and closer links within the Anglican Communion grew precisely to support him as he personally risked life and limb in the struggle.

He later earned even greater kudos when he headed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which became the litmus test for effective mediation work between divided factions.

In retirement he became a champion of the cause of gays and lesbians comparing their liberation to the struggle against apartheid.

5. Henry Orombi - Archbishop of Uganda

Leader-in-waiting for millions of Anglicans in sub-saharan Africa as Archbishop Akinola gets closer to retirement. Archbishop Orombi represents a younger generation of evangelical leaders in the Anglican Church presiding over growth and commitment to mission and social work.

The Anglican Church in Uganda has been at the forefront of halting the country's HIV/Aids pandemic and has experienced significant growth in the number of churchgoers.

Ugandan's opposition to homosexual practice is defended in terms of its history.

Archbishop Orombi is one of the few Anglican leaders to unequivocally condemn violence against homosexuals, but recently said he didn't wear his dog collar when he is in countries where there are supporters of homosexuals.

He described "these people" as "dangerous".

3. Peter Akinola - Archbishop of Nigeria

Peter Akinola represents for many commentators an epochal shift in the centre of gravity for Christianity from western dominance to what is now commonly known as the 'Global South'.

With 18 million committed churchgoers, the Church of Nigeria dwarfs any other in the Anglican Communion. After his election as Archbishop in 2000 he outlined a clear programme of evangelism, social work and self-sufficiency in the sectarian and troubled country.

At first he appeared to have a close relationship to the American Presiding Bishop, Frank Griswold, but that changed in 2003 when the General Convention ratified the election of Gene Robinson to New Hampshire.

Since then he has upset the American Church by intervening in its affairs with the creation of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America that he brought under his leadership.

In 2006 he was named as one of Time magazines leaders of the year, but since then his stock has fallen.

He failed to be re-elected as Chairman of the 37 million-strong Christian Association of Nigeria, and has attracted criticism for inciting violence in the Cartoon riots.

His defenders argue that he was doing no more than voice the frustration a leader of a Christian community whose members are routinely attacked in some parts of the country.

However his support for draconian anti-gay legislation has made him a favourite bete-noire for liberal anger. He has also referred to homosexuals as an 'abomination'.

One of the key leaders of the Gafcon movement, the Church of Nigeria was a trailblazer for removing the link to Canterbury from their constitution.

He is believed to be behind Gafcon's own revision of the office of the Archbishop, as merely an 'historic' one rather than an instrument or focus of unity in the worldwide church.

It seems now that after Akinola's frequent gaffes other leaders are taking over the leadership of the Communion's conservatives but as leader of 18 million of the continents Anglicans, Archbishop Akinola remains one of the most influential Anglican leaders - for better and for worse.

#2 and #1, by the way, are Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

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