10 January 2013

West Africa: Poverty and 'Threat From New Churches' Priorities for the Anglican Church in West Africa, Says New Primate

West Africa's new archbishop , the Most Revd Solomon Tilewa Johnson, has identified "abject poverty" and "the threat posed by new churches" as top priorities for the Anglican Church there.

The Archbishop was speaking during an interview with the BBC World Service in Gambia's capital Banjul this week.

He explained that one major priority was responding to issues of "abject poverty", which is perhaps to be expected considering the countries that comprise the Anglican Province of West Africa: Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

More surprising, however, was a priority to retain congregants who might be tempted away to non-Anglican churches by newer forms of praise and worship. "We all have our priorities and the key issues for us in West Africa as far as I can see is the threat posed to us by the new churches for example," he said.

The Archbishop was referring to the fact that traditional Churches on the continent of Africa have been increasingly concerned about losing particularly younger worshippers to newer, more charismatic Churches, or losing them from church altogether.

Abp Johson stressed the need for the Anglican Church to remain relevant to all people. "We need to be relevant in the first place. I would want to work with my fellow bishops to see what strategies we could come up with to make our message understandable enough for people to respond."

The Primate outlined possible strategies for preventing people from leaving the church. He said, "What we can do is make provisions for all and sundry. We have services that appeal only to the conservatives, services that are lively that will keep the young people."

He added, "The whole thing is: communicate effectively the gospel of our lord Jesus Christ."

The issue of relevance was also raised at a recent Anglican youth conference held in Zambia . One young Anglican from Zimbabwe, Munashe Dicha, suggested that young Anglicans should "be allowed to have a youth service that is relevant to the youths as a way of accommodating and keeping the youths in the church."

In September last year, the Most Revd Solomon Tilewa Johnson was elected as the 9th Primate of the Province as well as Metropolitan Archbishop of the internal province of West Africa. He is also Bishop of Gambia.

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