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Anglican Alliance: Backdoor for Episcopal Church Funds into Africa?

Questions raised over the integrity of funding promises

A top official in the worldwide Anglican Communion made news last week warning a gathering of African church leaders about western progressives – promising to “introduce you to such agencies and churches” willing to partner with African churches and ”ensuring delivery with integrity” adding that “there is no lack of money”.

The address to a gathering preceding the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) by Anglican Communion Secretary General Josiah Idowu-Fearon was simultaneously noteworthy because organizations he highlighted include funding from western progressives in the Anglican Church of Canada and U.S.-based Episcopal Church. Dioceses served by these organizations have come into close relationship with the Episcopal Church.

Several African national churches, known as provinces, have stated that they will not accept financial support from the Episcopal Church, most recently citing decisions by its bishops and General Convention to redefine core doctrine on Christian marriage.

Several institutions within the Episcopal Church continue to disperse grants to African provinces. In June the wealthy endowed Episcopal parish Trinity Wall Street, New York issued a grant to the Province of Central Africa to support travel expenses for the CAPA meeting.

In his August 11 address, Idowu-Fearon praised the Anglican Communion as “the one organisation throughout Africa which is trusted to deliver on projects” and cited the World Bank identifying the Anglican Communion as the non-governmental organization (NGO) most trusted by the poor. The church official prominently promoted the Anglican Consultative Council’s (ACC) development, relief, and advocacy agency, the Anglican Alliance, which is based out of the Anglican Communion Office in London.

Idowu-Fearon declared to the gathered African church leaders, “You are the majority of the Anglican Communion” and appeared to share many of their same concerns.

“I have to confess to you that I am deeply disturbed by some of what is happening in the Communion and its churches today,” Idowu-Fearon reported. “I have seen Anglicans who are poor and marginalized in their own societies plead for their right to maintain Anglican orthodoxy in their own churches, only to be swept aside by a campaign to change the churches’ teaching on marriage and so-called rights of equality.”

In July, Idowu-Fearon addressed the Anglican Church of Canada Synod which has been criticized by traditionalist groups such as the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) movement for its embrace of same-sex marriage. During the visit, Idowu-Fearon spoke favorably of church unity but did not criticize liberal western churches as he did in his CAPA address the following month.

Idowu-Fearon is viewed with skepticism by some traditionalist Anglicans, including in his own Church of Nigeria, because of his role with the Anglican Consultative Council. Despite being unanimously elected to a seven-year term as the first archbishop of the newly created Ecclesiastical province of Kaduna in 2002, Idowu-Fearon was not returned to a second term in office by the Nigerian College of Bishops and took an early retirement from his Episcopal responsibilities in July of 2015.

His appointment to lead the Anglican Communion Office was met with a terse response from Church of Nigeria top officials in an April 2015 letter, which flatly stated “Josiah Idowu-Fearon represents himself at the ACC, and not the Church of Nigeria”.

Among projects promoted by the Anglican Alliance is Umoja, Kiswahili for “together”. Anglican Alliance describes Umoja as a coalition to support networking, training of local facilitators and asset-based community development that in its words is “transforming grassroots development work in Anglican and Episcopal churches worldwide”.

According to an Anglican News Service (ACNS) article which highlighted the work of the program in Tanzania, the local diocese shared a proposal to assist Burundi refugees with the Anglican Alliance. According to the ACNS, the diocese “received support from partners around the Anglican Communion to continue their work.”

Quoted in the ACNS story is Della Wager Wells, identified as an “Anglican Alliance intern” working with the local diocesan development office “to explore the incorporation of Church Community Mobilization/Umoja approaches to development”.

Wells, (pictured) a corporate lawyer with the Alston & Bird law firm, is a first-year student at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, where her husband serves in the administration. The attorney has deep roots in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta and serves as lead legal counsel and board member of the Compass Rose Society. The society raises funds for the ministries of the ACC, designates contributions for mission projects approved by the secretary general (Idowu-Fearon) and builds “a community of Anglicans that enthusiastically supports the mission and ministry of the archbishop and the ACC”.

Among the Compass Rose Society’s mission partners are dioceses in West Africa (Ghana), Southern Malawi, Jerusalem, Southern Africa (Highveld), Mexico and Brazil – jurisdictions in close relationship with the Episcopal Church. The Compass Rose Society supports Continuing Indaba, a program pairing Episcopal dioceses from the United States with those in the Global South “to wrestle with differences concerning issues such as human sexuality and theological interpretation”. The program has been criticized by the American Anglican Council and other traditionalist groups as a promotion of revisionist views that conflict with a mainstream Christian view of marriage and sexuality.

Following Idowu-Fearon’s address to the group, CAPA released a communique that “noted with appreciation the impact of approaches like Umoja …and are committed to their further spread among our congregations.”

Reprinted with the permission of the author from Juicy Ecumenism.

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