Thinking Outside the Box on the See of Canterbury

What if the next Archbishop of Canterbury wasn’t British? Who would it be?

I recommend Thabo Makgoba, archbishop of Cape Town and primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. He’s educated, outspoken on important issues, young(ish), and has been called “the Denzel Washington of the Anglican Communion.”

Filling Rowan Williams’ shoes was never going to be easy—any successor will have to stack up to one of the greatest theological minds of the generation. Going for an outside-the-box appointment—first Archbishop of Canterbury from outside England since Augustine?—lays to rest those possible comparisons and frees the successor to be fully himself (or herself, but that won’t happen—yet—to the see of Canterbury).

The Archbishop of Canterbury fills at least three roles simultaneously—(nominal) diocesan of Canterbury, primate of All England, and a figure of unity for the Anglican Communion. As a non-English Anglican, I, naturally, put the most emphasis on that last role, which is why I’d love to see the position filled by someone who represents the part of world where Anglicanism is growing fastest. The Crown Appointments Commission, I think, probably has that second role chiefly in mind, along with the ceremonial functions that go with being head of an Established church.

If not Archbishop Thabo, how about Josiah Idowu-Fearon, bishop of Kaduna in Nigeria? He’s super-educated, an expert on Islam, and has shown his independence from the Nigerian church hierarchy by, inter alia, calling for primates not boycott a Primates Council meeting. Not sure how old he is, though. (Wikipedia says he’s about 63.)

Other thoughts for outside-the-British-Isles picks for the next occupant of St. Augustine’s throne?

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3 thoughts on “Thinking Outside the Box on the See of Canterbury

  1. On the one hand, most of the bishops in Africa are frightening in their homophobia and fundamentalist theology. On the other hand, Africa gave us Archbishop Tutu, one of the world’s great theological minds. And, in all honesty, who could have been a more mediocre leader than George Carey? I simply want an ABC who has some intellect and, more importantly, some courage. Holding together the Communion is important but not at the price of your integrity if not your soul.

  2. Pingback: Gathering momentum for a Thabo Makgoba candidacy | Mission Minded

  3. That would be my number one concern too…on the other hand Rowan Williams was more or less the “great white hope” for LGBT persons and he ended up doing very little to promote equality either. Perhaps we need someone who will agree ahead of his appointment to give serious consideration to resolving this divisive issue before stepping into office. And if they can find someone from Africa to do so, that would indeed be a positive step.

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