The “threat” of the “new churches”

The Anglican province of West Africa has recently reorganized itself, and has a new archbishop and primate, Solomon Tilewa Johnson. In an interview, he identified two challenges for the church: poverty and “new churches.”

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.

The author of the article in the Anglican Communion News Service subtly opined that this latter threat was “surprising.” But if you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know it’s not.

After a trip to Nigeria 18 months ago, I asked, “What is Peter Akinola afraid of?” I saw, in my travels, the incredible growth of neo-Pentecostal churches and the way in which the growth of those churches threatened established denominations (Anglicanism chief among them) and made Anglicans become more like Pentecostals in theology, worship practice, approach to Scripture, and much else.

I returned from that trip, thought some more about it, and wrote a paper in which I argued that the Pentecostal explosion and its influence on Anglicans was one of the most under-reported stories in the Anglican Communion. That paper (which is a lot longer than a blog post) was published in the Journal of Anglican Studies, but is available for free online.

So I appreciate the frankness and honesty with which Archbishop Johnson raises the issue. It is clearly one that needs thoughtful reflection and consideration—what does it mean to be Anglican? Is the church designed to give people what they want or challenge them with a new way of living?—and it is encouraging to see a leader addressing the issue so openly.

UPDATE, 27 March 2013: This post is attracting quite a lot of attention lately, which is great. If you’re interested in reading my article in the Journal of Anglican Studies about “Anglocostalism,” you can find it by clicking here.

One thought on “The “threat” of the “new churches”

  1. Pingback: Thinking about context in Nigeria, Uganda, and elsewhere | Mission Minded

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