Thabo Makgoba on qualifications for next archbishop of Canterbury

Thabo Makgoba, the archbishop of Cape Town, has given an interview in which he speaks about, inter alia, the ongoing selection process for the next archbishop of Canterbury. His point of departure was the recent Anglicans Ablaze gathering in Johannesburg:

Makgoba said the Anglicans Ablaze conference reflected “a synergy of positive energies within our church” with people of contrary worship and theological positions coming together.

“We should bring whatever challenges we have into this milieu and grow together as Anglicans. 

 

Makgoba said that despite the diversity among Anglicans, certain “fundamentals” such as “breaking bread together”, kept the church together.

 

Commenting on the appointment of a successor to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, Makgoba said the global church faced major issues including new human identities and degradation of the environment, which required ongoing strong leadership.
Being Archbishop of Canterbury was “an impossible job. If you really believe that you are only a conduit for the grace and love of God, it is do-able.

 

“I hope that whomever becomes archbishop will take up where (Archbishop Williams) ended, inject theological strength into our debate, yet know that there are no easy answers. 

 

“As an archbishop (the next incumbent) needs to create an enabling environment for people to really live what it means to be an Anglican in the beauty of our diversity.”

 

 

Gathering momentum for a Thabo Makgoba candidacy

When Rowan Williams announced his resignation in March, I argued that the Crown Nominations Commission needed to look beyond the usual crop of suspects and consider the many talented African bishops in the Communion as possibilities.

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).

Then in June, I expanded on this argument in a piece in Religion Dispatches:

It is in this context that the attention of the Anglican Communion has again turned to Canterbury. The bishop’s chair there will soon be vacant, even as Rowan Williams takes full advantage of the months preceding his December retirement. And while speculation as to his successor runs hot, most observers place their bets on current occupants of English sees. That would be a mistake. As the Anglican Communion continues its growth in the non-Western world, I believe its nominal leader must reflect that change: it is time for an African Archbishop of Canterbury.

(I should note that this piece was heavily edited before it was published and, as it appears now, contains several sentences and paragraphs I did not write. But I did write the one I just quoted.)

Since I first made these arguments, I believe the case for Thabo Makgoba has only strengthened. He has distinguished himself in his response to the Lonmin mine shooting in August. He continues to faithfully lead his diverse church. One of his dioceses (Swaziland) recently elected Africa’s first female bishop. I suspect he will consecrate her. Wouldn’t it be grand if he came to Canterbury and—finally, at last!—did the same thing in England?

The Crown Nominations Commission, meanwhile, appears to have deadlocked at its meeting last week. There is no British bishop who is sufficiently satisfactory, it seems.

So I repeat my plea to the CNC: turn your gaze outside of the Church of England! Look to the hundreds of other bishops around the world who could ably fulfill this role.

(As far as I can tell, the archbishop of Canterbury has to be a citizen of the Commonwealth, not necessarily an English citizen—e.g. Rowan Wiliams. All the candidates I have suggested so far meet this criterion.)

There’s a gathering Twitter campaign to suggest possible alternatives for the CNC to consider, using the hashtag #alternativearchbishops. It mostly appears to be facetious at the moment. Let’s open up this process in any way we can! Start throwing out your suggestions and maybe, just maybe, someone will see them.

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?