The language, the sentiment and the depth of hatred in these events has been quite striking. We could have a competition as to which remark is the least conducive to Christian charity. (Laughter.) I have a couple of candidates. Candidate one is Akinola’s remark that the U.S. Episcopal Church is like a cancerous lump that has defied all treatment, and the time has come for it to be excised altogether. Candidate two is from one of the gay pressure groups within the Episcopal Church, when someone said: “All I can say to you African bishops, is why can’t you go back to the jungle you came from and stop monkeying around with the church?” We’ll have a vote afterwards as to which is the more offensive remark. (Laughter.)
The big turning point is next year when we have what’s called the Lambeth Conference, which is the Anglican Church’s grand convention that brings all the primates together every ten years. The odds are at the moment that either the U.S. Episcopal Church will not be allowed to participate or that some of the American clergy under African churches will claim the seat of the U.S. Episcopal Church or maybe that the event will not happen, and that instead of Lambeth there will be a separate Anglican convention run by the African and Asian clergy.
The reason all this is so important is how the numbers are proceeding: Christianity is going south very rapidly in terms of numbers. I’ve give you a quick overview, and I’m going to talk about Africa a lot. Simple reason: back in 1900, Africa had 10 million Christians representing 10 percent of the population; by 2000, that was up 360 million, to 46 percent of the population. That is the largest quantitative change that has ever occurred in the history of religion. A rising tide lifts all boats, and all denominations have been booming. The Anglicans have done very well, and the Anglican Church is going to be overwhelmingly an African body in the near future.
Why are African churches so conservative?
First, I want to stress a couple of things. Some American media have made a mistake in focusing personally on Archbishop Akinola. Archbishop Akinola has got very definite opinions, but if he walked in front of a bus tomorrow, it would not change the equation within the Anglican Communion at all.
Among conservative Episcopalian congregations in the United States, it’s almost as if each group has its own pet overseas bishop or primate. For instance, Pittsburgh is a big center of conservative Anglicans; they look to a man called Henry Orombi, who is the archbishop of Uganda. Some people look to the province of Rwanda. And others look to Singapore where you have, again, very conservative Anglicans. It is not a personal Akinola thing.