[Anglican Communion News Service] It’s a well-known fact that since the establishment of the Anglican Church in Africa in the 1800s, the Africa churches have largely depended on outside donors for material, mission and financial support. Until recently most Africa Christians did not believe that the church could survive without the support of western donors.
The Rev. Canon Grace Kaiso is the general secretary of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA), which coordinates and articulates issues affecting the church and communities on the continent.
He has been very outspoken on issues to do with the independence of the Africa church. In a special interview with ACNS he said: “Africa has realized that it has resources and so we want the Christians in Africa to now own the mission of the church.”
CAPA is a regional faith-based organization that was established in 1979 in Chilema, Malawi, by the Anglican primates of Africa. It operates in 12 Anglican provinces: Burundi, Central Africa (Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe), Congo, and the Indian Ocean (Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius); Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Southern Africa (Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa Swaziland), Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, West Africa (Ghana, Cameroon, Togo, Sierra Leone and Liberia), and the Diocese of Egypt.
For about 35 years, CAPA has reached out to individuals, communities and groups through her over 40 million dedicated church members in different communities in Africa. Administratively, CAPA is headed by a council that is led by a chairman, supported by other executives and other officers for the smooth running of the provinces’ activities. It also has a secretariat headed by a general secretary located in Nairobi, Kenya.
“CAPA endeavors to build the capacity of the Anglican Churches in Africa to better understand the issues of mission and development within and outside the Anglican Communion,” said Canon Grace. “We also aim to provide a forum for the Church in Africa to share experiences, consult and support each other as well as establish opportunity for collaboration, learning and joint initiatives.”
Empowering and building the capacity of churches in Africa is among CAPA’s top priorities and over the years training, networking and sharing opportunities have been availed to archbishops, clergy and laity. In October last year, CAPA facilitated for seven bishops from the provinces of Burundi, Congo and Rwanda to attend a weeklong leadership training for French speakers in Nairobi, Kenya.
The general secretary emphasized that the “re-articulation of the moral and spiritual resources of the church in the realm of human development will help bring about a new society in which the weak, the poor and the vulnerable have an equal voice and are not divided by selfish gains of tyranny or by the forces of social fragmentation such as tribalism and nepotism.”
“We’re also challenging the Provinces in Africa to mobilize the professionals which they have so that they can bring their skills to bear on the mission of the church,” said Kaiso. “It’s simply a question of challenging our professionals in the area of discipleship. How can the use the gifts that God has given them be used as resources for mission.”
He added: “In the area of natural resources, the Africa churches are endowed with untapped abundance of resources, social and moral capital to deliver development especially in the most remote parts of the continent. This is a good chance to complement the work of State actors and civil society in education, health, agriculture, rural water supply and infrastructural projects.”
“We are on a mission to effectively coordinate and provide a platform for the Anglican Church in Africa to celebrate life, consult and address challenges in the continent,” said Kaiso. “We would like to fulfill God’s promise for abundant life through fellowships, partnerships, capacity building and promotion of good governance and social development.”
CAPA as a continental fellowship of the Anglican Communion is committed to “deepening of the values of dignity and integrity, healing and social transformation and to enable the people of God to grow in the faith and live life in its fullness.”
In recent years, the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa has been a very positive force on the continent especially in the area of managing conflicts, engaging in peace building initiatives especially in the context of electoral process, which seems to be a big problem in most African countries.
The organization emphasizes self-sustainability for the church in Africa, which in so many ways than one, continues to rely on donor support to implement some if not most of its programs.
Kaiso said that CAPA looks forward to a “unified and self-sustaining Anglican Communion in Africa that it able to provide a holistic ministry to all and fulfilling God’s promise for abundant life.”
The Church in Africa can achieve a lot if it were to take note of the resources that are readily available to them. Drawing on the Gospel where Jesus feeds five thousand people from only five loaves and two fish, CAPA is developing a mapping tool to take note of what the Africa church already has.
“We hope this will help parishes and communities around Africa to look at what is there and also challenge themselves to what extent they have been faithful stewards and how can we harness what is there to get where we want to be,” said Kaiso.
The issue of empowerment takes center stage in most of CAPA’s programs. There is more emphasis towards helping the vulnerable especially with regards to gender injustices, exploitation, child trafficking and assisting displaced families and communities.
It clear that CAPA has a very ambitious program for the Anglican Church in Africa. From organizing meetings for African primates to liaise on issues affecting the continent, building capacity among development workers who address issues of poverty and economic empowerment, to bringing together various clergy and their wives through retreats meant to reflect and meditate on the importance of family life and how that can affect the health and growth of the church.
However raising finances from within the African Church has been a challenge. “We are launching a program called Africa reaching out to Africa,” reported Kaiso. “We seek to mobilize Christians across the continent to own the mission of the church. If we can get local people to commit even US$20 per year towards the mission of the church, that would much a huge difference.”
Despite the emphasis on local partners, CAPA still hopes to establish and develop lasting partnerships from both within and outside Africa and the Anglican Communion as a whole.
Kaiso, who spoke passionately about the potential of Africa, concluded: “We believe very firmly in Africa and the church here. We have a future, but this can only be unlocked if we truly realize the potential that the continent holds.”