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Africans will be new missionaries to West says American

Anglican ENI-08-0600
Canterbury, England, 28 July (ENI)

An American Anglican activist has predicted that African missionaries will replant the seeds of the Christian gospel in countries such as the United States and Britain within a generation.

"Vitality ebbs and flows," said the Rev Todd Wetzel, executive director of Dallas-based Anglicans United, a group that operates in the US Episcopal (Anglican) Church and throughout the 77-million strong global Anglican Communion.

Wetzel is attending the Lambeth Conference, the communion’s once-every-ten-years meeting in the historic city of Canterbury, as an observer in his capacity as a writer for his organization’s magazine, The Anglican Voice. He is also a supporter of those within the US Episcopal Church who believe that Christian orthodoxy is at risk among the church’s 2.3 million members.

In an interview with Ecumenical News International after the first week of the conference, Wetzel said, "Right now (vitality) is flowing to the South. Leadership of the Christian world will flow to the South. That’s the move of history, and the West will become the new mission field. Africans are crying out at a sense of betrayal."

He further noted, "The light is going out in many respects in the West but within no more than a generation you will see missionaries by the thousands coming to the Western countries to re-plant Christianity. It’s already happening. The largest organization sending missionaries into the world is, I believe, South Korea. It’s really quite an amazing story. No area of the world remains on top forever. No one part of the world remains the centre of civilisation, of culture, of faith forever. There is always an ebbing and a flowing."

Wetzel was speaking as more than 800 bishops were preparing for a second full week of deliberations during which they will consider issues of sexuality and the future of the communion.

"Homosexuality is the dominant issue," said Wetzel. "We are engaged in a struggle for the soul of the American church because what is often portrayed as ‘liberal’ Christianity is, in many respects, post-Christianity." He said many participants at the Lambeth Conference had arrived in Canterbury with "pre-conceived ideas".

"The American church came with a talking sheet issued to all its bishops, largely disavowing much of what the Lambeth Conference is about," he said. "Plans are already afoot, clearly from the American bishops I’ve spoken to, to pay very little attention to what comes out of the Lambeth Conference and to continue on with the process of ordaining avowed homosexuals, and blessing same sex unions back home."

Separately, one senior African cleric, who asked not to be named, told ENI, "Last week, everyone was very polite. It was all rather cosy. This week, prepare for fireworks."