When asked what future historians would say that the church is “up to” in the new millennium, that is, how might the church today make a difference in history, the great historian and Lutheran pastor Martin Marty did not hesitate: “I hope we will be successful in becoming a truly global church. It will be messy, like it is right now for the international Anglican Communion, but Christians of this generation have the chance to do it” (from a personal conversation).
What is presented below is a five-part article by Charles Graves, a third-year seminarian at Yale Divinity School. The article reflects on the historical involvement of the Anglican Church in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, particularly in the Gold Coast Colony, and how modern Anglicans in Ghana view that historical connection. Furthermore, Graves offers thoughts about how Afro-Anglicans on both sides of the Atlantic can continue bonding with one another and working together for the local and global church.
In April 2014, Graves went to Ghana to conduct research on the history of the Anglican Church of Ghana with respect to the trans-Atlantic slave trade. He interviewed students, professors, and clergy from every diocese in Ghana. He studied, had experiences, reflected theologically, and learned. Graves focuses on three steps: acknowledging past injustices, forgiving one another, and gathering together regularly.
At the Threshold offers this as an opportunity for Christians to seek transformation and a newly international Christian Church in gaining some understanding of the history that has brought us to this moment and the opportunity for a global future church.
The Path from Slavery to Fellowship Among Afro-Anglicans
By Charles Graves
W.E.B. DuBois observed that Afro-Americans carry the burden of a sense of what he termed “double-consciousness”: “…this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness… two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body…this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self.” (Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co.; [Cambridge]: University Press John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A., 1903)
Although DuBois wrote in particular about Americans of African descent, this double-consciousness extends equally to Afro-Anglicans sharing both the Anglican heritage of the captors and the African heritage of the captives.
In the centuries since the close of the slave trade and the gradual abolition of slavery in the former British trading posts, each successive generation has had its own mark on the Afro-Anglican identity. This evolution is highlighted by the earliest African converts to Anglicanism and the first African Anglican missionaries in the eighteenth century, the first black congregations, dioceses, and bishops in the nineteenth century, and the independence and rapid Afro-Anglican post-colonial growth of the twentieth century. The continuously changing generational landscape continues now in the twenty-first century in which Anglo-Saxon bishops are outnumbered by bishops of color, and the Church of Nigeria is the second-most populous Anglican province, trailing only the Church of England. At this juncture in time, the Afro-Anglican movement is undergoing another generational shift on both sides of the Atlantic. Read More…