The African Church and change

BBC, July 24, 2003
http://news.bbc.co.uk/
By Fiona Ledger

As the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, tours West Africa he will find a region where the Christian church has never been so dynamic.

But is it merely self-serving or can its energies be harnessed to improve the quality of life of the people?

In recent weeks the Anglican community has been dogged by rows over western-style sexual licence.

The appointment in Britain of the gay Bishop of Reading went down particularly badly in Nigeria, even if he did subsequently resign.

But the Lagos-based Reverend Yinka Omolulu, Provost of the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral, is more concerned with the explosion in new churches in Nigeria.

He puts this down partly to the “Get-rich-prosperity-message” they preach.

This, he told BBC World Service’s Africa Live! programme, is being put out by untrained and uneducated, self-appointed priests.

Big brother

Zambia was declared a Christian state in 1991, but since then corruption has grown at all levels of society.

But it is the reality TV show, Big Brother Africa, which has generated most debate recently.

The daily “shower hour” in which the housemates frolic in various states of undress, has particularly incensed church leaders.

But some Zambian Christians believe this sort of thing is trivial compared to the country’s social and health problems which are particularly acute among the very young in urban areas.

For example street kids grow up with no education or moral guidance, and underage girls hang out in bars and become a target for predatory older men.

The Zambian Vice President Nevers Mumba is a former television evangelist.

He is not a fan of Big Brother, but he told Africa Live! that his aim is not to police the morality of the country but to lead by example.

His pragmatism is evident on the issue of contraception and the spread of sexual diseases.

“I believe in abstinence, but if people can’t control themselves they should use condoms,” he said.

Mr Mumba also believes that a new breed of intelligent Christians are making their presence felt.

They understand politics and can see how an alliance between church and state could work towards stamping out corruption and sexual permissiveness among the very young.

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