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The Archbishop of Kenya Interviewed

The Archbishop of Kenya Interviewed

By Jeremy Marshall
July 5, 2019

I attended yesterday evening a GAFCON U.K. event at St Michaels Chester Square. It was so encouraging to be there and hear the (relatively) new Archbishop of Kenya, Jackson Ole Sapit tell his amazing story. After Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali opened the meeting with some challenging observations from Ezekiel 3, Archbishop Jackson was interviewed by Bishop Andy Lines, the Missionary Bishop to Europe from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). The Archbishop cuts an imposing figure (I don't have to look up to many people!) and he also has an impressive story.

He grew up as the only son of one of the 11 wives of an old but wealthy Masai. His father died when he was four and his mother was disinherited leaving the family poverty stricken. Jackson was educated in a Christian school who allowed him to stay even though his mother had no money. He was one of the first children to receive support through World Vision sponsorship, which allowed him to finish his education. At school he found Christ and after leaving he eventually joined the church as an evangelist, working his way through various roles and ending up being elected Archbishop of Kenya two years ago.

The Anglican Church in Kenya is very large with 9% of the population stating they belonged to it in a recent survey, making it the second largest denomination in Kenya, after the Catholic Church, with nearly 5m adherents. The church is very engaged in all kinds of excellent and innovative social projects without in any way losing its evangelistic distinctiveness. He mentioned that the church in Kenya started by missionaries had four buildings: a church, a dispensary, a school and a garden. All work together to advance the cause of Christ.

Islam is a growing force in Kenya especially in the north and east. The prosperity gospel and corruption as in all Africa are huge challenges. Discipleship is his first priority and many Christians live completely differently Monday - Saturday to the way they behave on Sunday - a challenge for us in the West as well! The Archbishop also has succession planning challenge with many bishops retiring and new ones having to be trained.

The promotion of the LGBT agenda by Western agencies is a big issue in Kenya, reported the Archbishop. He mentioned attempts to get the UN-sponsored Comprehensive Sex Education into schools (such as we are seeing in the UK), and funding provided by liberal Western churches to the Anglican Dioceses "with strings attached". The new Archbishop first of all genuinely tried to see if agreement on the SSM issue could be reached within the existing Church of England led Anglican church structures. Sadly, after many meetings he realised that the process was biased from the start: meetings he experienced were deliberately set up to promote a revisionist agenda, rather than a genuine attempt to find a way forward. The whole process, far from being open to discussion, was biased from the start, he reluctantly concluded. Finally, therefore he decided to step away from these discussions and not to attend Lambeth 2020, along of course with other bishops representing most of the majority world Anglican Christians. He made it clear that everyone without exception, is most welcome in the Anglican church in Kenya, but that Christians are taught that we have to repent of our sin (of whatever type) and turn to Christ in obedience. "If you love me you will keep my commands".

He stressed his strong support for Gafcon U.K. and other Anglicans worldwide contending for the faith. It was very encouraging to hear how the Archbishop has been able to maintain an orthodox stance on human sexuality within the church as well as having a powerful influence on the government across a range of social and political issues. For example, in 2017 the Archbishop was able to help defuse the contested election campaign which ended (unlike in 2008) in a peaceful outcome

We also heard from Bishop Andy Lines of encouraging developments in orthodox churches in New Zealand and Scotland. There was also a time of prayer. In the midst of all the storms of life that Andy is going through, what an encouragement to hear a testimony of God's faithfulness to his flock across the world, in UK and in Kenya. We did and must continue to pray for Andy and his family.

It was such a blessing to hear from the Archbishop and feel his strong encouragement to his brothers and sisters. We have so much to learn from our brothers and sisters in the global South. Our ancestors went out (often at huge personal cost) hundreds of years ago to reach their ancestors with the good news of Jesus and now we are blessed in turn by their descendants returning to encourage us. Such are the ways of the Lord.

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