SINGAPORE: African Archbishop Blasts Prosperity Gospel
By David W. Virtue in Singapore
April 21, 2010
The made-in-America health and wealth gospel, also known as the prosperity gospel, got ripped by an African bishop who said it is a huge problem for Anglican Christians in Uganda. Rather than bringing the blessings from God, it is wreaking havoc in the lives of families and undermining the true cost of discipleship.
Speaking to more than 130 Archbishops, Bishops, clergy and laity at the Fourth Global South Encounter, the Rt. Rev. Bishop Stephen Kaziimba said it is nothing but cheap grace and greed that has been baptized. The common false belief of “I am poor” makes this Gospel attractive, he added.
Speaking on behalf of Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi who could not attend because of the volcanic eruption in Iceland, Kaziimba said the prosperity gospel produces disciples who are like the seed that fell among the thorns. When the “worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke them,” they wither and die.
“We need to popularize a Biblical theology of wealth, stewardship, and material possessions. The only people in Prosperity Gospel churches who prosper are the pastors who take money from their members.”
Kaziimba said they do not preach the cross of Christ and the cost of discipleship. “This is a betrayal of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and, for us in Uganda, a betrayal of Archbishop Janani Luwum and our early martyrs who considered it better to die for their faith than compromise.”
The bishop said the Global South Provinces must think about mission from a Biblical starting point. “Mission is not about us; it’s about God! Mission is about participating in God’s work in the world today of drawing people to Himself who have been separated from Him. Mission is about participating with Jesus in inviting people from every ethnic group to become Jesus’ disciples and to be part of His Kingdom here on earth so they will also be part of His Kingdom in heaven.”
Kaziimba said mission obstacles still remain and need to be addressed along with mission opportunities, as they relate to Eastern Africa.
“One of the challenges we face as Anglicans is that our Mother Church in England is a State Church. While we are not in that situation in our own countries we have this problem that we think England represents ideal Anglicanism. The Church of England is declining; it is aging; there are few young people, and less than 1 million attend church on any given Sunday. I’ve read the statistics, and I’ve been there to see for myself that this is true. If you look at other countries that have State Churches, you will see very similar patterns. There are massive church buildings where once there was a thriving congregation. But, not any longer.”
The bishop said we must purge ourselves of the “State Church” mentality that we inherited from our Mother Church in England. “I see it all the time in my own Province, where we are often mired in bureaucracy and institutional inertia. Our capital city of Kampala is located in two dioceses – Namirembe Diocese and Kampala. The population of our city is growing rapidly, but we have not kept pace with church planting. We are paralyzed because of diocesan boundaries. We have churches in Kampala Diocese who could spin off daughter churches and plant them in growing sections of the city. But, those parts of the city are in Namirembe Diocese, and the process to establish cooperative and collaborative relationships is so cumbersome, that we get tired of the bureaucracy and give up. Recently, however, we have renewed our efforts and are formulating a new strategy for inter-diocesan cooperation in order to move forward church planting in our capital city.
“We must not equate pure Anglicanism with England and the English way of doing things. A major focus of the English Reformation, to which we are an heir, was to bring the Bible and worship into the language of the people. That value is at the heart of Anglicanism. We must not fear bringing the Bible and worship not only into the spoken language of our people, but also into the cultural language of our people.”
The bishop blamed what he called secularism through globalization. “We are experiencing this through the media, mostly television, movies, and radio. We are being bombarded with this message through international NGOs that have set up businesses in Uganda, with some who are masquerading secularism under the guise of human rights and development.
“Ugandans in particular and Africans in general, are religious and spiritual people. Secularism is not natural to us; it is quite foreign. The media worldview is, in general, secular. The current generation is growing up with this foreign influence and their parents and relatives do not understand it…they see only the impact it has on their children. Our institutions of higher learning have professors who have been educated in secular Western institutions and they pass on secularism in the form of “higher education.” Yet, our theological colleges have not kept up with the apologetics task of training our clergy and lay readers on how to respond in compelling ways to the challenge of secularism.”
Kaziimba said religious education, which has been mandatory in the schools, faces being eliminated because of secular pressure being put upon the government. “This is a big challenge for us. We have always considered ourselves partners with the schools in providing education, and a group of churches have come together to continue fighting this change.”
The bishop said the church still faced problems of dependency. “We in Uganda are a self-governing church. We are a self-theologizing church. We are a self-propagating church. But, we are not yet a self-supporting church. We are like a three-legged cow. When a cow breaks its leg, at best it limps. But, usually, we will just slaughter it. We are a limping church because we are so heavily dependent on outside funding. It is only by God’s grace and mercy that we have not yet been slaughtered. But, the potential to be slaughtered is a distinct possibility. Our mission in our local contexts and around the world is seriously hampered because of our dependency on others.”
Citing regional instability and conflicts the bishop said one of the main reasons the Gospel was able to spread so quickly and so far and wide during the first centuries of the Church was because of the Pax Romana – the peace that existed during the Roman Empire. “They had good roads and infrastructure. Our regional conflicts in Southern Sudan, Northern Uganda, and Eastern Congo have made it very difficult for the Church to accomplish its mission, and for people to move in those regions.”
“I would hope that we could leave this meeting of Global South Provinces having resolved together to make the next ten years a Decade of Mission in the Global South.” He outlined six areas of concern:
• Every Province will create a mission-sending agency. We know how to receive missionaries very well. But, we can’t receive from one another, if we have no way to send them to one another. This means we must also address the issue of supporting missionaries we send, whether through the traditional means of support coming from the sending church, or through non-traditional means of tent-making and Business as Mission.
• We will collaborate together to strengthen our churches, especially those living in strong multi-religious contexts.
• We will commit ourselves to doubling the size of our Provinces and increasing the number of Provinces in the Global South.
• We will welcome into our churches and embrace the youth with all of their enthusiasm. We will harness and channel their energy for God’s Kingdom mission.
• We will challenge Christian professionals and business leaders to use their professions for mission.
• We will develop intentional mission strategies to reach those who have been overlooked in our communities, especially those of other faiths, pastoralists, refugees, ethnic minorities, etc.
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