Martyrdom, Revival, and the Historic Episcopate: the Anglican Church of Uganda

My “Introduction to Anglicanism” class today was really encouraging. There were three group presentations on three different provinces in the Global Anglican Communion.

In particular, two of my classmates gave an excellent presentation on the church in Uganda, a church which sees itself as founded on three things: martyrs, revival, and the historic episcopate.

For more on the Ugandan church, see this article in First Things, and in particular this excerpt:

Theologically, Ugandan Anglicans share much in common with our evangelical brothers and sisters, yet we have retained the historic threefold order of ministry: bishops, priests, and deacons. This, of course, is reminiscent of the English Reformation, which theologically had much in common with the continental Reformers while retaining the historic episcopate.

And yet our commitment to the episcopate is not just about the good order of the Church. As bishops are successors to the apostles, so our focus through the historic episcopate is on apostolic faith and ministry. A bishop is ordained in apostolic succession to be the apostolic presence in the community. A bishop, therefore, is the ongoing presence and voice of the apostles. He is our link to the early Church, and this link between bishop and apostolicity gives Anglicans our transcultural identity. The implication, therefore, is that the essence of Anglican identity is to be apostolic. More than a simple unbroken line of consecrations, we are to be apostolic in nature: faithful to the apostolic message, submitted to apostolic authority in Scripture, committed to apostolic mission and ministry, and devoted to apostolic worship.

In short, an apostolic church is a missionary church. A bishop is the focus for the mission of the Church, following in the footsteps of Jesus, who commissioned his apostles to preach, to teach, and to heal. The bishop’s apostolic ministry starts with evangelism, because transformation begins with the individual. The bishop himself must have a testimony and set a direction in his diocese for evangelism and church planting. When the early missionaries came in the late 1800s, their understanding of mission was not only preaching but also education and health ministry. So, combined with our churches, there are schools and health clinics, all under the apostolic oversight of the bishop, whose charge is to preach (evangelism), to teach (schools), and to heal (health clinics).

The incarnation of Jesus Christ has been described as the “scandal of particularity.” The One who came, as Savior of all, was born as a particular man—Jesus of Nazareth—at a particular place, with a particular ethnicity, and at a particular time. Our particular experience of Anglicanism in Uganda, too, has some universal applicability. The pillars of Anglican identity in Uganda—the martyrs, revival, and the historic episcopate, all resting on the Word of God—suggest themes with historic precedent from the formative years of Anglicanism in Britain.”

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