Overcoming Anglicanism’s Colonial Past
Through Global Collaboration
By The Rev. Charles Treichler
“For the first time in the history of giving within the Church, we see true partnership,
not patronage.”- The Most Rev. Henry Luke Orombi, former Archbishop of Uganda,
speaking about the founding of ARDF.
We don’t think about it very often here in North America, but in many parts of the developing world, the legacy of colonialism remains a pressing issue. Sadly, some of our brothers and sisters are still daily impacted by the realty that Anglicanism was spread across the globe not just through the work of faithful missionaries, but also through British colonial outposts. And for western Anglicans trying to serve the poor in developing nations, Anglicanism’s colonial history can pose a real challenge to successful development work. At times, the modern-day missionary or development worker seems to function as just a new expression of old imperial dominance, an idea known as “neo-colonialism.” So, as ARDF seeks to support our brothers and sisters in the developing world, how are we grappling with this real challenge? We work to overcome our colonial past in three ways:
1. Grass-Roots, Not Top-Down Development:
Instead of entering an host community and trying to meet perceived “needs”—a process inevitably biased by the development worker’s own culturally conditioned assumptions and expectations—ARDF funds only those projects that the local church and community have identified as their priorities. ARDF provides the minimal investment of capital needed to get a project off the ground, and local leaders remain in control from start to finish. This ensures community buy-in and cultural appropriateness, which greatly increase the chances of a project’s success and sustainability. Moreover, this emphasis on local initiation and implementation actually empowers the local community and church, instead of increasing their sense of dependence on foreign intervention.
2. Global, Not Western Leadership:
Colonialism cannot be reversed without consciously dismantling unequal power relationships. To achieve this, ARDF is guided by a Global Board of six Anglican Primates representing the very places we desire to serve. These Global Trustees select the geographical regions where ARDF will focus its efforts and determine which development sectors are prioritized. Crucially, they have final authority to decide which development projects are funded. By giving up control of development dollars to non-Western leaders, ARDF seeks to redeem money—often a tool of oppression and control—as a means of true empowerment.
3. True Partnership, Not Patronage:
While colonialism is visibly embedded in systems and relationships, it also exists in our own hearts; especially in the enduring false belief that we westerners have more to offer our brothers and sisters in the developing world than we have to receive from them. Such a belief does not do justice to the Gospel. ARDF seeks to change a culture of colonial superiority into one of mutual partnership based upon shared faith in Jesus Christ. Prayerful engagement through honest listening, openness to repentance, and clear-eyed acknowledgment of past and present sins is required if we are to restore global relationships that reflect the Gospel’s radical vision instead of the past several hundred years of cultural imperialism and dominance. We believe that such a move is only possible in the power of the Holy Spirit and a shared faith in Jesus Christ. But when it happens, the result is true partnership and mutually transformed lives.
In Their Own Words:
While the fight against neo-colonial systems and the colonial mindset is far from over, global Anglican leaders routinely make striking comments about how ARDF is changing the game when it comes to church-based development:
We all share our needs and then as a body, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we go together to help one project and then another project. We don’t care if the project comes from Africa or South America or other parts of the world. We work together. That is very unique, Primates from around the world working together…I can see the Church in action in that way. It is not only that the richest churches are going down and giving to poor churches. We all are one community and we all share the same needs, but also we share in our decisions.” – The Most Rev. Hector Zavala (Archbishop of South America)
I think it is a very Christian approach to giving and assistance…I would want this ARDF concept of relief and development to be not just confined to the churches at the moment which are involved in this, but for this movement to be shared throughout the [Anglican] Communion. I believe that there is no church that is not in a position to give. We could give in terms of being there; we could give in terms of our prayer; but it is thrilling to be used by God to touch the lives of people, trying to create and sustain development and relief for our Church.”- The Most Rev. Bolly Lapok (Archbishop of South East Asia)
ARDF is anything but a colonial partnership, it is a mutual partnership. It is Koinonia in the best sense of the word—that beautiful Greek word for fellowship, communion, and partnership.” – The Most Rev. Dr. Glenn Davies (Archbishop of Sydney, Australia)
ARDF Global Trustees Meeting, June 2014, Latrobe, PA:
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