THE Archbishop of Canterbury’s adviser on Anglican Communion affairs, the Rt Revd Anthony Poggo, has been appointed as the next secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, it was announced on Tuesday.
Bishop Poggo, who is 58, will take up the post at the start of September, and will succeed Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, who is due to retire at the end of August after serving a seven-year term.
The secretary-general leads the staff team at the Anglican Communion Office in London, which serves the four Instruments of Communion: the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council, and the Lambeth Conference.
Before taking up his post at Lambeth Palace six years ago, Bishop Poggo was the Bishop of Kajo-Keji in the Episcopal Church of South Sudan.
At the age of one, he moved with his family from what is now South Sudan to Uganda to escape the first Sudanese Civil War. They returned in 1973, when he was aged nine.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Bishop Poggo declined to comment specifically on the UK Government’s plans to deport asylum-seekers to Rwanda, which bishops have condemned, because “it will not be appropriate for me to be commenting on matters that are very specific to Provinces”.
Speaking from his own experience as a child refugee, however, he said: “If, in 1964, arriving at the Ugandan border, my family was to be asked to be transported thousands of miles away, say, to Egypt, it would have been difficult, as it would have meant that, if we were in Egypt, after nine years, it would have been harder for us to come back to South Sudan.”
Bishop Poggo said on Tuesday that Dr Idowu-Fearon would leave “big shoes to fill”. One of the items in Bishop Poggo’s in-tray when he starts will be “to support the instruments of the Anglican Communion as they implement the outcomes of the 2022 Lambeth Conference”, he said.
Archbishop Welby announced last week that the Lambeth Conference would not pass resolutions, but will instead make short statements known as “Lambeth Calls”.
Bishop Poggo said: “It’s important to say that the Lambeth Conference is not a synod — so it does not have the authority to come up with resolutions that they will then say ‘You need to, as Provinces, implement this.’”
Instead, he expected bishops to go back to their Provinces with the “calls”, and “they will then discuss in their various structures, so that they then begin to implement them.
“Now, that does not mean that whatever happens at the Lambeth Conference is of no value. Yes, it influences and goes down to the local level, to the diocesan level, and the provincial level. . . My understanding is that these are ‘calls’ the Church is being called to undertake A, B, C, D.” He said that details of how this would happen would be communicated at a subsequent press conference.
Asked whether he agreed with Dr Idowu-Fearon’s belief that divisions in the Communion had become less bitter and rancorous in recent years (News, 24 September 2021), Bishop Poggo agreed that the Communion had “moved on”. He referred to the “huge change” in the way in which Primates’ Meetings had happened.
The GAFCON movement, he said, was to be welcomed if it was “for fellowship”, but, if seen as an “alternative to the Communion”, it was not. A number of Primates in the Global South took the same view, he said.
Bishop Poggo said that he would do that he could to encourage all Primates to participate in the structures of the Communion. Last week, Archbishop Welby wrote to the Primates of Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda, saying that they and bishops from their Provinces are still welcome at the Lambeth Conference, despite repeated indications of a boycott (News, 10 June).
“We are a family,” Bishop Poggo said, “and, as a family, we do what we can for members of the family who for one reason or another at the moment do not feel that they should be participating in aspects of the family. . . I will use whatever it takes to ensure that we are together as a family. Within a family there are disagreements. Disagreements should not make us leave being part of that family.”
Bishop Poggo was ordained deacon in 1995, and priest in 1996, before which he worked for Scripture Union, ministering to Sudanese refugees in Uganda. He graduated from Juba University with a degree in Management and Public Administration, and also holds an MA in Biblical Studies from the Nairobi International School of Theology, in Kenya.
Another task for Bishop Poggo will be preparations for the 18th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, which is due to take place in Accra, Ghana, in February 2023.
Archbishop Welby welcomed Bishop Poggo’s appointment: “Over the past six years, he has built up an immense knowledge of our global Communion and its people as my adviser on Anglican Communion affairs. And in that time many people in the Communion have got to know Anthony, too — and I am sure that they will join with me in welcoming his appointment.
“Anthony’s wise counsel and his heart for the gospel will be put to good use in his new role.”
The Primate of South Sudan, the Most Revd Justin Badi-Arama, said: “We thank God that, out of the suffering Church in South Sudan, God has raised Bishop Anthony to this highest position. . . We encourage him to always be guided by the scriptures as we support him in prayers.”