Anglican Communion Network

An ACN Interview with the Most Rev. Donald Mtetemela, Tanzania

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An ACN Interview with the Most Rev. Donald Mtetemela, Tanzania

The Anglican Communion Network hosted Archbishop Donald Mtetemela of Tanzania the week of April 24–28. The Most Rev. Donald Mtetemela has been the Primate of Tanzania Province which encompasses 20 dioceses, representing 4 million Anglicans, since 1998. Mtetemela is one of the 14 primates who signed the original document from the Global South Primates praising the birth of the Network, and is serving out his second term which will conclude at the end of 2007.

The following are excerpts from a face-to-face interview with the Archbishop on Monday, April 24, 2006:

ACN: Tell us a little about your own faith journey and how that has influenced your leadership priorities .

Archbishop: I was raised in a Christian family in the Anglo-Catholic tradition, and I came to a personal belief in Christ through the witness of evangelical laypeople in 1965. Soon after this, I trained for the priesthood and my first assignment as a priest was to plant a church in a remote village where there was no Anglican presence. From that small beginning thirty-five years ago, that area now has enough churches to create a whole new diocese, one of three new dioceses that are ready to form in Tanzania. I have seen in my own life the effects of evangelism and church planting in bringing about transformation in individuals and communities. I have always made these two priorities the focus of my leadership agenda and this has led to consistent and sustainable growth in our membership.

ACN: How do you carry out evangelism in your Province?

Archbishop: I think that 80% of our church growth is due to lay involvement. The clergy must be strongly committed to the principles of evangelism and church planting, but they must work behind the scenes to equip and disciple the laity to go out into the communities to share their faith. In our context, we have seen that the most effective model for church growth is to train up committed Christian lay people in Bible schools for 3 to 12 months, then post them in an area where no congregation exists. This core group then works to become a presence in the community by first building relationships, and then sharing the Gospel message. Once two or three families become committed Christians, then the focus becomes discipling this small group until they can go back and evangelize their own family and friends .

ACN: How do you stay connected with your 1500 clergy and keep them unified on your goals for the Province ? Archbishop: First, we had the historic national clergy conference which brought all the clergy together for the first time. The goal was to help them re-evaluate their leadership role in the 21st century. Second, every year I visit two or three dioceses to meet with bishops and the clergy in their areas. Right now, we are in the midst of creating a Christian university called St. John’s Anglican University that is scheduled to open in September 2006. We are all charged with doing fund-raising for this project and supporting this initiative. Back in 1971, Bishop Alf Stanway started an Anglican high school. His dream was to have that become a university, but the school was eventually nationalized by the government and the dream died. However, now the government has sold the buildings back to the Province and we are making Bishop Stanway’s dream a reality.

ACN: What is your vision for this Anglican university?

Archbishop: We want this university to have a real impact on our society. By training up young people with a strong foundation of Christian values, you provide the society with moral, educated leaders who will go on to serve in business, government, education and health care for example. Many of our best former national leaders were trained in Anglican secondary schools and that generation is fading away. Our vision is to open this Anglican university and then also try to build back up the Anglican secondary school system to feed students into the university. We cannot allow ourselves to separate our faith from our practical lives. Our Christian beliefs must be the foundation upon which all our decisions in life must be based.

ACN: What is your view on the current crises in the Episcopal Church USA?

Archbishop: Our part is to discover what the Lord’s will is in this current situation facing the Episcopal Church in the U.S. The Holy Spirit is reuniting us on the essentials of the faith. People don’t often listen to the still small voice, but in whatever is happening here in this small representation of the Anglican Communion, I believe God has a message for all of us. Pride will send us soaring in our own self-sufficiency, but if you are not holding on to God Himself, you are holding on to nothing. I think we must have humility and believe that what is happening in the Episcopal Church is the Lord’s timing. A commitment to unity itself will not make the church grow. A commitment to the message of Jesus Christ will make the church grow and scripture brings us back to that message.