By Mark Michael
Plans are underway for the creation of the Anglican Communion’s 42nd province, the Igreja Anglicana de Moçambique e Angola (IAMA), which would eventually gather a half million Portuguese-speaking Anglicans in the two noncontiguous southern African nations. The IAMA would join the Anglican Church in Brazil, becoming the Anglican Communion’s second Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) province.
The Anglican Consultative Council’s Steering Committee reviewed progress made by the Diocese of Angola and the Mozambiquan dioceses of Lebombo, Nampula, and Niassa at their meeting in late February, and granted approval for continued planning and preparation.
The Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA), to which the four dioceses now belong, received and celebrated the news at its February 23-26 Synod of Bishops, noting that “this development is indicative of the growth within the ACSA for which we give God the glory.”
The Most Rev. Thabo Magkoba, the primate of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, had first proposed the idea to the synod in 2019, noting the significant growth of the church in both nations. The Diocese of Nampula was inaugurated in 2018 and the Diocese of Angola in December 2019.
At the ACSA’s October 2020 Provincial Standing Committee Meeting, Bishop of Lebombo Carlos Matsinhe reported great enthusiasm for forming a province in all four dioceses. “[A]s bishops, we have spoken with the laity and clergy of our dioceses and we are keeping the discussion on this matter high in our parishes and congregations,” he said.
The four dioceses are working together on plans to develop eight new dioceses, five more in Mozambique and three more in Angola. This step isn’t necessary to form a province, but reflects new opportunities for public leadership for bishops in the two countries as well as the challenges of effective ministry in large countries with sparse infrastructure.
“Our Anglican Church is already recognized by our civil society and authorities as a serious partner in the areas of peace building, public health and poverty eradication,” he said. Bishop Matsinhe himself was recently chosen to chair Mozambique’s Elections Commission.
“This recognition poses a challenge of growth, effective presence and relevant witness which we cannot do well from a distance. We need more bishops to bring down their episcopal ministry to where many congregations are.” Matsinhe noted that Niassa’s bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vicente Masosa, must travel through Malawi when going between his diocese’s eastern and western parts.
Within Mozambique, Anglicans are also concentrated in the nation’s southern and northern border regions, a testimony to historic patterns of mission activity. For most of the Portuguese colonial period, the Roman Catholic missionaries had exclusive rights in the region.
Anglican mission efforts began in the Lebombo Mountains, along the border with South Africa, then a British colony, in the late nineteenth century. Mission work in the Niassa region was begun at about the same time along the shores of Lake Malawi by the Universities Central Mission in Africa, whose base of operation was Saint Peter’s Cathedral on Likoma Island in the middle of the immense lake. Anglicanism was planted in Angola in the 1920s by a lay missionary, Archibald Patterson, and remains strongest in the country’s north, his original base of operations.
Mission activity in both countries was severely limited by several decades of Marxist rule during the Cold War, and a series of civil wars and political crises. In the 1980s, as restrictions on religious activity began to loosen, Angolan Anglicanism, which had gone almost completely underground, was rediscovered.
The London-based United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel connected leaders from the Mozambiquan and Angolese churches, and in 1990, Angola became an archdeaconry of Lebombo Diocese, despite being 4,000 miles apart from each other, a 45-hour drive on harrowing Southern African roads.
Since 1990, Anglicanism in Angola has grown fivefold, with over sixty congregations now established. The Mozambiquan bishops also see new opportunities in their country, where religion now occupies a prominent place in public life. “The province will start with 12 bishops,” said Matsinhe. “Of course this is going to be a long journey, which we are asking you to let us start, and pray for us.”