Leaders of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) have been having a lot of meetings during the last year and a half. Matters finally came to a head last month when the thirty-six-member AACC general committee met in the tiny West African nation of Togo. After a week-long meeting, the committee declined to go along with General Secretary Burgess Carr’s wish that the headquarters be moved from Kenya, ordered construction of a Nairobi headquarters building to go full speed ahead, refused to accept Carr’s resignation, and gave him a fifteen-month sabbatical leave.

Although Carr, a 43-year-old Anglican priest, was not fired, the actions at Lome (Togo’s capital city) might have marked the effective end of his influence over much of the African church. It was a much different scene from that of December, 1975, when the World Council of Churches’ assembly met in Nairobi. Carr was then very much in command as Kenyan president Jomo Kenyatta and WCC dignitaries turned out for a ceremony launching construction of the new AACC headquarters.

Even though the general committee passed a formal resolution affirming “total support and sympathy for the general secretary,” the fiery Liberian ecumenist’s future was left in doubt. Contrasting public statements suggested that the government of Kenya might not allow Carr to re-enter the country. The influential Nairobi publication Weekly Review said the committee’s actions in Lome were “an unveiled encouragement” to the AACC official “to look for another job.” Meanwhile, Carr’s associate general secretary, Sarwat G. Shehata of Egypt, was named acting general secretary.

Standing with Carr at the 1975 ceremonies and still standing with him last month was his old friend Philip Potter, general secretary ...

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