The soft-spoken, scholarly clergyman Victory Maxime Rafransoa of Madagascar will replace the flamboyant and controversial Liberian Anglican priest Canon Burgess Carr this month as the general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC). Carr’s departure marks an end to the leadership crisis that has threatened the very life of an organization that claims to speak for more than 50 million African Christians. The crisis came to a head in November 1977, when Canon Carr—who for several years had been on a collision course with his largely evangelical, church-growth-oriented constituency—was forced to take a three-year leave of absence.

Carr claimed he had so fallen out with the Kenya government that it was no longer possible for him to operate effectively from Nairobi, where the AACC’S headquarters are located. Clearly Carr’s radical, wide-ranging, left-leaning, and well-publicized political pronouncements were out of tune with moderate, pro-Western policies of the Kenyatta administration.

But disagreements with the Kenya government were only a minor headache for Canon Carr. He also had disagreements with AACC senior staff members, who accused him of being intolerant of those holding different viewpoints, and with donor agencies, which cut off much-needed funds. Carr’s most serious problem was his failure to establish working relationships with grassroots leaders of the African church, most of whom felt Carr’s agenda was drawn up by militant political groups in New York, Paris, and London. They believed he had strained relations between African and overseas churches by taking radical positions on issues extraneous to the life, growth, and basic mission of the church in Africa.

For this reason the change of leadership ...

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