By Rosie Dawson
The next secretary-general of the Anglican Communion will be the Rt Rev Anthony Poggo, a former refugee from South Sudan.
At a news conference announcing the appointment, Bishop Poggo, who is now the Archbishop of Canterbury’s adviser on Anglican Communion affairs, said working with refugees must be a high priority for the worldwide church.
“Most parts of the Anglican communion are experiencing some form of conflict and so working hard for peace is very important,” he said. “When we work for peace, we can prevent more people from being forced out of their own area.”
Bishop Poggo was less than a year old when he and his family fled what is now South Sudan during the first Sudanese civil war in 1964.
Speaking as the UK government was preparing to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, he said that it would be inappropriate to comment in detail on political events within another province. But he added: “It would be fair for me to say — as a person who was a refugee — that, if in 1964, arriving at the Ugandan border, my family had been transported thousands of miles away, it would have made life very difficult.”
Bishop Poggo will take up his new post in September, succeeding Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, who will step down after this summer’s Lambeth Conference.
The bishop began his career with Scripture Union, working with Sudanese refugees in Uganda, before training for the priesthood. He was ordained in 1996 and in 2007 he was elected Bishop of Kajo-Keji in South Sudan. He moved to Lambeth in 2016.
The Anglican Communion comprises 42 autonomous churches in more than 165 countries. As secretary-general, Bishop Poggo will lead the team that serves the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury in his role as spiritual head of the communion.
He named Anglican identity and human sexuality as two of the most difficult issues facing the communion. There was debate, he said, over whether it was possible to be an Anglican without also being in communion with the See of Canterbury.
Referring to the Global Anglican Future Conference (Gafcon) — set up in 2008 in protest at what it saw as the communion’s failure to maintain orthodox theology and practice — he said he believed most Global South Primates were supportive of Gafcon in so far as it provided fellowship for those sharing a common outlook. But he said they would not support Gafcon as an alternative or rival to the Anglican Communion.
Next month, the Church of England’s General Synod will be debating whether to increase the number of Anglican communion representatives on the Crown Nominations Commission, the body that chooses the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Bishop Poggo declined to say whether he thought that was a good idea.