The Oxford History of Anglicanism, Volume V

Global Anglicanism, c. 1910-2000

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William L. Sachs
  • New York, NY: 
    Oxford University Press
    , February
     472 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


The final volume in the Oxford History of Anglicanism’sfive-part series brings the question “what is Anglican?” into dialogue with its global expansion via missions and colonialism in the 20th century. This volume pairs with, and at times overlaps with, volume IV, dedicated to Global Western Anglicanism (reviewed by Peter Webster for Reading Religion)This volume also continues the discussion on missions and colonial Anglicanism that began in volume III, Partisan Anglicanism and its Global Expansion, 1829–c 1914.

Important concepts for volume V include institution and context, mission and decolonization, autonomy and inculturation. Institutional history is a large focus of the volume, though not the only focus, with a concerted effort to include themes of context, culture, and growing autonomy in postcolonial contexts. The five-volume series will be an important resource for scholars and Anglican clergy. This volume is informative not only of Anglican history but also general colonial history for scholars less familiar with the colonial context of Anglicanism’s 19th and 20th century development. Additionally, this series will be an essential starting place for scholars doing work on missiological or theological concepts, religious traditions in the Majority World, and multiple historical periods.  

The essays in this volume provide indispensable overviews of the history of Anglicanism in nearly every region of the world, bringing together other encyclopedic texts into one easy-to-reference volume. The introduction by William Sachs is an excellent overview of the book’s scope, especially as he discusses what he terms enculturation, a more complex version of inculturation, or an “ongoing, dynamic, dialogic process of cross-cultural exchange” (13). Other authors in the volume seek to apply concepts of enculturation to various regions, individual countries, or institutions (such as social ministries or church schools).

Three chapters, all written by priest-scholars, stand out for their unique contributions. Louis Weil writes on liturgical developments and inculturation, explicating the York Statement and its implications. This chapter, which is less historical but more reflective and theological, provides a welcome diversion from lists of diocesan officials and repetitions of mission organization abbreviations in its engagement with the specific case study of Haiti. Jesse A. Zink breaks new ground in his essay on the exilic church of South Sudan and Sudan, drawing on in-person interviews with Sudanese Anglicans conducted by himself and others, as well as archival research. This chapter covers considerable historical ground, in addition to deepening analysis with interviews and a focus on women and hymn-writing. Catriona Laing also offers a fresh and nuanced analysis of mission amongst Muslims, primarily in Egypt. She too draws on archival data with an excellent case study of missionary author-educator-publisher Constance Padwick and her contributions to theological and social engagement using ethnographic research on Muslim prayer practices. The book would have benefitted from more essays following in Laing and Zink’s footsteps, bringing a focus on lived religion and non-hierarchical sources in dialogue with institutional and colonial history.

Of the overview chapters, the essays on West Africa (Femi James Kolapo) and Latin America (John L. Kater) stand out because they offer theological, social, and cultural analysis in addition to recitation of numbers and facts. Kolapo provides a theme that appears in many of the chapters: the Church was often “tardy in accommodating the vision and demand for indigenous ownership and leadership” (132), in addition to being too slow in divesting Anglican missions from colonial power and anti-independence movements. In his essay on Southern Africa, Robert S. Heaney explains the problem thus: “It was widely assumed that a benign empire could be a means of blessing” (324). 

The volume is at its best when it engages with and problematizes “benign colonialism” and noble-intentioned missions and focuses on indigenous leadership in the context of independence and developing ideas on enculturation. While many of the chapters are primarily about mission work in colonial settings, the book would benefit from more sustained and deep engagement with mission theory and frameworks, as well as postcolonial and independence theory and liberation theology. For example, the introduction proposes the volume “offers important insights on what decolonialization meant for Anglicans” (11), yet the conversation partners, the sources cited, and the frameworks overall do not engage with decolonialization or independence in more than a cursory fashion.

The volume seeks to focus on the indigenization of Anglicanism, yet the story is still told through mainly Western eyes. For a volume on the Global Anglican Communion, the author composition is tilted heavily North American. Of the nineteen authors, only two authors currently reside outside of the West and only three were born in the Global South. Two of the nineteen authors are women. Additionally, many of the authors have published widely on their topics, but at times some of the chapters felt like summaries of what they have written elsewhere. The chapter on empire, race, and diocese (Jeffrey Cox), which opened the book, had a tone that came off as combative and dismissive of any postcolonial critiques. The book would have benefitted greatly from more engagement with analysis from theories and scholars of decolonialism and postcolonialism, and further engagement with the continuing effects of colonialism such as economic and educational colonialism. The chapter on Kenya by John Karanja best engages with the condition of postcoloniality and reality of independence.

In spite of its limitations, this book is an excellent overview resource that every library, whether theological or general, should own, both in print and as an online resource. In one volume, the book manages to provide a helpful summary and synthesis of Anglican history in nearly every region of the world. Like the other volumes in this series, it is unfortunately not priced for individuals. Students and scholars of church history, missions, and Anglicanism should be familiar with this volume, and ordained clergy and Episcopal and Anglican seminarians would benefit greatly from this wide-ranging text. A number of chapters will certainly find an appropriate place in courses on the Global Anglican Communion in the 20th century.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Emily Zimbrick-Rogers is an Independent Scholar and Writer.

Date of Review: 
June 26, 2018
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

William L. Sachs is a teacher, writer, and Episcopal priest who has served churches and taught in seminaries and colleges in Virginia, Connecticut, and Chicago. His publications include The Transformation of Anglicanism (1993) and Homosexuality and the Crisis of Anglicanism (2009).

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