- Tuesday, December 13, 2011
The Rev. Grant LeMarquand was in Egypt last year, preparing for a retreat at a monastery, when the Most Rev. Mouneer D. Anis invited him out for coffee. The bishop asked his friend a life-changing question: Would he consider being appointed an assistant bishop serving the Horn of Africa?
LeMarquand, professor of biblical studies and mission at Trinity School for Ministry, spent the next week and a half wrestling with Bishop Mouneer’s question while on retreat.
As part of his discernment, LeMarquand met with a committee in London, including Archbishop John Sentamu and retired Archbishop Maurice Sinclair, that advises Bishop Mouneer. The bishop announced LeMarquand’s appointment Dec. 8 in a letter to the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt.
LeMarquand, a Canadian who earned graduate degrees from McGill University, Montreal Diocesan Theological College and Wycliffe College, has taught at Trinity since 1999. Trinity’s website offers a collection of his extensive essays and speeches on Christianity in Africa.
LeMarquand has visited the region twice before and his wife — Wendy Jane LeMarquand, who is a physician — has visited once, so they both knew what challenges they would face. After LeMarquand’s consecration April 25, the couple will be based in Gambella, Ethiopia. The capital city, Addis Ababa, is more than 700 kilometers away — a short flight but a two-day drive. The Horn of Africa comprises the nations of Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.
For the LeMarquands a move to Africa was not a new idea. They were Anglican Church of Canada missionaries to Kenya in 1987-89. “I’ve been back to Africa nearly every year since then,” LeMarquand told The Living Church.
He felt drawn to Africa ever since studying alongside a Kenyan while in seminary. The LeMarquands initially were appointed to serve in Sudan, but the church changed their assignment because of that nation’s political turmoil. In Kenya they served near the border with Sudan.
The LeMarquands had approached the Canadian church to ask about missionary service, he said. He had become a Christian through the Jesus movement of the early 1970s, and “it was clear to most of us in that movement that you went where God wanted you to go.”
LeMarquand has visited Sudanese refugee camps and stood on the tarmac of the Khartoum airport, but a longer stay in Sudan has so far eluded him.
He will serve in a population that’s about 60 percent Christian and 30 percent Muslim, with a considerable presence of Sudanese refugees. The Anglican presence in the Horn of Africa is relatively young and priests have little residential theological training. LeMarquand, who will teach in the diocesan seminary in Egypt a few times a year, wants to improve the clergy’s access to theological training.
“I’m hoping the next bishop will be from the Horn of Africa,” he said.
Orthodoxy’s presence in Ethiopia dates to the time of St. Athanasius and the work of two former slaves, Frumentius and Aedesius. When Frumentius traveled to Alexandria to ask Athanasius for a bishop, Athanasius consecrated him and sent him home.
The church’s presence in Ethiopia “affects everything from what people eat to the calendar,” since the nation marks the year by Gregorian standards.
LeMarquand said he will work in a region heavily affected by desertification (because of climate change and over-harvesting forests), border wars, and a literacy rate of 40 percent (and 20 percent for women). He welcomes those challenges, though, because he believes evangelism, mercy and justice work together.
“Bishop Mouneer has a real vision, like most bishops in the Global South, for holistic mission,” he said. “To think that I’ll be encouraging people to come to know Christ and teaching people how to purify water so they can prevent malaria — that makes a lot of sense to me.”