‘A generous King’: Archbishop of Canterbury honours Otumfuo with Cross of St. Augustine


The Archbishop of Canterbury awarded the Cross of St. Augustine to King Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, leader of the Ashanti Kingdom (the Asantehene), on February 11. Bishops from across the Church of the Province of West Africa joined the archbishop for the presentation of the communion’s highest award at Manhyia Palace in Kumasi, Ghana, the seat of the Ashanti Kingdom since the 17th century.

The award is for distinguished service to the Anglican Communion. In his presentation, Archbishop Justin Welby said the king, a faithful Anglican, has “generously provided guidance and support to the church, which [has] had a tremendous impact on its growth and development.”

He also praised the king’s leadership in creation care, which includes a major reforestation effort around Lake Bosomtwe, and a charitable fund to support the education of students and teachers in impoverished parts of the kingdom.

Welby noted that the king and his predecessors had “preserved the honour and dignity of your throne and of your line through many years, during the British colonial period and afterwards.”

The Ashanti Kingdom, which dominated much of present-day Ghana for 250 years, was remarkably successful in resisting British colonial domination. Kumasi was only captured in 1900 in the fifth of a series of fierce Anglo-Ashanti wars. The office of the Asantehene was abolished by the British from 1902 to 1935 but was restored when the British granted the kingdom self-rule.

Today Ghana is a republic, but the right to the local jurisdiction for the Ashanti king and other traditional monarchs is preserved under its constitution. About 6 per cent of Ghanaians are part of the Ashanti ethnic group and subject to the king’s authority, but the Asantehene is the country’s most influential traditional ruler. The current king, who came to power in 1999, is the 16th in succession from the dynasty’s founder, Otumfuo Osei Tutu I.

In a press conference later in the day, Welby said that Osei Tutu II received the award “for his seeking to live out the vocation of a Christian king.”

“The last monarch to receive the Cross of St. Augustine was her late majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. She received that in the middle of last summer, and for very similar reasons — because her late majesty and his very present royal majesty both used their rank and position and heritage for service, not domination. They were not afraid to speak clearly about issues that need speaking clearly about.”

Archbishop and Caroline Welby had a private meeting with the king and his wife, Lady Julia. The king visited the Welbys at Lambeth Palace in 2014, and they met at Manhyia Palace later that year.

During his visit to Kumasi, Ghana’s second-largest city, Welby also visited St. Cyprian’s Cathedral, where he addressed a large group of students from Anglican schools and Mothers’ Union representatives.

“The world is uncertain,” he said. “There are wars and famines. There is poverty. There is richness. There is success. There are places of peace. We cannot control those.

“But if we say to Jesus Christ, ‘My life is in your hands, and I will always follow you,’ and if we listen to what he says to us, he will say: ‘I love you, I died for you, I saved you, and I will always be with you.’”

Welby joined the Bishop of Kumasi, Oscar Christian Amoah, and the Most Rev. Cyril Ben-Smith, primate of the Church in the Province of West Africa, in planting a tree on the cathedral grounds to commemorate his visit.

The 18th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, which welcomes 110 delegates from 39 of the communion’s 42 provinces, begins on February 12 in Accra. This is the first time a major Anglican gathering has been held in the Province of West Africa.


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