Anglicans saddened by death of West Africa Primate

Archbishop Johnson (left), who died at the age of 59(Photo: Diocese of the Gambia)

Members of the Anglican Communion have been left shocked and saddened by the sudden death of the Primate of The Church of the Province of West Africa on Tuesday.

According to the Anglican Communion News Service, Archbishop Dr Solomon Tilewa Johnson died in Fajara, in the Gambia, while playing tennis.

Archbishop Johnson, 59, was Bishop of Gambia and also Metropolitan Archbishop of the Internal province of West Africa.

Pierre Whalon, who oversees the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, spoke of his sadness in an email to the Anglican Communion's Francophone Network.

"What a loss for the Province of West Africa, for the Anglican Communion and for us all," he wrote.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Reverend Justin Welby, has written to Archbishop Johnson's wife, Priscilla, and the Archbishop of the Internal Province of Ghana, the Most Reverend Dr Daniel Sarfo to convey his condolences.

He paid tribute to Archbishop Johnson's "boundless energy and the great enthusiasm he had for his ministry".

"He was generous in his hospitality, and was always glad to welcome visitors to the Gambia, where he had served as Bishop since 1990," Archbishop Welby wrote.

"I know that all my colleagues, the people of the Church of England, and especially those in the Diocese of Chichester with which the Diocese of the Gambia is linked, as well as your brothers and sisters across the Communion, will be holding you in prayer and love at this time."

Zambian priest and Director for Mission of the Anglican Communion Office, John Kafwanka wrote, "What a shock to hear about the death of Archbishop S Tilewa Johnson. You will be fondly remembered for your service to the Lord and humanity. We prayer for your family and the Church in Gambia and the whole Province of West Africa. Rest in God's eternal peace."

Archbishop Johnson was the first Gambian bishop as well as the first Gambian Archbishop and Primate.

He studied at Trinity Union Theological College in Nigeria, the University of Durham, Oxford University and the Theological Foundation of Indiana in the USA.

He was elected as the 9th Primate of the Church of the Province of West Africa as well as Metropolitan Archbishop of the Internal province of West Africa in September 2012.

He is survived by his wife, Priscilla Gladys Johnson and three children, Njilan Johnson, Jeggan Johnson and Dado Johnson.

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