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The Rev. Canon Burgess Carr is dead

By Benoni Tarr Grimes

The death is announced of the Rev. Canon Burgess Carr, a Liberian priest who for seven years headed the All Africa Council of Churches, Partnership Officer for Africa in the World Mission Unit of the Episcopal Church Center and an advocate of freedom and liberty in Africa.

carr.jpgAccording to an announcement from St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Snellville, Georgia and news report from the Episcopal News Service the Rev. Canon Carr died on Sunday, May 13, 2012 in his sleep in Snellville, Georgia. He was 77 years old.

During his tenure as General Secretary of AACC, he brought a new energy to the work of the Anglican Church in Africa and made a few enemies, including Idi Amin. May his soul rest in peace," said the Rev. Canon Petero Sabune, the church’s global partnerships officer for Africa, in an e-mail sent to church center staff May 14.

In that same e-mail, Margaret Rose, the Episcopal Church’s deputy for ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, said: "Many here at the Church Center knew Burgess Carr when he was on staff here. In addition to being one of my professors in Divinity School and the preacher at my ordination, he was an executive director of the All African Council of Churches, a great ecumenist and a negotiator of one of the first peace agreements in the Sudan."

The Very Rev. Emmanuel W. Johnson, Former Dean of Trinity Cathedral describes Canon Carr as a caring shepherd and articulate preacher with a powerful prophetic voice. Dean johnson said he was practical and sincere in his ministry and dealings with people, adding he will be missed.

According to the Observer Newspaper in Liberia (owned and operated by his brother, Kenneth Best), it was in his position of Secretary General that Canon Carr made his name as a champion for the liberation of oppressed Africans living under racist colonial rule in Southern Africa.

Among them were the oppressed people of Portuguese colonial Africa, including Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau and Mozambique; British colonial Africa, especially Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe); and South Africa, where the racist white minority, the Boers from Holland, numbering three million, ruled the 25-million strong African majority under the brutal, ironfisted and racist apartheid ideology.

In addition Rev. Carr served as the secretary for Africa with the World Council of Churches; Geneva, Switzerland, from 1967-1970. He was the executive director of Episcopal Migration Ministries from 1990-94; held various teaching appointments over the years at schools including Union Theological Seminary, Harvard Divinity School, Boston University, Episcopal Divinity School, and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale; and was a consultant to The World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme, and the Economic Commission for Africa. In 1972 he served as moderator on the Addis Ababa Agreement on Southern Sudan, which ended 17 years of civil war in Southern Sudan.

Canon Carr’s younger brother, Kenneth Y. Best, in his book, Albert Porte, a Lifetime Trying to Save Liberia, recalled that Canon Carr, the AACC Secretary General "was strong and vocal in his condemnation of all these racist regimes in Southern African and frequently heralded their cause in the global media and international forums.

In 1988 Canon Carr was one of the six candidates contesting for Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts. The candidates were: the Ven. Denise Haines, Archdeacon for Missions and Urban Ministry in the Diocese of Newark; the Rev. Canon Burgess Carr, Africa Partnership Officer in the World Mission office at the Episcopal Church Center; the Rev. Paul Schwenzfeier, rector of the Church of the Holy Spirit, Mattapan, Mass.; and the Rev. George Welles, Jr., assistant rector of St. Mary's, Barnstable, Mass.

Welles and Carr withdrew after the second and third ballots respectively and Barbara Harris was elected first woman Bishop of the Diocese.

The six candidates for Suffragan Bishop of Massachusetts examine egg timers given to them at the conclusion of open hearings in the diocese several days before the historic Sept. 24th election. [L-R] the Rev. Paul Schwenzfeier, the Rev. Canon Burgess Carr (second from Left), the Rev. George Welles, Jr., the Ven. Denise Haines, the Rev. Marshall Hunt, and the Rev. Barbara Harris. (September 24,1988)

Burgess A. Carr was born in Crozierville, Montserrado County on July 8, 1935. His mother was Ms. CeRue Carr (later Henderson) and his father, Mr. George S. Best.

Burgess received his early education at the Christ Episcopal Parish Day School in Crozierville, and later attended the St. Patrick’s Elementary School at Snapper Hill, Monrovia. He later enrolled at The Episcopal High School, where he graduated in 1954.

He then matriculated to Cuttington College and Divinity School (Now Cuttington University) in Suakoko, Bong County, Liberia; and graduated in 1958 with a Bachelor of Science degree in agriculture and earned a master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School in Boston, MA in 1961.

He was ordained to the deaconate in 1961 and a priest in 1962 in the Diocese of Liberia, which was a diocese in the Episcopal Church until 1980, when it became part of the Anglican Province of West Africa. He was the first Liberian clergy ever distinguished as "Canon" of Trinity Cathedral in Liberia. He was appointed canon by Bishop Bravid Washington Harris in the 1960s and served as a canon on the staff of the cathedral in Monrovia before going to Cambridge for graduate studies.

Shortly after his graduation from Harvard, Canon Carr took an assignment with the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva, Switzerland as Co-Secretary for Africa of the WCC’s Division of Inter-Church Aid, Refugee and World Service.

Carr moved to Georgia sometime in the 2000s and served as vicar of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Decatur, Georgia, for three years.

He has been honored by Liberia, Egypt and the African Heritage Studies Association of the United States.

Canon Carr leaves to mourn his loss his widow, Mrs. Frances Verdier Carr, five children; Audrey, Kederick Burgess, Dr. Oyeseku Carr, Yaw and Mleh Carr seven grandchildren; eight sisters: Mary T. Bryant, Muriel Best, Mrs. Mara Henderson Amachree, Dr. Kate Bryant, Mrs. Hadoo Bryant-Jones, Mrs. Carmenia Abdallah, Misses Odell Deline and Ina King; five brothers: Kenneth Y. and Kelvyn Best, Charles Gyude Bryant, former Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), Anthony Deline and Keith Neville A. Best; and an aunt, Mrs. Jemima Carr; and many other relatives and friends.

Funeral arrangements will be announced later.

May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in Peace. Amen!


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