When Nyasaland became independent in 1964, Arden became Bishop of Malawi. He worked hard to encourage an indigenous ministry, consecrating the first Malawian suffragan bishop and increasing the number of ordained clergy from 23 to 100. He was keen on training the laity: “If the clergy are the lungs breathing in the fresh air of the Spirit, you laymen and laywomen are the hands and the feet and the mouth of the body of Christ,” he wrote. He was also instrumental in persuading the different Christian churches to establish a health association ”” it still provides 45 per cent of healthcare in Malawi.
Arden was particularly concerned about polio; at many confirmation services, polio sufferers would crawl to the front of the church or were carried there. He organised a survey of the area, discovering 500 cases. As a result he convinced a leading government surgeon to help to procure funds for a vaccination programme. Within a few years Malawi was the first developing country to be declared free of polio.
On the theological front, meanwhile, attempts were being made to revise the Book of Common Prayer, and Arden was a key figure in producing a new, 380-page prayer/hymnbook in Chichewa, the national language of Malawi.
He became Archbishop of Central Africa in 1971, and it was a matter of pride that he was the last white Archbishop of Central Africa.
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