by Peter Dawson
[CMS Australia] When the Church Missionary Society of Australia accepted responsibility in 1927 for the new Diocese of Central Tanganyika there were only two African clergy in the Diocese. In the whole country there were fewer than 10. Seventy-four years later, 1,260 African clergy, including 22 bishops from 18 Dioceses met together for the first national conference in the history of the Anglican Church of Tanzania.
God has done a great work in this country and it continues today as clergy and evangelists spread the good news of Jesus Christ, planting churches with those who believe in his name. CMS-Australia has been privileged to share in this work sending hundreds of missionaries throughout these years to serve Christ with his people in Tanzania. That commitment continues today.
The delegates came by train and bus from every corner of a country the size of NSW, to Mzumbe, 25 kms outside of Morogoro where the government Institute of Development Management has the facilities necessary to cope with such a large number of people.
On Thursday 11 July the President of Tanzania, His Excellency Benjamin William Mkapa arrived to officially open the conference. He told the assembled delegates that many of the things on their agenda for discussion were seen by the government as very important and trusted that God would guide them in their deliberations.
After the President had departed the Archbishop, The Most Reverend Donald Mtetemela gave the keynote address which focused on the purpose of calling the clergy together in the National Conference. He said the delegates would look again at God's mission to the world by the study together of God's word by prayer, listening to addresses and discussing matters that face the church and nation.
The Archbishop said the central theme of the conference is to be found in the words of Jesus in John 20:21. "As the Father sent me, so I send you." The missionary heart of God is seen in the sending of his Son to save the world. The Church is sent by Jesus in the same mission to preach the good news of Jesus, to make disciples of all nations and to be his witnesses in the world.
The Archbishop reminded the delegates of the challenges facing the church and nation; poverty, AIDS, erosion of morals and family life, science and technology and the ongoing task of evangelism. The Church of Tanzania has the resources to meet these challenges in its people, equipped by the Holy Spirit. "We thank God for the partnership of overseas missionary societies and we want that to continue in the future," the Archbishop said.
This set the tone for the 10 days that followed. Bishop Alpha Mohamed gave a Bible reading each morning which was followed by various speakers who concentrated on a topic for each day; the Authority of the Bible in the church; Evangelism and Mission; Theological Education and Mission; the Church and Nurturing of Youth; AIDS Education/Awareness; Tradition, Women and the Church; the Place of the Church in a Developing Nation and Church Leadership in the 21st Century.
After lunch each day the delegates divided into 40 groups to discuss the papers given in the morning and to bring reports for evaluation by the whole conference in the evening.
It was agreed that the goals as set in the Archbishop's keynote opening address were largely met. While ongoing work and research of these major issues remains, the delegates went to their homes thanking God for the blessings of this conference. We pray that the results that will flow on to the hundreds of parishes represented will be for the honour of God and the extension of his kingdom.