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Statement issued by Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane

Posted on: June 26, 2003 5:47 PM
Related Categories: Southern Africa

[ACNS source: Tulleken & Associates, CPSA] In the worldwide Anglican Communion each province is autonomous and each of us faces various issues at various times. The issue surrounding the appointment of Jeffrey John as a suffragan bishop affects, in the first instance, the diocese of Oxford and the Church in England, not the Church of the Province of Southern Africa.

I have tremendous respect for the Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd Richard Harries. He is a man of tremendous integrity. In like manner, I have confidence in the Archbishop of Canterbury, both in his capacity as primate of All England and as the focus of unity in the worldwide Anglican community. He handles issues of this nature with tremendous sensitivity.

Likewise, issues raised in New Westminster and New Hampshire are matters for the concern of the ecclesiastical province of Canada and USA respectively. In all these issues we don’t have the full facts so any response will depend on information we are yet to receive from the primates concerned.

Our province is certainly not considering breaking communion with any other province. The only time that we do this is when a province or diocese is not in communion with the See of Canterbury on issues of faith and doctrine.

There has been mention of a possible schism but I can assure you the church has withstood far worse without falling apart. The doomsday prophets also predicted a schism over the ordination of women and were proved wrong.

From time to time every parish, every diocese and every one of our 38 ecclesiastical provinces in the world communion go through periods of stress and tension. The church is God’s and he wills what is good for it. So it is premature to even consider talking about schism, the best thing is not to even use the word. What we need to do is not talk at each other but, as Henry Nouwen puts it, we must let our hearts descend into the heart of God and in that way we will be in a position to understand one another and discern what is God’s will.

I fully agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury that we dare not become preoccupied with the sexuality issue. We must focus on mission. We are faced with matters of life and death. Seventy-five percent of the world’s people who are living with HIV or AIDS are in sub-Saharan Africa. People are constantly dying and being infected and there are severe cases of poverty, many people go hungry every day and there are instances of children taking turns to have breakfast. We have a divine mandate to save lives and evangelise every generation.

These are but some of the urgent matters that require our attention and I pray to God that we can focus in a more concentrated way on the divine imperative: to give hope to the hopeless, help to the helpless and healing to the wounded, the sick and the lost.