Theological education in the Anglican Communion and translating key liturgical documents into French were given high priority as the Anglican Francophone Network met in Montreal, Canada, July 12-19, to help francophone leaders develop a "better and deeper understanding of partnerships" with North American Anglicans and Episcopalians.
"This is a major part of the Communion," said Margaret Larom, director of Anglican and Global Relations. "[The network] helps to raise the identity of French speaking Anglicans and to bridge the gaps -- the cultural, geographical and historical gaps -- among the different pockets of the French speaking Anglican world."
Representing approximately 4 million French-speaking Anglicans around the world, the Francophone Network was recognized as an official network of the Anglican Communion at the 2002 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Hong Kong.
The network was preceded by the Executive Council of the French Speaking Anglicans around the World and an association called Rencontres-International which maintains and develops ties among French-speaking Anglican churches and missions in the world.
Rencontres-International held its first international conference in Limuru, Kenya, with the logistic support of ANITEPAM (the African Network of Institutions of Theological Education Preparing Anglicans for Ministry) in 1995. Conferences followed in Canterbury in 1998, and Paris in 2001. In 2003, the first official meeting of the Anglican Francophone Network was held in Mauritius.
Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, an Episcopal Church diocese, explained that a phenomenal growth in francophones has occurred in recent years with very few resources in French.
"There is now a great need for such resources and also the training of lay and clergy leaders in that language," he said. "While English has become the dominant language of the planet, French remains the official language of 64 countries, and the other official language of the United Nations and the Olympic Games."
The conference passed fifteen resolutions, including one declaring that the members of the Francophone Network are determined to remain in full communion with one other, Whalon explained. "The same resolution called upon the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary-General of the Communion to institute global conversations about how power is to be shared in the Communion," he said. "Because several African members could not be present it was decided to seek their opinion before publishing that resolution."
Bishop Roger Chung Po Chuen of Antsiranana in the Indian Ocean said that the meeting was instrumental in strengthening the bonds of unity in the Anglican Communion from the francophone perspective.
"The Francophone Network is another pillar of open dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation facilitator in the ever diversified Anglican Communion," he said. "One of our resolutions is to be an active Network in liaising with the Archbishop of Canterbury for consolidating the building up of effective links of affection in the lack of inter-ecclesial facilities which are causes of misunderstanding and conflict."
Translations of critical resources, such as Richard Hooker's Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, were called for and several other resolutions dealt with theological education development, Whalon added. "Besides these resolutions, there was much conversation about developing new missions in francophone countries in Africa, Asia, and the Pacific where there is little or no Anglican presence."
The Convocation of American Churches in Europe has recently launched four French mission congregations with possibilities for many more, Whalon explained.
Dr. Ellie Johnson, acting general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, brought greetings from the Canadian Primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, and spoke about some of the province's work with French-speaking Anglicans.
"Canadian francophone Anglicans were delighted to host the conference because they find great solidarity in belonging to this network of other francophone Anglicans," she said. "Francophone Anglicans are widely scattered in our Communion, and they clearly rejoice when they are able to come together to share their resources, stories and experiences."
Emphasizing the importance of theological education and translation, Johnson said that delegates identified the need for key documents and liturgical texts to be translated, noting that the issue of translation has not yet been addressed by the Anglican Communion Office.
Larom said that the Episcopal Church had facilitated the French translation of the official Anglican Communion brochure because the Anglican Communion Office doesn't have the financial resources. "There are very few theological and educational resources -- most of the texts are in English," she said. "So the need for money to make that happen is large and this is a small network. The purpose of this meeting was to help the francophonee understand the commitment of the North American partners."
The Rev. Canon OgÃ© Beauvoir, dean of the theological seminary in Haiti, was re-elected as president of the network. He described the vision of the bishop of Haiti to host a seminary which would be available for French-speaking Africans to come and study. For 25 years, efforts to open a seminary in the Congo have proved unsuccessful because of instability in the region.
"Lay and ordained leadership training remains the first priority of the Francophone Network in the Anglican Communion," said Beauvoir. "We need leaders properly trained to sustain the growth of the francophone aisle of the Anglican Communion. Well trained leaders will not only celebrate the diversities of the Anglican mosaic but also promote its unity."
Haiti is the largest diocese in the Episcopal Church which, according to Beauvoir, has 112,000 members.
"The network also asked its member Provinces to consider placing on their saints' calendars James Theodore Holly (1829-1911), founder of the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti and its first bishop," Whalon said. "It also passed a resolution supporting a move to use 'L'Ã‰glise Ã‰piscopale du Canada' as the official French name for the Anglican Church of Canada. Canadian members pointed out in their presentations that while the dioceses of Montreal and Quebec now understand their future to be in French, their are still numerous obstacles toward that goal."
Joanne Chapman, coordinator of the Episcopal Church's United Thank Offering (UTO), which invites grant applications from the provinces, and Janis Rosheuvel of Episcopal Relief and Development also attended the conference. The Rev. Mary Ellen Dolan, a priest in the Diocese of Rhode Island, serves on the network's executive council.
Rosheuvel said that emphasis was placed on building partnerships with the francophone countries and provinces. "ERD has been trying to build links in the francophone world for quite a while," she said. "We currently have partners in Burundi, Congo and Haiti and we were able to make a serious connection with Bishop Chung from the Indian Ocean. We're already on the way to funding a food security program which we hope will flourish during the coming year."
In addition to the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, the Francophone Network includes the provinces of West Africa, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo, Madagascar, and the Indian Ocean.
The network expressed its appreciation for the ACC's recognition in Hong Kong and the financial support from the Episcopal Church.
"I hope that the network can continue to grow and serve francophone Anglicans through the production of TEE (Theological Education by Extension) materials and other forms of resourcing," Larom said, "so that we can do what the francophone Anglicans are asking of us."
Article from: Episcopal News Service by Matthew Davies