Nearly 30 new Anglican Bishops from around the world are spending today in London, visiting Lambeth Palace and the Anglican Communion Office, as part of a course at Canterbury Cathedral, to teach them the ropes of being a Bishop. It’s an annual event revolving around a programme of talks and presentations as well as a chance to build networks across cultural and geographical divides. The members of this year’s group hail from Australia, Canada, India, Congo, Gambia, Guyana, Japan, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, South Sudan, Solomon Islands, Tanzania and the USA.
Bishop Mary Irwin Gibson from Canada is one of those taking part: “It’s been really good to meet Bishops from around the Communion. It’s allowing me to stand back and look at things in more depth. What I’m hearing is that our Communion must grow and we need to find a way to belong together; we don’t have to agree on everything apart from the principles of our faith in Jesus Christ. I do feel more part the Communion after having been to Bishops’ school!”
Welcoming the new Bishops to the headquarters of the Anglican Communion, the Director for Mission, the Revd Canon John Kafwanka, said it was important they realised this was “their space in London.” The visitors were then introduced to the various fields of work that go on in St Andrew’s House, meeting staff overseeing the Anglican Alliance / Mission / Unity, Faith and Order and Women in Church & Society.
One of the most remote dioceses in the Communion is Temou, in the Solomon Islands. Its new Bishop, Rt Revd Leonard Dawea, said the course was giving a great sense of the reality of the Communion and of hearing about each other’s difficulties: “Most of the time we pray for other parts of the Communion but this is allowing us a personal encounter. My diocese is made up of islands and climate change is a real challenge. I come from a small island, one end of which is under water. There is even a burial ground that has completely gone. I travel constantly by boat in rough seas so I have to pray hard before I go out on missions! ”
Bishop Elison Quity, also of the Solomon Islands, has just been consecrated so is finding the gathering invaluable: “Now I understand my role!”
By contrast, Bishop Julius Wanyoike of Kenya was consecrated four years ago but nonetheless has gained much from attending the course: “It’s about networking and interaction and listening to what other Bishops are doing in the context of mission.”
Five of the contingent were from India – both CSI and CNI.
Bp Michael Herenz, from NE India, said the course had been a beautiful opportunity to meet fellow bishops from around the world.
“It has been such an enriching experience for me. I have been learning about other cultures and traditions, but we realise that, though we are different, we are one, because we are one in Christ.
“It is as if we are meeting old friends, for the first time.”
“it’s been a time of joy and happiness,” added Bp Surendra Kumar Nanda, from Cuttack.
Bp Prasana Kumar Samuel, from Karnataka Central, said the course had provided practical opportunities to face challenges.
“We have learned about unity and diversity and about how to be one,” he said. “I am really thankful for that.”
Bp Gabriel Deng from Kongor in South Sudan, said the bishops had been warmly welcomed at Canterbury and at the ACO.
“We have made good friends with each other. We feel we are together as the family of God.”
The Director of Education at Canterbury Cathedral, Canon Christopher Irvine, is one of the co-ordinators of the course: “I think they will gain a sense of belonging together in one Communion; we want them to have a sense that Canterbury Cathedral is their space" he said. In addition: "we want to help foster a sense of community and we do this by our daily rhythm of prayer and shared meals during which many conversations can take place. When they leave they will have made friends with Bishops from around the world.”