[ENS] Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, of the US based Episcopal Church, has paid tribute to a “growing” Anglican church in Hong Kong, during his first official visit to the Anglican Province of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui.
Bishop Curry said the strength of the Anglican church in Hong Kong and in the rest of Asia, reinforced his belief that relationships centered in the gospel are essential to missional partnerships:
“Christianity is growing here, Anglicanism is growing here in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a critical relationship in being in real relationship with Asia, and it’s clearly a relationship of equals and that becomes a model or a template for other relationships as well,” said Bishop Curry.
“The archbishop [Paul Kwong] is a leader in the Anglican Communion, a real statesmen, both in Asia and around the Communion,” said Bishop Curry. “Hong Kong represents, in many respects, the Anglican way of being in relationship and partnership having agreement on essentials, but creating space for disagreement on matters that are nonessential to the gospel itself.”
Bishop Curry spent two days in Hong Kong - the second stop on his first official visit as presiding bishop and primate to Asia and Southeast Asia that also included the Philippines.
The Rev. Charles Robertson, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for ministry beyond the Episcopal Church, said it was Hong Kong that set the example for becoming an independent province outside colonial rule. “And they quickly became a leader,” he said.
In an interview with Episcopal News Service, Archbishop Paul Kwong said Hong Kong’s partnership with the Episcopal Church dates to the 1940s and ’50s. The partnership has included companion diocese relationships, and the Episcopal Church helped to build churches in Hong Kong and Macau in the early years, he said: “So, we’ve had that link for a long time.”
The Presiding Bishop’s visit, Archbishop Kwong said, was significant in that it served to strengthen the link between the Hong Kong Anglican Church and the Episcopal Church.
But the presiding Bishop’s visit also was significant in that Bishop Curry is new to his primacy and it brought together two primates, said Archbishop Kwong, who in was elected chair of the Anglican Consultative Council in April 2016.
“Over the years, the Communion has been deeply divided and impaired by some contentious issues, and the Episcopal Church has been at the centre these arguments and division,” said Archbishop Kwong, referring to the 2003 ordination and consecration of now retired New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church and 78th General Convention’s canonical and liturgical changes in 2015 to provide marriage equality for Episcopalians.
“His visit has allowed us to share and learn from each other and also understand our own situation because we are in different contexts. [The Communion] has spent too much time trying to resolve these problems.”
It’s time, said the Archbishop, to shift focus to mission and to ask, “What is the Communion for? How can we make our communion relevant in our own contexts and to the world at large?
“After all, we are brothers in Christ, and we are called to serve the people.”
Bishop Curry’s message, rooted in what he calls the “Jesus Movement,” underscores the Episcopal Church’s focus on mission partnerships, Archbishop Kwong added.
“His message has demonstrated very clearly that the Episcopal Church has a very strong sense of mission and evangelism, and homosexuality isn’t the only issue the church has to address, even though it’s a very serious issue that no one should ignore. The message about the Jesus Movement and reconciliation is very significant to the communion.
“In his sermon yesterday in the cathedral he passionately indicated that God has a dream for every one of us, every church and particularly for the communion. I’m sure that God’s dream is for us to reconcile to each other and that we should work together in unity for the common good.
“Because over the years we have spent too much time and energy and effort trying to resolve our differences, and I think it’s time that we sit together and talk about our common good.”
It was clear, said Bishop Curry, in a later interview with Episcopal News Service, that Archbishop Kwong is a “bridge builder,” and Canon Robertson added that “Hong Kong, in many ways, represents the Anglican Way of being in partnership.”