Four primates from member churches of the Anglican Communion have been invited to attend next month’s meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod. The Synod will debate a motion affirming the companion links between the Church of England’s dioceses and other churches of the Communion. The motion calls on “parishes, deaneries and dioceses of the Church of England to make international links a central part of their strategy for mission and discipleship.” And it asks dioceses to use companion links to “maximise their contribution to the hospitality programme prior to the Lambeth Conference” which is due to take place in 2020.
The C of E said that this was the first time that its Synod will have welcomed a group of representatives from other Anglican Communion provinces. The invited primates are Archbishop Moon Hing, Bishop of West Malaysia and Primate of South East Asia; Bishop Humphrey Peters, Bishop of Peshawar and Moderator of the Church of Pakistan; Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town, from the Anglican Church of Southern Africa; and Archbishop Winston Halapua, Bishop of Polynesia and one of the Primate of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia.
“International relationships through the diocesan companion links and other ways of linking such as parish links and partnerships with the mission agencies have much to contribute to the development of discipleship and mission in the Church of England,” the Bishop of Guildford, Andrew Watson, said in a briefing paper to Synod members. “Friendship through sharing of ministries, parish links, gift-giving and many other ways creates the climate for mutual learning and development. An intentional focus is needed to hear the voices of the global church as the Church of England builds the faith of her people to grow in mission.”
He said that the emphasis on discipleship and mission in the Church of England’s Renewal and Reform programme was vital to the growth of the church. “The contribution of Companion Links and the Mission and Development Agencies to growth in discipleship for people at parish level is very significant but has not always been clearly recognised,” he said. “A research project conducted on behalf of the World Mission and Anglican Communion Panel of the Archbishops’ Council entitled The Nature of Companion Link Relationships in the Anglican Communion has shown that through encounter between Christians from different cultures faith is enlivened, friendships are built and vision for mission expands.”
Companion Links between the dioceses of the Anglican Communion were initially established a means of supporting the emerging provinces, most of which were originally formed as part of the Church of England and were becoming independent provinces through structural changes in the 20th Century.
In 1998, the Lambeth Conference encouraged the forming of new links, saying that: “The time has come for significant new initiatives in encouraging all dioceses to develop companion relationships across provincial boundaries, as part of the process of developing the cross-cultural nature of the Communion.”
The bishops resolved that by the next Lambeth Conference every diocese should have made “a serious effort to identify one or more dioceses as a companion, in formal and informal ways.”
This year, two Church of England dioceses are celebrating key milestones in their companion links with dioceses overseas.
The Diocese of Bath and Wells is celebrating 40 years of links with the Zambian dioceses of the Province of Central Africa. Events will be held in Zambia in April and in the UK in July.
The Diocese of Lichfield is celebrating its 30 year partnership with the dioceses of South East Asia. In July, Archbishop Moon Hing will join other bishops from the province, along with a group of clergy and laity – including young people – in a conference on intentional discipleship in Lichfield.
“Time and again, those who visit our companion dioceses as individuals or as part of a group come back with a renewed commitment to mission and a desire to put what they have learned into practice in their local context,” the director of world mission of the Diocese of Lichfield, Philip Swan, said. He explained that the discipleship conference was being held “in recognition of how much we have to learn about discipleship from our partner dioceses in Malaysia and of the strategic value of sharing and reflecting together.”