The Church of England’s Diocese of Lichfield has welcomed a team of Anglicans from the Dioceses of West Malaysia and Kuching to lead a week of events on intentional discipleship. The Primate of South East Asia and Bishop of West Malaysia, Archbishop Moon Hing, and the Bishop of Kuching, on the island of Borneo, Bishop Danald Jute, head up the delegation of bishops, clergy and lay people. The dioceses have enjoyed a 30-year-long Companionship Partnership, but while that is now coming to an end, the dioceses have committed to continue their partnership and friendship in informal ways.
“God is good, and it is through His goodness, I believe, that we are able to gather over these few days”, Bishop Danald said as he addressed a small gathering over an al fresco breakfast in the garden of the Bishop of Lichfield’s house this morning (Wednesday). “It is our joy and our privilege to continue to walk together. We are honoured.”
He continued: “Let’s be honest, there are a little difficulties along the path, but that is not going to divide us. And it is for that reason that we are here as we journey together, walk together, and learning and be a blessing, one to the other.”
Archbishop Moon Hing arrived in Lichfield from York, where he had spent a few days as a guest of the Church of England’s General Synod. In his remarks, he briefly explained the difference between the two Churches’ synodical structures; and said that while the English Synod, was more structured as an established Church, the synod in South East Asia dealt with general policies and left the regional structures in the nine countries to work out how to apply them.
“A lot of practitioners, giving their time with their hands, doing the job on the ground, are not bothered about the synod and all the bureaucracy”, he said. “but then the danger is that those who don’t do things, and are talking, are deciding for you. So you have to be a little bit here and there.
“In that sense, discipleship must be the answer, because discipleship is responsibility, as you know the policies, as well as you must get it in your hands down on the ground to do the things. These two must come together.”
After the breakfast reception, the gathering moved on to the neighbouring Cathedral where the Bishop of Lichfield, Michael Ipgrave, said that intentional discipleship “takes us right back to the beginging, to the wellsprings of our faith, in our call by God in Jesus Christ”.
He spoke of the origins of the Diocese of Lichfield, when the first Bishop of Lichfield, Saint Chad, left the Kingdom of Northumbria as a missionary bishop to the Kingdom of Mercia in the 7th Century. After the service, the participants were to undertake a brief walking pilgrimage to St Chad’s Well, “where we believe St Chad . . . baptised pagan Anglo-Saxons of Mercia . . . 1350 years ago,” Bishop Michael said.
“Chad’s witness is hugely important to us in this Diocese of Lichfield where our direction of travel . . . is ‘Come follow Christ in the footsteps of St Chad’. Our call to discipleship is about learning, like him, to walk in the newness of life that Jesus promises to us and, like him, learning how to invite others to share that journey with us. And that is not always an easy journey.”
He said that Chad had come “from one kingdom to another, from Northumbria to Mercia, from north to south. . . And here we are today meeting east and west as in his time, so in our time; a meeting across nationalities a meeting across cultures.
“And, as in Chad’s time, so in our time, meetings like that are sometimes not entirely straightforward because the Church is not entirely united. As in Chad’s time, so in our time, Christians can disagree about really important issues. The call to discipleship does not avoid that, but it points to a reality, a power, and a saving grace beyond all that. It points us back to the beginning, to the lakeside [the Sea of Galilee], to the Jesus who comes to us beside the lake and says: ‘Come follow me.’”
Over the next few days, a series of events will be held in the three episcopal areas of the Diocese of Lichfield: Wolverhampton, Shrewsbury and Stafford ahead of a diocesan-wide event on Saturday.