The Chair of the International Anglican Family Network, Bishop David Rossdale, looks back on a recent consultation event in Lusaka.
At the recent International Anglican Family Network (IAFN) consultation in Central Africa, we gathered delegates from Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and Zimbabwe to focus on what is happening to families in our age. It provided an opportunity to understand the pressures on the family which come from increased mobility, the reality of accessible technology and the erosion of past cultural “norms” in relation to authority, lone parents and divorce. Our time together was enriched by spending a day with 26 young Christians.
IAFN champions the family as the place where we belong, where we are given status and where our sense of identity is nurtured. Family is also where we learn how to live in harmony with others and in harmony with God.
The consultation drew on a theology of God’s searching out of that which is lost with a passion to be part of our future. We reflected on three aspects to God’s character – humility in making himself vulnerable; forbearance when we put our own agenda before his; perseverance in never giving up on us. We also considered how God uses his power to empower others.
This resonated with what we heard from the young people – they want to be able to share their experience and knowledge – particularly of technology – with older generations in the family, rather than their contribution being cast as immature. The consultation reflected that if God’s character is to shape families in today’s church and world, then the way God empowers us all – young old, female and male – gives status and a sense of belonging within the family.
The consultation expressed three mains themes in its conclusion:
- The need for advocates for the family at every level of church life – the potential of the family to express God’s love is too great to leave to chance in a rapidly changing church and society.
- The need to stop excluding those who have made mistakes. Human frailty and failure have been a feature of human life since Adam and Eve. God’s story has been one of forgiveness, redemption and restoration. In a world of many temptations and changing cultural norms, the family gives a place to express God’s searching out of the lost.
- The need to give status to young people in the family and in the family of the church. Education, mobility and technology have empowered young people. They frequently know more and understand more than people born before computers. If they are given the status to enrich the network of relationships which make the family, then everyone gains – most especially the God who empowers every generation with their potential to make a difference in God’s world.