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Episcopal Church, African primates, bishops issue communique

Posted on: October 30, 2014 3:17 PM
Related Categories: Africa, USA

A Communique: Transformation through Friendship

October 8-10, 2014
The General Theological Seminary, New York City

We speak as six Primates representing Burundi, Central Africa, Southern Africa, Tanzania, West Africa, and The Episcopal Church, and as four Bishops of The Episcopal Church representing both U.S. dioceses and Haiti.  Two of us participated by Skype while attending another meeting in Bujumbura.  We gathered together at the General Theological Seminary in New York City from October 8-10, 2014.

We are grateful for the hospitality of General Seminary, including its dean, faculty, and students.  We are also grateful for the assistance of the staff of The Episcopal Church, specifically the Rev. Canon Charles Robertson (Canon to the Presiding Bishop), Samuel McDonald (Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Director of Mission), the Rev. Canon Isaac Kawuki Mukasa (Partnership Officer for Africa), Elizabeth Boe (Global Networking Officer), the Rev. Ranjit Mathews (Network Officer for Mission Personnel and Africa), Sharon Jones (Executive Assistant to the Presiding Bishop) and Su Hadden (Executive Assistant to the Chief Operating Officer and Operations Manager).

Our conversations grew out of the Fifth Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue, May 22-25, 2014, at Coventry, England (info here)). We shared news from our churches, rejoiced in our renewed fellowship, and marveled at the gifts and diversity of creation God has provided. We prayed together, and we worshiped.

Our intention was to build missional partnerships among our churches, taking Jesus’ statement of his mission as our own—“to bring good news to the poor, . . . to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  (Lk. 4:18-19)  We confessed that one thing we have in common is that we all have needs, not the least of which is our profound need for each other.

We also celebrated that each of our churches has gifts to offer the others.  Framing our conversation in the context of human dignity and flourishing, the sustainability of our common ministry, and the care of the Earth, we found several subjects for fruitful collaboration that will allow us to share our gifts with each other.  We committed ourselves to exploring pension schemes, stewardship of finances and other resources (management and investment), health services, mining and related environmental issues, advocacy, migration and statelessness, human trafficking, religious freedom, and theological education.  We made commitments to explore these opportunities for partnership and report back to each other early in the new year.

Over our time together, we found ourselves referring repeatedly to the spirit of the Anglican Congress of 1963, which contributed greatly to the transformation of our understanding of mission in the Anglican Communion.  It gave us the language of mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ and helped lead us to understand ourselves as partners in mission rather than in categories of givers and receivers.  In that same spirit, and with eagerness to share the blessings we have received in these days, we express our fervent and urgent hope that another Anglican Congress might be held in the next two years, and encourage the active leadership of all who might help to make it a reality for the good of God’s mission to heal and reconcile the world.  We hope that representatives of all the baptized—bishops, priests, deacons, and laypeople—will be present and heard.  We hope that the Communion’s strategy to address the next iteration of the United Nations Development Goals might be part of the agenda.  Aware that Africa is now the demographic center of the Anglican Communion and has always been mother to us all, we deeply hope that our leaders will take this opportunity to call us home to Africa for such an important gathering of our Anglican family.

Two of us from Africa shared proverbs from their own cultures, which spoke authentically to our sense of the Spirit’s calling.  One is Sesotho, lesale le tee ga le lle, meaning, “one bangle does not ring.”  The music of our hearts can only be made together.  The other is Ashanti,Bannu ye, meaning, “if you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go with a team.”  We have made a conscious decision to walk together in order to go the distance.

On the night before he died, Jesus saw his disciples in a transformed way and longed that they would see one another in the same way.  “I do not call you servants any longer, because a servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father”  (Jn. 15:15).  In Christ we have been transformed into brothers and sisters fed at the Lord’s own table.  But we also have been transformed into friends so that we might go from that table into the world to offer ourselves in its service.

Friends walk together.  Friends go the distance together.  Friends make music together.  Friends of Jesus love each other just as he commanded (v. 14).  Friends share their needs and their gifts, their burdens and their joys.  Over the years in the Anglican Communion, we have had the experience of together reconciling the world to Christ in diverse and creative ways.  It is what we call mission, which is grounded in the holy and transforming friendship that comes through our common life in Christ.

Finally, we are aware that in our small but intentional gathering, we engaged the practice of Indaba, and experienced the transformational reality that has characterized so much of the life of the Anglican Communion since our last Lambeth Conference.  We are anxious to encourage this across the Communion and will be calling on our counterparts to do so in the days ahead.

The Most Rev. Bernard Ntahoturi   The Most Rev. Albert Chama
Archbishop of Burundi Archbishop of Central Africa
The Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba The Most Rev. Jacob Chimeledya
Archbishop of Southern Africa Archbishop of Tanzania
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori The Most Rev. Daniel Sarfo
Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church Archbishop of West Africa
The Rt. Rev. Stacy F. Sauls The Rt. Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves
Chief Operating Officer, TEC Bishop of El Camino Real
The Rt. Rev. Ogé Beauvoir   The Rt. Rev. Clifton Daniel, III
Bishop Suffragan of Haiti Bishop Provisional of Pennsylvania