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Archbishop of Canterbury highlights missional role of religious communities

Posted on: June 21, 2019 11:27 AM
The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in Limuru, Kenya, for the conference on religious communities earlier this month
Photo Credit: Anglican Church of Kenya

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] The vital role of religious communities in the Anglican Communion was highlighted at an Anglican Communion conference at St Paul’s University in Limuru, Kenya, last month. Addressing delegates the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: “Religious communities are an integral part of the church today and in places they are a vibrant part of the church.” 

Talking about their contribution to the mission of the church he highlighted the work of the Melanesian mission sisters in leading the church through times of civil war and difficulty in the Solomon Islands. He said members of that mission had been “working out of the love of Christ for the sake of the reconciliation of their country.” 

The conference, which ran from 29 May to 2 June, brought together delegates from 14 nations and from 10 different religious communities. It was organised by the Theological Education department at the Anglican Communion Office and was the third of three conferences on the Archbishop’s priorities of reconciliation, evangelism, and the renewal of prayer and the religious life. 

Archbishop Justin said, “People who are called and hear the call to take up the religious life are ordinary people who are willing to do the extraordinary, which is put their lives in the hands of God with the aim – as we find in the Rule of St Benedict set out again and again and again – of learning what it is to be in obedience to Christ and to walk together with Christ.” 

Conference organisers, Canon Dr Stephen Spencer, Director for Theological Education in the Anglican Communion, and Project Manager Dr Muthuraj Swamy, will publish papers from the week next year to share with wider Communion. Dr Spencer described how the re-founding of religious communities in the Church of England in the 19th century had been “like a stone dropped into a pond”. He said that the conference had shown that the ripples from that stone were now reaching across the globe. 

One of the delegates, Brother Emmanuel, the founder of a Francophone Benedictine community in Cameroon, described how encouraging it was to learn that Anglican brothers and sisters are found across the world. Sister Jemma, from a Franciscan community in South Korea, described how in all the diversity of communities there was a strong common life. 

The conference gave a boost to the vision of a number of women in Kenya, including female clergy, to establish a religious community in the country which current has no Anglican religious community. 

Papers and responses from the first two conferences on the Archbishop’s priorities have just been published and were launched during the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong in May. The aim of the papers from all of the conferences is to help the Anglican Communion prepare for the Lambeth Conference next year.