Episcopal Church, African primates, bishops issue communique

Transformation through Friendship

Posted Oct 28, 2014

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] The following is a communique issued by Primates and Bishops of Africa and The Episcopal Church on a recent groundbreaking meeting.

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


Comments (20)

  1. It is a great encouragement to read about the meeting that took place at GTS earlier this month. As a parish priest and regional dean in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California, I am saddened by the mistrust that still exists in many places in our church toward the Anglican churches, and those of Africa in particular. I feel we have much to learn from each other about what it means to be Anglican, and how to collaborate with each other in the Holy Spirit for Christ’s mission. I give thanks in my prayers for all the participants in this event, and may their work prosper and bear fruit throughout our churches.

  2. Elizabeth E. Marshall says:

    Worthy commitments, these: ” 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. ” Unless under the umbrella of “advocacy,” which I somehow doubt, where are human rights for persons of LGBTQ sexual orientation/gender identity and expression throughout the African continent, as well as our own United States? Isn’t that a significant omission from our mutual priorities, not to mention the implications of Luke 4:18-19?

  3. Tod Roulette says:

    This proves that the indignities, bullying and frankly very unChristian and suspicious atmosphere that our Presiding Bishop, a female Primate had to endure in the Anglican Communion was not in vain. As she begins a new service in her ordained life we can be sure that God had a purpose for the service Jefferts-Schori was to bring to not only U.S. Episcopalians, but to the world-wide Anglican church. Thank you Jesus! And thank you Lord for those elevated clergy worldwide who have responded to her ministry and example.

    1. Doug Desper says:

      Tod, while your comments show the well-deserved praise for positive contributions let’s also not neglect the other side of the story. It is that our Church is a small, even minority, Province in the Anglican Communion and that we still have an impaired relationship with the majority of Provinces. We must recognize that our Church’s actions have been sometimes one-sided and even impetuous and have strained the fabric of the Communion. That is a fact recognized in the Windsor Report – a report wherein our Church acknowledged that we have not always been a collaborative Communion partner, but instead have gone our own way. We certainly cannot reduce the majority of the Anglican Communion to mere unenlightened partners whose mind and voice are not needed to challenge us and hold us accountable.

  4. Niyongere Pierre celestin says:

    That is the sign to show how God is moving ahead within his ministry and thechurch ,also work done worldwide.
    praises in the name of the Father , Son and Holy spirit .

  5. J. Briton Hamilton says:

    Searching this press release for some mention of the LGBT human rights crisis in Africa. Not seeing what I am looking for. Did I miss it?

  6. (The Revd Canon) Kale Francis King Tssf says:

    At 90 I am heartened to know that they are hearkening back to the 1963 Anglican Congress’s “Mutual Interdependence” theme. That theme caused me to seek out a mini-sabbatical in the Free State, South Africa, with a “fantastic” Black Archdeacon Michael Mohaleroe, learning much. [Just regretted he died before he and his wife could come to the states on such a mini-sabbatical!] That trek led to 15 months in Liberia and another fantastic Bishop George Daniel Kwafla Browne and much new learning. BUT, I found congregations hence here unwilling or unready to consider reaching outorany connections or learnings. We STILL have a long, long way to go (and grow) as American Anglicans!

  7. Kurt Hill says:

    Oh please, Doug. There are plenty of GAFCON clergy and laypeople who have “not always been collaborative Communion partners,” too. This includes those who have invaded some of our dioceses and collaborated with people who have been deposed from Holy Orders in our Church. Get real, dude.

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

    1. Doug Desper says:

      Kurt: The Windsor Report with its admissions and implications was recognized and seen as a way forward through strained relations by the Archbishop of Canterbury, former Presiding Bishop Griswold, all of the Anglican Primates, and most of the leadership of this Church at the time. That’s real. http://www.anglicancommunion.org/windsor2004/

      1. Kurt Hill says:

        Well, Doug, you still did not answer my point about GAFCON bishops aiding the schismatics. That must be recognized and dealt with too if there is to be a realistic “way forward.”–kh

        1. Doug Desper says:

          I’m not addressing the GAFCON people because the topic is more about how WE relate in a friendly and collegial manner within the Anglican Communion. I can only say that the ink on The Windsor Report was not dry before some of our leading bishops and dioceses decided – once again – to act unilaterally to not only revise faith and order but also to reject the Windsor principles that were agreed upon by every Province in the Communion. They blamed the Holy Spirit for their choice, or their “particular context” but the result was that good faith that was already strained continued to be tested with such bishops and dioceses never being held accountable. That is one reason why some of our former members – perhaps GAFCON – have just given up entirely on collegial processes. The whole thing fell apart immediately after being agreed upon. Let’s remember that “those schismatics” include hundreds and thousands of our own people who faithfully supported The Episcopal Church for years. To villainize them certainly lets people off the hook. But, facts are hostile witnesses.

          1. Martin Reynolds says:

            That’s not quite how I remember it, Doug.
            On the day of its launch I was giving a careful response to the Windsor Report on the lunchtime BBC news, welcoming some parts and taking very seriously the introduction by Lord Eames that this was just the beginning of the real debate.

            What actually happened then was Akinola was driven away from the meeting following the press conference by his minders, Sugden and company. I remember the panicked call from Gregory Cameron after the broadcast as he saw them leave, all the months of planning being washed down the drain as these ideologues took control.

            Then some time later at an Ecclesiastical law conference in Liverpool, I heard the Sydney lawyer Robert Tonge make it quite clear that they were not going to accept anything that gave outsiders ANY influence on what happened in his diocese. Indeed by this time the process to undermine the product of the Virginia report by pushing an anti Instruments of Communion agenda was well in place in the Global South. You can see that here

            I am no great fan of the polity of your church, and I too think it made a poor job of dealing with dissent. But in BO33 and at the meeting in New Orleans your bishops tried to do all they could to give Rowan Williams the ability to fix the power grab, it didn’t work.
            It didn’t work because peace was NOT what Jensen and his ilk wanted.
            They could not accept communion conciliarity as it had already failed by allowed error in ordaining women.
            TEC has made some huge cockups. But I think broadly the following gives a reasonably accurate picture

  8. Kurt Hill says:

    “only revise faith and order but also to reject the Windsor principles ”
    Ah. You a member of ACNA, right Doug? Now it all makes sense…

    Kurt Hill
    A member of the Episcopal Church
    Brooklyn, NY

  9. Doug Desper says:

    Please keep the thread mature and don’t insert assumptions.
    To your assertion: No. I am a member of TEC. I am the Senior Warden of my church, the President of my Diocesan Convocation, and a member of my Diocesan Executive Board. That said – I only speak for me and no one else. I do not believe in ruining or disabling the Episcopal Church to make a point about issues that need resolution. However, I am very awake to the fact that we have errors and manipulations occurring within our Church and I disagree with those who wanted to separate. To believe that “all is well” within our Church right now is a fantasy. We are losing once loyal members by the thousands and some are driving our Church away from principles of collegiality that were agreed upon. If remaining in the Anglican Communion matters – and it does – that fact has to be faced and honesty needs to be owned.

    1. Kurt Hill says:

      Looks like I owe you an apology, then, Doug.

      Because of the bad taste in my mouth left by the schismatics of ACNA, whenever I hear phrases such as “revise faith and order,” “strain the fabric of the Communion,” etc. I automatically assume a sectarian hostility to a Church that I dearly love, and to a leadership that I generally respect, whatever mistakes they may have made along the way. I can understand that one might have disagreements yet remain a loyal Episcopalian—unlike some people who formed ACNA, who literally lied to us, and are now attempting to steal our properties.

      (For what it’s worth, Doug, in my parish I’m a former Vestryman, Clerk of the Vestry, Church Warden and am presently a member of the Bishop’s Committee).

      While I would agree with you that The Episcopal Church has its problems, they nowhere come near to the level of the problems—human rights and otherwise—that one sees in some of the Global South provinces who are members of GAFCON. As far as membership decline is concerned it is a real problem—but not only for us Episcopalians. ALL mainline American Christian denominations are losing members—conservative denominations as well as liberal. This is a result of a major paradigm shift in the United States which began more than 30 years ago, stimulated in large measure by the involvement of right-wing Evangelical groups in controversial political issues—including stirring up trouble in more liberal denominations such as TEC, ELCA, UMC, etc. More and more Americans—particularly young people—are leaving organized religion altogether. This includes large numbers of youth brought up in Evangelical denominations.

      Mere numbers of members should not determine policy, not in a loose association such as the Anglican Communion. We are not a “world church’ no matter what some Anglicans—particularly some Brits—would like to think. So if you and others of like mind in TEC want to “move forward,” dealing with some of the African and South Asian situations must also “be faced and needs to be owned” as well.

      Kurt Hi9ll
      Brooklyn, NY

      1. Doug Desper says:

        ..and peace to you as well Kurt!
        I chose the Episcopal Church on purpose after experiences elsewhere. Like my family – and maybe others – there are issues to be faced realistically without tearing the house down or kicking at the family. One of those issues is how dissent has been dealt with and how one’s word and self-restraint matters when living in community with others. “My context” should not trump “our Church life together”. We have got to do better within our own House so we can then honestly relate to and be a part of a much more diverse world Church.
        Word has just come that we are now set to lose the entire Diocese of Fort Worth. The Supreme Court refused to back TEC claims to property. We have got to do better in our own House or we’re fast on the way to becoming a micro-church that gives interesting tours.

        1. Kurt Hill says:

          “Word has just come that we are now set to lose the entire Diocese of Fort Worth.”

          That is a bit premature, Doug. As I understand it the Supreme Court did not say that they would never rule on this, but remanded the case to a lower Court. So, sometime in 2015 or 2016 Texas will likely come to a decision. Then one or the other parties will undoubtedly appeal, and we will see what the Supreme Court says in that case then. It ain’t over until the Fat Lady sings…

          You know, Doug, the new paradigm in the West, including the United States, is much more secular than that of forty or fifty years ago. We are going to have to learn how to deal with it. It affects most Christian denominations, not simply TEC. Here in NYC, the Roman Church—which is nationally growing somewhat though only through immigration—is getting set to consolidate about 1/3 of its parishes. Don’t believe the right-wing hype that it’s “only the liberals” who are declining. It’s happening to just about everyone, left, right or center. We will have to come up with strategies to live with it effectively, so that in 30 or 50 years, when (and if) things change for the better, we will be ready.

          Kurt Hill
          Brooklyn, NY

        2. Geoffrey Peckham says:

          Doug — Look at Washington Cathedral, which is now charging a $10 admission (unspeakable even five years ago), renting the nave for social and partisan functions, former bishop (Chane, a true LGBTBF champion) kicked to the curb over a $30mil boondoggle, Greenhouse closed, almost half the staff from ten years ago laid off. And if all that’s not bad enough, Muslim prayers in the nave (by invitation only — why would anyone be afraid of making it public?) at noon tomorrow.

          DioWash and its Cathedral are not the looniest in TEC, but this should be enough to scare anyone who loves the Church into doubting its viability.

      2. diane jones says:

        “but not only for us Episcopalians. ALL mainline American Christian denominations are losing members—conservative denominations as well as liberal.”

        this is technically correct however, you were expecting to flood the pews with all your new theological innovations and capitulations to culture whilst continually lying to the old parishioners that nothing really had changed. you know as well as i that the circumstance is completely different; the conservative churches haven’t lost nearly as many in such a short time as your denom.

        so those buildings that you never contributed anything to are ‘yours’ eh? good luck keeping them going.

  10. Jeremy Bates says:

    “If remaining in the Anglican Communion matters – and it does….”
    This begs the question, why? When a family becomes abusive of its minority members, why stay?
    Meanwhile some schismatic churches in the US are busy downplaying the fact that they left the Episcopal Church because they wanted to discriminate against LGBT people. That’s an interesting volte-face. They understand which way the culture is going.
    So I’m not sure what we have to apologize for. I’m so sorry we’ve been at the forefront of equality for all? That we’ve been leading on human rights? Really?
    As for “going our own way,” we went our own way 40 years ago when we ordained women priests. Thank God we did!

Comments are closed.