A Report from Four Communion Partner Members on a Recent Global South Conference
From the hopper of things I’ve been meaning to post, there is this report from four members of Communion Partners who attended the Global South Conference on Decade of Mission and Networking. I’m excerpting the comments from Dan Martins, but the entire thing is interesting reading:
Bishop Dan Martins: “I was honored to accompany Bishop Smith, Dr. Alley, and Dean Clark to this conference. It came at a significant time, and was held in a significant place. As Bishop John Chew—recently retired as Archbishop of Singapore and Primate of Southeast Asia— welcomed us on the first evening, he pointed out that 2012 is a year of great ferment in the world and in the church: the Arab Spring, the European Union debt crisis, a new Archbishop of Canterbury about to be appointed, a difficult General Synod in the Church of England and a difficult General Convention in the Episcopal Church. Bangkok, with its tiny minority Christian population, is emblematic of the missional challenge the worldwide church faces, and the Anglican Global South movement now has a two decade history of taking responsible principled stands in the councils of the worldwide Anglican Communion. What better time, what better place, and what better group is there to network together for the sake of mission?
As a Christian in the western developed world (Global North? ... First World? ... we began to drift toward ‘Minority World,’ and this is probably the most accurate descriptor), I found it both sobering and humbling to be in the presence of leaders whose working contexts are materially and spiritually challenging in ways I can scarcely imagine. The rising tide of militant Islam emerged as perhaps the dominant area of concern. In places like Nigeria and Tanzania, the frontiers of the two religious cultures clash with one another, and in places like Pakistan, Christians are a barely tolerated minority. In our world, of course, the challenge is the rampant secularization of our society. They are different problems, but both invite strong measures of faith, vision, and discipline.
When the four of us from the Episcopal Church had the opportunity to address the group in plenary, we spoke very briefly and tried to strike a humble tone. We apologized for the long pattern of damage done to the wider communion by our own church, most recently the most recent General Convention, and shared the Indianapolis Statement minority report.4 Our stance was that we need the voice of the Global South to speak for us, since we are a minority voice within our own church. This is sensitive territory. Some of those present were somewhat cool toward us because we remain in what they see as a hopelessly compromised church. They have transferred their seal of approval to the ACNA. Others are more sympathetic to our position and grateful for our continuing witness from within the Episcopal Church. I don’t think we changed any minds among the former, but we did strengthen our position with the latter, and moved some off the fence in our direction.
In a few minutes that evening, I think we may have essentially accomplished what we came here for, and in this context the trip was eminently worthwhile. It put our names and faces in front of people who might otherwise be tempted to forget about us or write us off. We want the Global South, which represents the overwhelming majority of the world’s Anglicans, to be very clear that not all in the Episcopal Church are supportive of the communion-shattering and self- absorbed actions of recent General Conventions. There is a remnant. We need their encouragement and leadership as we endeavor to be a loyal but uncompromised minority party in our church for the indefinite future. We also have gifts to offer as partners in gospel witness and mission.
This conference was not a particularly historic event, but it is nonetheless important. ... This group includes some of the key ‘players’ in Anglicanism, whether one perceives their influence as benign or malign. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion Office sent formal greetings. Nothing world-shaking emerged from the meeting. But when something significant does happen, these are many of the leaders who will be involved.”
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