Our Global Missions Committee would like our global perspective to include African Anglicans. Most of you know that the Anglican Church of Tanzania has decided that Episcopal parishes such as ours (who do not consider homosexual relationships to be sinful by definition) are not worthy of being in relationship with them. Both Bishop Makaya of Tabora and Bishop Mpango of Western Tanganyika regret this situation and would like to remain in informal conversation. What they regret however is not so much their declining to be in relationship with us as much as they regret our unwillingness to see the ‘error of our ways’. We will continue to support an AIDS ministry not directly connected with the church in Kusulu and will continue to support the Rev’d. Fred Kalibwame, our All Saints’ Scholar, in his studies at Uganda Christian University. We will stay in touch with The Rev’d Emmanuel Bwatta who is still seeking to pursue studies in America. We had hoped that he might be able to do some kind of work-study at All Saints’ while studying in Atlanta, but that was unacceptable to his bishop, who might be vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy from one or more of his colleagues if he allowed such a thing. Our own Judy Marine is helping Emmanuel study for his English (TOEFL) exams as part of his application to the School of Theology at Sewanee.
In the meantime however we have begun a conversation with the bishop-elect of Aweil, a diocese in formation in the Sudan. It is being formed out of the diocese of Wau and is immediately south of Darfur whose refugees are overwhelming the ministry of a region with no church buildings as a result of the long civil war in the South. We are moving forward very cautiously and fully mindful of the risk involved if we invest ourselves in relationship with Christians who for a host of cultural and historical reasons are unlikely to see any desirable aspects of setting aside the taboo in relation to homosexual people in the near future.
I share this because there is something important about the likely demise of our Communion as we have known it in my lifetime. I know that Anglicanism as a phenomenon is a relatively new development in the grand scheme of things, but have been persuaded that there is something of immense value in being part of a communion mindful of the wideness of God’s mercy; held together by relationship and common practices around worship; with an understanding that we share core doctrine as defined and expressed by the undivided Church. I have a personal sense of loss in the potential of The Episcopal Church being separated from the Church of my youth. I think that we grow in our own faith when it is necessary for us to articulate what we believe about what is of true and ultimate worth in conversation with those whose situation, history and practice is quite different from our own in my ways. The structure so four Communion have made such relationships both possible and important and I will count significant change as loss. At the same time I find myself hoping that whatever emerges in the future will be a truly Catholic communion focused on covenant relationship with Jesus, exhibiting a high view of mutual trust and avoiding the party power struggles of those who prefer a church of doctrinal purity and agreement to such as the means of admission to the Lord’s Table.