Some Observations by Amy Denney Zuniga (Iglesia Anglicana de Region Central de America)

March 11, 2007 at 1:11 am | Posted in Amy, Day 2: Thursday, 8 March 2007 | 2 Comments

Amy Denney ZunigaI have been given the enormous privilege of being a delegate from IARCA, The Anglican Church in the Region of Central America, to TEAM, a conference of the world-wide Anglican Communion on prophetic mission, development, and HIV/AIDS. It is a privilege for me, an Episcopal missionary priest in the Anglican/Episcopal Church of El Salvador, to be representing my colleagues at an event which will hopefully have global implications for the mission of the Anglican Church and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (if you’re not a bishop and don’t attend Lambeth!) to be gathered with Anglicans from every part of the globe—I have met people from England, every part of Africa and Latin America, Madagascar and Seychelles, which I didn’t even know existed before! Perhaps even more importantly, the reason for which we are gathered is I believe critically important to the relevance and continued existence of the church and the life of God’s children on earth. We are gathered to attempt to ensure that the gospel we preach is truly good news for the poor. (Luke 4: 18)

In the morning we heard a stirring address by the Archbishop of Capetown and Southern Africa, our host, Njongonkulu Ndungane, who, referring to the current conflicts in the Communion assured us that, “As we better follow Jesus’ example in mission in response to the needs of the world we will better know how to follow his example in other areas and will be able to address our differences.” The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, followed, giving a deeply intelligent and compelling “Bible study” on the topic. Noting that “knowing the Lord” is defined in Jeremiah 22:16 as “giving the poor a fair trial,” he defined the “essence of the law” in the Hebrew Scriptures as “ensuring that no one is forgotten and no one is invisible.” The law, and God’s final purpose for humanity, the Archbishop said, are “being uncovered in Jesus of
Nazareth… as a human being creating community [in which] no one is forgotten.”

The spiritual head of our Communion (who actually is a lot taller than I thought he was!) went on to say something which, in conjunction with a question asked by a delegate from Canada, impressed upon me deeply the imperative and the necessary quality of the involvement of those of us from the “developed” world in this struggle to ensure that no one is forgotten by the tides of so-called progress. The question related to how, in the midst of the over-abundant prosperity in the rich countries, a gospel which is good news to the poor may be preached. The Archbishop said, “You can never settle down with the fantasy that one part of the human family can live at the expense of another part. There are no gated communities in the

kingdom of
God—none can be insulated from the loss and suffering of others… [for] when one part of the body suffers, all the others suffer with it. ” (1 Cor 12:26) He went on to quote
St. Augustine as saying that the tragedy of injustice is “not only the suffering of the oppressed, but the corruption of the mind and heart of the oppressor.”

The imperative is this: our involvement in attempting to correct the injustices of this world, of which we are the beneficiaries, is nothing less than the working out of our own salvation, with fear and trembling. And the quality of that involvement is just as important (if not more important!) than the involvement itself. If we come knowing all the answers, ready to “fix” the problems of the poor (and just as unwilling to fix ourselves!) then we’ve missed the point. Several “first-world” delegates have brought up the question of how to deal with people in the churches who seem indifferent to these issues. The Archbishop’s answer was clear: what is called for is “that form of healing called conversion.”

+Amy

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Our Church’s heart is beating strong

March 9, 2007 at 12:05 am | Posted in Day 2: Thursday, 8 March 2007, Sierra | 1 Comment

Molo ubuthi and usisi! That’s greetings brothers and sisters in Xhosa, one of the 11 official languages in South Africa. My name is Sierra and I’m attending the TEAM conference here in Boksburg, South Africa. There are so many amazing people and amazing ministries that are occuring in our global church. To sit and listen to the stories of the Women’s Union of Uganda or the newly ordained priest of Pakistan, is to listen to the heartbeat and pulse of our Church. An added bonus is that with each conversation that I’m involved in, I feel as though I’ve travelled to that corner of the globe. Our Church is a church of relationships. And it’s opportunities like this that allow us to continue to build and nourish the body of Christ.

I have many prayers for this meeting in South Africa. My main hope is that each of us leave this meeting with a better understanding and intimacy of our God and the Church–As the Archbishop of Canterbury put it–to know God. Not to merely aknowledge His presence, but that we may be His transforming agents of justice and peace.

Amen.

Sierra Wilkinson is a US student at the University of Cape Town.

Setting the tone for the rest of the week

March 8, 2007 at 10:14 pm | Posted in Day 2: Thursday, 8 March 2007, Laura | 5 Comments

It’s an interesting thing, time zones. I am one of those people who when I’m tired I say really weird things and usually mix up some vowels or consonants while I’m at it. Take for example the amazing opportunity I had when I found Rowan Williams himself alone on a stoop here at the conference center. I went up sat with him and we had a brief conversation. It went something like this:

Rowan: Hello Laura what did you think of this morning? (He gave a speech as did the Archbishop of Cape Town, and yes he remembered my name from signing my book earlier)
Me: Oh it was pretty good. I feel asleep at the end of your talk but I’m sure it was great.
** awkward silence **
Me again: So do you travel a lot?
Rowan: Yes.
Me: Good then you’ll understand that I have jet lag . . .
Rowan: Yes of course.
** his assistant comes to usher him off **

I literally sat on the stoop watched him walk away and laughed to myself wishing that Sara McGinley were a fly on the wall. She’d have enjoyed the sheer hilarity of the short conversation where I could’ve really made a lasting impression on a powerful religious leader and instead I promptly inserted my foot in my mouth.

So with that said here is my rundown on the rest of the day. It’s a bit lengthy but there were a lot of big topics discussed. The Archbishop of Cape Town gave a speech and talked about the opportunity we have here to rally around and position ourselves in the Global Agenda of things that unite us. He spoke about our mission to be agents of transformation in the Anglican Communion. The church is at a brink where we will really be creating who we are, or are not, as a credible voice in the MDG’s. He closed with a wonderful paragraph about why we are meeting. It went something like this: We are meeting because God’s children are crying out to him. And we know our God hears and our God acts. Most important, who God chooses to carry out his mission, he directs and equips. It was very inspiring and fueling for the people in the room to hear.

After break the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a wonderful and long speech himself. He talked about this conference being monumental and this being our chance to make our own input into the history of our Church. He talked a lot (or maybe it was just the part I really heard) about I Corinthians 12:26. (Clergy and the like correct me if that is wrong!) Summarized it is this, if one part of the body suffers the whole body suffers. That really hit home for me. This is why I think I am so passionate about the MDG’s. Our whole body of humanity is suffering because parts of our humanity are suffering. There are no gated communities in the kingdom of heaven. He also went on to speak about ALL people gathering so as to be fed. I understand that we are at a Christian conference. I know that we are doing the work of “our Saviour Jesus Christ” but personally I am very cognisant of our brothers and sisters of humanity who are not Christian. And I love hearing Christian leaders address the fact that not all of our family is Christian. The ABC addressed it in this way. We do not know where people are in their journey of life. We do not know where they are headed either. It is not up to us to decide if they will come to the table of communion or not. That alone is for them and God to work out. So we need to be mindful of ALL of our neighbors. And ask ourselves, “how may I be part of Christs feeding of them?” For me, given the context we are gathered in, this was enough to be grateful for.

He also addressed an issue that I face often with the MDG discussions I have. Our minds are seduced by the global thought “If I can’t save them all, why save any?” People ask me all the time what difference does it make if they throw a pebble in the ocean. The problem is so big it won’t make a difference. Now I have a few things to say to the nay-sayers. First of all the biblical route. How many of you know the passage where the beggar woman throws one small coin to the offering plate. Jesus comments that she has given more then any of the others. She’s done what she could – she’s made the difference she can make. I think that sums up very well what the “do-gooders” of mankind believe in, and that’s what keeps us fighting the good fight. We are making the difference we CAN make. I also had a conversation with a woman today at breakfast, who funny enough is also from Minnesota (oh boy, I hope her name is Margaret, I’ve forgotten!!) She told me about a study she is doing in her parish in Minneapolis. It is based on the 100th monkey theory. From what I understood and took from it is this. There was a study done on monkeys on an island. The study was conducted with bananas being thrown on the beach for the monkeys to eat. After a while one of the monkeys started washing her banana in the ocean. Soon all the monkeys on the island were washing the banana’s. And soon after that all the monkey’s on the surrounding islands were washing they’re bananas. So in theory, one person (or monkey) who starts to advocate and implement change begins that ripple effect and the ripples soon become tidal waves. Eventually it is as if the banana has always been washed. What a wonderful vision for people on the ground level fighting for Peace, Justice, and Equality for all humanity.

After lunch we had an amazing panel discussion. Malaria and Nets for Life, or the Roll Back Malaria project were discussed. And most powerful for me today was what Bishop Mano Rumalshah (Diocese of Peshawar in the Church of Pakistan) had to say. His platform was on Prophetic Witness and Service in the Islamic land. He told some amazing stories that began with the weekend after 9-11 after having coffee with Bishop Frank Griswold. It eventually led into a story about Episcopal Relief and Development being on the ground in his diocese days after the Tsunami hit. He witnessed a teenage boy who was of a very fundamentalist militant family and community. The boy actually tapped someone from ERD on the shoulder during the disaster relief efforts. He said that nobody would help his people. They were hurt and nobody would help them. ERD and the Christian community helped. They helped their worst enemies in their most desperate hour. In the weeks following those events the community of the fundamental militants held a worship service. After the service all 300 men in attendance made a point to hug, not shake hands with, but HUG Bishop Mano. The Bishop wears the cross today that he wore the day he hugged 300 fundamental militants. He ended with two prominent points. First this. There are two types of practices to which the same ultimate goal of “our own personal reconciliation of relationships with our higher power” is achieved. There is Osama Bin Laden, and there is Mother Teresa. Who’s path do we want to take? His ending statement shook the energy of the conference center. He said one day President Bush will have to hug Osama Bin Laden. And once again I cried.

So to sum it all up I would have to say I am so encouraged by and in love with this communion. We are doing so much in the world, and trying so hard to continue in God’s mission. The Anglican Communion IS in fact ALIVE and WELL!!!

The delegation met tonight briefly after dinner. Everyone was all smiles and ecstatic that we are not in our home country but here on the amazing continent that really truly breaths into making space for discussions, laughing when things go haywire (like the lights in the conference center), and overall enjoying one another’s company. The Holy Spirit is here working in the most amusing and light hearted way. Which is fascinating to me considering the context of our gathering. But I am reminded of a quote from the Archbishop of Cape Town today: He said the Word did NOT become Text. The Word became FLESH! So here we are living as the word of God!!

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