Saturday, March 10, 2007

Some Observations from the TEAM (Towards Effective Anglican Mission) Conference

March 8, 2007 Boksburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

I 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


IJE said...

It was really a great opportunity to be at the TEAM conference. For me, the Most. Rt Rev. Rowans' sermon at the opening Eucharist summed our purpose of being at Boksburg.Everyone needs to be included if we want to get the music right, to listen to the missing voices and maybe improve on those already in the choir.

It was also nice to meet the young people in ministry..


Xico said...

Gracias Amy por su articulo. Pienso que esa Conferencia certamente trará un nuevo estimulo para quien desea que el Reino de Dios no es algo solamente escatologico, pero empieza acá y ahora atraves del servicio al mundo!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful experience! I admire you and Vince very much and appreciate the work you're doing. Thank you for sharing!
Melissa Johnson Hallas