Matt Gardner writes for the Anglican Church of Canada:
Introduced by the Most Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Asante as an ecumenical contribution from the Methodist Church of Ghana, the Akan concept of sankofa served as a guiding framework for the Seventh Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue, which took place from May 25-29 in Accra, Ghana. The gathering brought together bishops from Canada, Ghana, Swaziland, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Burundi, Zambia, England, and the United States.
Sankofa — literally, ‘It is not a taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind’ — refers broadly to the unity of past and present, where the narrative of the past is a dynamic reality that cannot be separated from consideration of the present and future.
The Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue emerged after the 2008 Lambeth Conference as a way for bishops from different backgrounds to continue an ongoing, respectful dialogue in the midst of significant disagreements, primarily over the issues of human sexuality and same-sex marriage.
The document that emerged from the latest meeting, A Testimony of Unity in Diversity, highlights the growing sense of understanding among the bishops of each other’s experiences. Referring to the self-examination and presence of the past inherent to sankofa, the testimony notes: “It is this sense of history and tradition that informs and guides us. … In our Anglican tradition this means unity but not uniformity. Unity in diversity is a distinctive feature of Anglicanism throughout the Christian world. Such unity always brings about dialogue and self-examination.”