ACC-16 Hears of Persecution

Gavin Drake/ACNS

By Mark Michael

LUSAKA, Zambia — Delegates to the 16th Anglican Consultative Council have heard harrowing accounts of persecution across the world.

In his report to ACC delegates, the Most Rev. Idowu-Fearon discussed his role as the Communion’s secretary general in providing spiritual support and advocating on behalf of Anglicans who suffer persecution.

The secretary general said he has advocated on behalf of Anglicans in Pakistan in the aftermath of the Easter Day attacks in Lahore, which killed 72 people and injured 300.

A new railway line proposed for Lahore threatens the destruction of four Anglican churches, including the historic cathedral.

Shunila Ruth, an ACC delegate from the Church of Pakistan, and a member of the Provincial Assembly in the Punjab, spoke further about the incident to the delegates. “[This attack] was a result of religious extremism,” she said, “ a targeted attack on Christians. The blasphemy law still hangs as a sword over the Christian community. The recent attack was linked to it.”

She said construction of the railway line in Lahore “is going to damage at least four churches of national heritage. One of these is the cathedral, right in the heart of the city.”

“This is a deliberate act which the government of Pakistan is making so that it can make the Christians in Pakistan weak and more vulnerable,” she said. “These church buildings that stand today are symbolic. Because of poverty, we cannot rebuild these if they are destroyed. These are symbols and safe places of worship. The government is going against its own law of equity. … So I think the church here needs to stand with the churches in Pakistan. I invite ACC to express solidarity with the persecuted church in Pakistan.”

Idowu-Fearon said a church in construction had recently been demolished by Muslims in Gusau, Kaduna State, Nigeria, where he had previously served as archbishop.

The Most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul, a delegate from South Sudan, spoke about persecution by Islamic extremists in his province.

He said the Church of Sudan has petitioned the Anglican Communion to allow its division into two provinces, because it has become unsafe for religious leaders from Southern Sudan to travel into the Northern State, which has an Islamic majority. Two priests from South Sudan were abducted, accused falsely, and killed because they had gone to Khartoum to preach in the cathedral.

“We are not talking enough about relations between Muslims and Christians,” the archbishop told the delegates. “If we cannot talk about this issue, the killing of Christians will not stop.”

Staff at the Anglican Communion Office coordinate activity in mission, reconciliation, women’s empowerment, relief, development, and advocacy throughout the Anglican world. The work, though, is severely hindered by chronic funding shortages, office leaders say.

In a series of reports presented to ACC delegates in Lusaka in the past two days, the leaders of different departments shared stories about their work, with supporting testimony offered by a number of ACC delegates.

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon joked about inviting the delegates to “listen and give us more things to do.”

Numerous reports mentioned an inability to complete assigned work because of staff shortages, and others asked for additional funds to expand initiatives.

“I’ve been in the office and I almost cry at the amount of work we do,” said the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, ACC chairman.

Idowu-Fearon spoke about developing autonomous Anglican provinces in Peru and Chile, where the church has grown significantly. Anglicans in Latin America face significant challenges because relatively few Anglican resources have been translated into Spanish.

During a recent visit to Peru, Idowu-Fearon said, he found that “Anglicans there complained of being detached from the rest of the Communion because they could not read what was happening in other places, and the rest of the Communion was not hearing their stories. Brothers and sisters, we have a serious communication problem in the entire South American Province that calls for an urgent solution by the ACC.”

Throughout the remainder of April 12, leaders of various departments at the Anglican Communion Office discussed their work.

The Rev. John Kafwanka, director of mission, discussed work to evaluate and deepen links between dioceses and parishes, particularly ways in which mutual sharing between churches of the Global North and Global South can be enhanced. He reported on Intentional Discipleship and Disciple-Making: An Anglican Guide for Christian Life and Formation [PDF], a book that will be distributed as part of the Communion’s focus on discipleship training.

The Rev. Terrie Robinson, the Communion’s director for women in church and society, began her presentation with a lament for such practices as early marriage, gender-based killing, and sex-selective infanticide and abortion. She cited examples of work being done throughout the Communion to encourage the empowerment of women, including a safe house for women fleeing female genital mutilation in Tanzania, a home for girls rescued from the sex trade in Kolkata, India, and a program of Bible study and drama in Rwanda that focuses on helping men and women live in healthy and equal relationships.

The Rev. Philip Groves, director of the Communion’s Continuing Indaba, discussed ways in which this conversation-based method of conflict resolution and reconciliation is being used throughout the Communion and in the wider society. Groves interviewed several of those present, including the Rt. Rev. Eraste Bigirimana of Burundi, who spoke about its fruitfulness in helping broker peace in that country’s prolonged civil war, and the Rev. Robert Heaney, director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary, who spoke about the way it had helped to create “good disagreement” when he had used it at a contentious theological conference in Dodoma, Tanzania.

The Rev. Canon Flora Winfield, the Communion’s representative to the United Nations’ institutions in Geneva, highlighted several of the office’s priorities, including developing U.N. literacy among Anglicans, welcoming refugees in a time of mass movements of people, and promoting birth registration, especially as a means of women’s empowerment.

The Rev. Andy Bowerman and the Rev. Rachel Carnegie, co-directors of the Anglican Alliance, spoke to delegates about the work they have been assisting in development, relief, and advocacy across the Communion. The alliance is the newest agency in the Anglican Communion Office, and awaits official approval as an ACC-supported project.

The alliance does not provide direct donations, but calls the Communion to prayer and “is a platform for convening and connecting the family of churches and agencies of the Communion” in their response to poverty and injustice. Harriet Nathan, a delegate from South Sudan, testified about how the alliance had coordinated extensive support from a wide network of international donors after conflict broke out in her region. Nathan said of alliance co-director Carnegie, “the people were afraid, but she came and we walked through it together.”

Adrian Butcher, the Communion’s new communications officer, said of his transition from many decades of work in news radio with the BBC to his new responsibility: “I’ve spent most of my secular career peddling misery. I want to change the narrative.”

He talked with the delegates about a developing communications strategy for the Communion, which would “put the church on the front foot of media.” Butcher hopes to develop a network of Anglican communicators in different parts of the world who can share stories of hope and transformation, and to rely more heavily on video communication, while expanding the number of languages in which resources are offered.

In their presentations, several of the office staff members mentioned concerns about insufficient funds. Kafwanka noted that an important project focusing on the Anglican diaspora had not been completed because of insufficient funds. The Communion’s Youth Network has been closed because of insufficient funds, which several delegates flagged as a major concern.

Butcher said he has plans for expanding the ways in which stories are shared, but this would depend on receiving additional funds. Some initiatives, like the work of Anglican Observer at the U.N. and the Anglican Alliance, are funded in part or entirely by outside sources.

Tim Trimble, the Communion’s director for finance and administration, said the budget had remained flat in 2016. The Communion’s total budget of $2,854,000 supports the work of 20 staff based at St. Andrew’s House in London, as well as the expenses associated with the ACC, the Primates’ Meeting, and the Lambeth Conference.

Anglican Office staff said 61 percent of the funds used to support the Anglican Communion Office’s budget are derived from inter-Anglican budget contributions, donations made voluntarily by individual provinces. Other major income sources are restricted donations and the funds raised by the Compass Rose Society, a group of benefactors from throughout the Communion. The Rt. Rev. Andy Doyle, Bishop of Texas, is president of the society.

Elizabeth Paver, vice chair, told delegates that the ACC’s Standing Committee generates assessments toward inter-Anglican budget contributions based on the size of the total church membership of the province and the relative GDP of nations.

Member provinces then determine voluntarily how much of the assessed amount they will pay. In 2015, the funds received in inter-Anglican budget contributions fell 30.9 percent short of what had been requested, a total shortfall of $768,001. Of that shortfall, $128,000 was attributable to 15 provinces that sent no funds to support the Anglican Communion Office’s work.

“We need you to guide us, as to what to do in getting these our brothers and sisters from these provinces to play their role, particularly their financial role, in keeping this Communion going,” Idowu-Fearon said. He said that in the Pauline Epistles, one of the primary meanings of the word koinonia (communion) is financial support of common work.

“We try to encourage everyone,” Paver said, “not just Can you pay what is requested? but Can you make a contribution? We would like everyone to contribute something. We do appreciate that there are parts of our communion where it would be impossible to give.”

Idowu-Fearon said four of the 15 provinces that made no contribution toward the Communion Office are led by primates who are part of the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), which is affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America. These four provinces (Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda) account for just under half of the $128,000 lacking from provinces that made no contributions in 2015. None has made any contribution since 2012.

Idowu-Fearon attributed part of the blame for the shortfall to GAFCON’s 2013 Nairobi Statement, which directly encouraged provinces not to support the Anglican Communion Office. It reads: “We must invite provinces, dioceses, mission agencies, local congregations and individuals formally to become contributing members of [GAFCON]. In particular, we counsel provinces to reconsider their support for those Anglican structures that are used to undermine Biblical faithfulness, and contribute instead or additionally to the support of GAFCON’s ongoing needs.”

Idowu-Fearon said a great deal of the funds expended from the Communion’s personal emergencies fund supports the needs of church leaders from those provinces who have made no contributions. The fund, which is administered by the secretary general, supports “Anglican clergy and their families as they have faced medical bills that have been well beyond their means.”

Idowu-Fearon did not, however, mention that many provinces that make inter-Anglican budget contributions, including the Episcopal Church, give far less than what is asked of them.

While the Episcopal Church’s 2015 donation of $315,451 is the second-largest contribution made by any province, it is only 39 percent of the $791,168 asked of the Episcopal Church, and far less than the Church of England’s leading contribution of $738,958. Indeed, the amount not contributed by the Episcopal Church ($475,717) accounts for 62 percent of the total shortfall in inter-Anglican contributions, far more than the funds not collected from GAFCON provinces ($63,907). The finance office confirmed that the Episcopal Church plans to contribute $385,675 in 2016, an increase of 22 percent since its 2015 donation.

In subsequent discussion, delegates from several smaller provinces spoke to the assembly about the deep financial challenges they face, and their willingness to contribute toward the Anglican Communion’s work if funds become available.

The Archbishop of Canterbury concurred with a recommendation offered by Archbishop Richard Clarke, a delegate from the Church of Ireland, that any attempt to address this issue should make a clear distinction between provinces that cannot pay and provinces that will not pay.

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