Over the past year, five Canadian and five African dioceses have engaged in a diocese-to-diocese theological dialogue on matters relating to human sexuality and to mission.
Our diocese has been trading thoughts and ideas by exchanging academic papers and letters with the Diocese of Southern Malawi
. The two D of NW members charged with this ongoing correspondence are Steve Schuh and Markus Duenzkofer.
At St. Andrew's House in London, England February 24, 25 and 26 the bishops of these dioceses met in person. In a context grounded by common prayer and the eucharist they reflected together on local experiences of mission and the challenges facing the Church in the diverse contexts of the two geographical locations. Though the initial exchange of papers and letters had been related in most cases to matters of human sexuality and homosexuality in particular, the face to face theological conversation necessarily deepened to explore the relationships between the Gospel and the many cultural realities in which the Church is called to mission.
The bishops met in plenary sessions and in dialogue pairs. Bishop Michael Ingham was paired with Bishop James Tengatenga of the Diocese of Southern Malawi. Bishop Tengatenga decided to send a representative, the Reverend Stephen Sikoti to the dialogue as he felt that as Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council (elected May 8, 2009) it might not be appropriate for him to be directly involved in the dialogue.
In reporting on the dialogue event to Diocesan Council on March 9th, 2010, Bishop Michael referred to a paper presented by the Right Reverend Mdimi Mhogolo, Bishop of the Diocese of Central Tanganyika
, Tanzania. This diocese serves 500,000 members in 260 parishes. The majority of these half million people have no running water or electricity and exist by subsistence farming. Their principal concerns are the daily pursuit of adequate food for themselves and their families and providing presentable uniforms for their children to wear to school. They have no idea what the Anglican Communion is and if they were told about the issues that divide the Anglican Communion, the majority of these divisive issues would have them covering their faces.
One of the highlights of the three days was a visit from the Most Reverend Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Archbishop had just returned from Israel and Palestine where he had a similar experience in dialogue with representatives of Judaism. While in the Middle East, the Archbishop visited the Anglican hospital in Gaza, Al Ahli
which is closely associated with the Diocese of Jerusalem. This is the same hospital that the Diocese of New Westminster supported through a special fundraising
The Archbishop of Canterbury speaking about his trip to Palestine
campaign last year. The Archbishop told of a very powerful experience of Celebrating the Eucharist in the rubble of the hospital chapel that had been destroyed by Israeli artillery while representatives of HAMAS assigned for his protection waited outside the building.
The Archbishop reminded everyone at the meeting that “genuine dialogue begins when debate ends.”
These dialogues were not and cannot be about trying to make someone change their position, but they are about working together to better understand the fullness of our stories, affirmations and commitments. To do so will require that the bishops continue to meet, converse and commit to this holy listening and honest, respectful speech with openness and prayerful thanksgiving for the gift that is the other.
Bishop Michael reported that the staff of St. Andrew’s House were tremendously hospitable and the entire experience was very pleasant. Very special thanks go out to the facilitator and driving force behind this process, the Reverend Dr. Isaac Kawuki-Mukasa, Coordinator for Dialogue, Faith, Worship and Ministry for the Anglican Church of Canada.
Bishop Michael Ingham with dialogue partner the Rev. Stephen Sikoti representing the Bishop of Southern Malawi, Bishop James Tengatenga