The recent international Mission Conference in South Africa (7-14 March 2007), under the broad theme ‘Towards Effective Anglican Mission (TEAM), attracted over 350 participants from around 56 countries, and representing more than 30 Provinces of the Anglican Communion. There was also a parallel-link programme of 43 young people from around the Communion meeting in the same venue.
This important mission conference was graced by six primates of the Anglican Communion, namely, Archbishop Njonkulu Ndungane of Southern Africa and host, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams (guest of honour), Archbishop Mauricio J. Andrade of Brazil, Archbishop Bernard A. Malango of Central Africa, Archbishop Nathaniel M. Uematsu of Japan, and Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA).
The Conference generated a great sense of partnership, solidarity, and fellowship among Anglican participants, and other invited guests outside the Communion. Participants were as diverse as the Communion itself and came from one end of the Pacific to the other, and from as far north of the globe to as far south. The conference was in a real sense a gathering of a ‘rainbow people of God’, to share diverse experiences and views, to encourage one another and to network on important social issues as “Anglicans United in Mission” (as was encapsulated by one of the banners). It was indeed for many an experience of what it means to be a ‘Communion in Mission’.
The conference had a wonderful rhythm of praise and worship led by various regional groups to mark the beginning and closure of each.
The TEAM Conference was organised in the context of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - the NU member countries’ minimum responses to the world’s challenges mostly affecting the less developed countries, and adopted in New York by the General Assembly in September 2000, as its as resolutions for the New Millennium.
2015 is the target date year by which most of the MDGs are set to be achieved. Therefore, the TEAM conference provided a plant form for the members churches of the Anglican Communion to share and review the activities and programmes being carried out as part their mission in the context of the MDGs. It was observed that while there was urgency to achieve the MDGs, emphasis should not be placed on quantity of results but should take into account the quality of the results achieved.
The choice of the venue of the conference (Boksburg, Johannesburg) was in sense to commemorate the earlier ‘First Pan African Anglican Consultation on HIV and AIDS’, which met in at the same venue in 2001. Archbishop Njogonhkulu Ndungane rightly called the TEAM conference ‘Boksburg II’. By the end of the Conference, it was felt that Boksburg III (without confining it to South Africa or Africa) would be inevitable in 2014, just before the target year for MDGs.
TEAM Conference therefore was also an opportunity to review and share experiences of the work that has been done around the Communion on HIV/AIDS since 2001. Along side workshops on some of the best practices and experiences shared from around the Communion, the Conference participants saw highlights of this work compiled on a DVD presented by Bishop Harry Bainbridge of Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD).
The conference attracted important and great speakers among them, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who preached at a very colourful and wonderful Opening Eucharist at All Souls Anglican Church, Tsakane, in Highveld Diocese. He also gave an exposition of the biblical principles and gospel imperatives on the mission of the Church in society.
Other speakers were the World Food Programme Deputy Director (Ms Sheila Sisulu), and Revd Michael Lapley from the Institute of Healing of Memories and himself a victim of a letter bomb by the former apartheid regime of South Africa. He gave a moving presentation on reconciliation and healing of memories, and emphasised the fact that ‘healing and reconciliation are part of Christian mission and have a biblical foundation.’
Professor Steve de Gruchy from the University of Kwa Zulu Natal, Mr. Salil Shetty, the UN Director of the Millennium campaign, and Bishop Nelson-Onweng Onono from Northern Uganda were other keynote speakers. Archbishop Njongonkulu set the scene with a very moving and inspiring opening and welcoming speech, urging the participants and the Church at large to unite “against poverty” and “seize this opportunity by blowing fresh winds of change into the lungs of the Anglican Communion.” Referring to millions of people under the yoke of poverty and disease, Archbishop Ngungane urged, “We hear, and we must respond, because we serve God who hears the cries of the oppressed.”
The Anglican UN Observer, Helen Wangusa, challenged the Church to develop a sound biblical and theological basis for implementing and analysing the MDGs. Ms Wangusa said that the Church must develop research and monitoring system that is theologically sound in order to make our respective governments accountable in the use and administration of national resources, and for the benefit of all and especially the disadvantaged majority, and in caring for the environment.
The Five Marks of Mission as espoused by the worldwide Anglican Communion understands mission in a (w)holistic sense, and therefore most Anglican Provinces and Dioceses understood MDGs as part of their mission work. In fact the conference felt that the Church must aim higher than the MDGs, and should challenge the governments to do the same.
The Conference also heard that the Church has often under-estimated her ability and potential as a transforming agent. This conference therefore provided an opportunity for the participants to learn what the Church is doing throughout the Communion and the potential there is in working as a “Communion in Mission”.
By John K. Kafwanka
Mission & Evangelism Research/Project Officer – ACO
MDGs in Brief