General Synod, ecumenical guests: ‘We must oppose nationalism’

Speakers come from Pakistan, Africa, SE Asia, and Germany

PHOTOGRAPHY BY MARK WOODWARD AND DANIEL EASTON

(left to right) The Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama; the Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, the Most Revd Humphrey Peters; and the Landesbischof of Hanover, Bishop Ralf Meister

(left to right) The Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama; the Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, the Most Revd Humphrey Peters; ...

THE Synod was addressed by three guests from the Anglican Communion, and a Bishop from the Evangelical Church in Germany.

The Moderator of the Church of Pakistan, the Most Revd Humphrey Peters, spoke of the decline in the number of Christians in his country, from 15 per cent in 1947, to three per cent today, and of the “constant struggle of the Church for its existence, survival, and identity”. He spoke of the presence of al-Qaeda, the headquarters of Islamic State next door in Afghanistan, and said that “this real hatred started with the influx of Afghan refugees in 1979.”

The “total environment” for religious minorities — legislation, politics, education, and the socio-economic aspect — was “not very supportive”, he said. He noted that minorities could not elect their own people to the Pakistani parliament, and that “nobody has given priority to Christians.”

He feared that the predicament of Christians in Iraq, Syria, and Palestine would be replicated in Pakistan. But there was a “ray of hope” in the area of interfaith efforts. He urged the C of E to “consider the weaker parts of the body that are struggling for their survival”.

The Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama, described how the work on “intentional discipleship” was taken seriously, including community work and government engagement. He also drew attention to concerns about Zimbabwe, where there had been an assassination attempt on the Zimbabwean President. The Church was praying for a “fair and free” election, he said, “and we are very hopeful that, with a change of leadership, things will change and the country will be rebuilt in terms of economy.”

He asked for the Church of England’s prayers, and that the Synod, while debating issues specific to it, would “think of us, outside your House”.

The Archbishop of South East Asia, the Most Revd Moon Hing, said in his address that, when he explained that he was going to the Church of England’s General Synod, he had been asked: “What sin have you made?” He was glad to be in the Mother Church. It took 12 hours to fly the length of his province, which had a population of 500 million; but most countries were less than one per cent Christian. Misinterpretation was “so common”, he reported. There was a need to “tread carefully”.

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And yet the Church was going strongly: every year, 10-12,000 members were added. His diocese of West Malaysia spanned 1000 by 600 miles. In 1988, his predecessor had returned from Lambeth and asked his clergy to come together under the Decade of Evangelism.

They had asked “What’s that?” and he had replied “I don’t know.” But they had decided to go to all PCCs and asked them to add evangelism to the agenda; to appoint a lay member to be evangelism co-ordinator; and to set aside a budget for it. From 1991 to 2000, data suggested, his diocese had grown by 12,000, or a church of 100 every month. They had learned to be intentional.

He is now chair of intentional evangelism for the Anglican Communion. He described a mango tree from which he gave fruit to friends and neighbours; if they consumed but did not plant, there would be no more fruit. He ended with a story about eating barbecued dog: there was a need to learn from mistakes, and be intentional. 

THE Landesbischof of Hanover, Bishop Ralf Meister, brought greetings from the Evangelical Church in Germany: “We are, and we will be, strong partners of the Church of England.” He spoke of “unpredictable times in national life in Europe and in the world”, including the “Brexit crisis”.

“The language of unity has, to some extent, been replaced by populism and nationalism; by separation rather than reunion. But as Christians we have to oppose these tendencies,” he said.

He also spoke of hope: “Our attitudes are not bound by the limits of the world, but set free by the wonder and presence of God.”

He concluded: “My generation started 40 years ago in a Church which was a strong, established, and broadly accepted religious institution. These days are gone in all European countries. . . But the Church is about more than statistics.” He quoted Martin Luther: “It is not up to us to maintain the Church.”


Read a report of every General Synod presentation and debate from York 2018, here

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