BRAZIL, Mozambique, Angola, and, of course, Portugal — the four Portuguese-speaking countries where the Anglican Communion is represented embrace three continents. Each has a story that is unique and extraordinary.
For Brazil, it began with the establishment, in 1810, of English-speaking chaplaincies for British expats. Later, from 1889 onwards, missionaries from the Episcopal Church in the United States came to plant churches and continue spreading the gospel, beginning in the south of Brazil and moving northwards.
We know all too well that many of the missionary practices associated with imperial expansion justified slavery, racism, sexism, genocide, and institutionalised oppression. Also, the models of evangelisation which were employed sat uncomfortably with the idea that God was already present before anything and anyone.
Yet these Churches have developed, with Portuguese as the vehicle of inculturation and the language of relationship.
It has not been an easy path: missionaries from England and the United States had to learn much, and work hard to contextualise themselves in a new culture, language, and climate, in the midst of challenging political issues and economic challenges.
In their attempt to be faithful to the incarnational model of Christ, they sought to be of and with the people, particularly the most vulnerable.
In the words of the Brazilian liberation theologian Ruben Alves, reflecting on the incarnation: “The body is born of the marriage between flesh and words. When flesh and words make love, the body is born.”
This is the language of deep inculturation. Such engagement involves sustained processes of healing and liberation, not least of wrestling with the colonial legacy.
THE four Churches — the Lusitanian Church of Portugal (ILCAE), the Churches of Mozambique and Angola within the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, and the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (IEAB) — have a total membership of 500,000.
They remain, however, small minority Churches in their countries. It is thus especially important that they feel part of the family of Anglicanism, and know the support of being part of a global Communion.
That sense of belonging has been deepened in recent years by the formation of the Lusophone network, linking the four Churches. Solidarity, dialogue, and mutual learning lie at the heart of this “Communion within the Communion”. Key priorities are the strengthening of theological education, the development of theological and liturgical resources in Portuguese, and a profound commitment to environmental justice.
AT THE heart of their shared mission lies a common commitment to the holistic mission of God: to participating in the here-and-now; to bringing liberating life and political care for all; and to promoting practices that value the lives of all human beings and the planet. It is an outward-looking spirituality, directed towards the world in need. Jesus gathers us in worship to send us out.
The challenges facing the Church in the Portuguese-speaking countries concern inequality and poverty, and their ramifications, and are of a different order from those faced by the Churches in Britain. Yet, with a deep sense of joy, these minority Anglican Churches are growing as they respond to the challenge of making true, intentional disciples and co-workers of God’s will.
Their experience of successful inculturation, and their commitment to mutual learning, should provide an inspiration and a challenge to Churches in Britain and elsewhere.
Professor Paulo Ueti is a biblical scholar working for the Anglican Alliance as Latin American faciliator and theologian. He worships at the Cathedral of the Resurrection in the diocese of Brasilia.