In 1994, a group of Christ followers gathered in Limuru, Kenya to discuss their concern with the disparity between the voice of Anglican Churches in “developing nations” versus that of Western industrial nations. Archbishop Joseph Adetiloye expressed the need for partnership in support of the Christian faith, “We have learnt as a community of faith, that it is our duty to demonstrate the virtues of love and compassion towards those who humiliate or marginalize us, and to work for peace and reconciliation between peoples and nations as we anticipate his kingdom.” This powerful demonstration of a healthy balance in the Provinces of developing nations inspired an entire Global South Movement and meetings that would take place over the next several years in Kuala Lumpur, Egypt, Singapore and this year in Bangkok, Thailand.
This July, a team from the Anglican Church in North America was invited to join approximately 100 delegates from provinces in the Global South to engage inevangelism and discipleship. Members of the team included The Rt. Rev. Dr. Bill Atwood (Bishop of the International Diocese and GAFCON Ambassador), The Ven. Canon Dr. Jack Lumanog (Canon for Provincial and Global Mission), Mr. Stewart Wicker (President and Mission Director of the Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders) and The Rev. Canon Bill Jerdan (Executive Secretary, Reformed Episcopal Church Board of Foreign Missions).
“It was good to see the ongoing strength of commitment from a growing number of Provinces to the same principles that gave rise to the founding of the ACNA,” said Bishop Atwood. “There were many examples of ways in which the ACNA’s partnership was affirmed in conversation, presentations, and diplomatic protocols.”
Because the Global South is dispersed geographically, there has not been an automatic theological coherence. However, the Global Anglican Future Conference/Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (GAFCON/FCA), of which the ACNA is a full member, believes in gathering around theological agreement and connecting leaders of shared faith. According to Bishop Atwood, GAFCON/FCA’s witness and contributions to the meeting in Bangkok encouraged those who previously had reservations about the movement.
“Rather than being seen as groups in competition,” said Bishop Atwood, “the conversations in Bangkok have yielded a commitment to cooperation.”
During the meeting, there was an expressed need for Biblical faith to guide mission, theological training, leadership development and economic empowerment. With a combination of formal sessions and numerous opportunities for conversations outside of them, the outcomes were solid.
Bishop Atwood recalled an impactful conversation with Archbishop Deng of Sudan who shared his concern, not for his country’s extreme poverty, but for his neighboring nation – the Democratic Republic of Congo. Archbishop Deng explained how, as a young man, he had grown and sold tomatoes until he had enough money to buy cows. He then bred the cows until he could afford a marriage dowry to start a new life. Wanting to share that kind of “possibility thinking” with the Congolese, Archbishop Deng’s selfless and inspirational witness was moving.
Despite continued assaults on the Christian faith, Archbishop Bolly Lapok was encouraged by the spirit of partnership at the meeting. As the new Primate of Southeast Asia, Archbishop Lapok spoke of a tradition in the villages of his country called “nggat” (pronounced “nah-jah”), an invitation for visitors to join in the local dance. In this invitation, there is no concern over the visitor’s skill. Merely the act of joining in the dance means that the visitor belongs, even if he or she is not a skilled dancer. Archbishop Lapok explained, however, that theology is not like that. Our actions must be ordered by the Word of God.
“Much of the work that needs to be accomplished can happen through the mutual sharing of resources and building up of relationships,” said Canon Jack Lumanog. “As an Asian American, I was excited and encouraged to meet delegates from the Global South, and to see how the Gospel is flourishing in places all over the world.”
While Thailand is experiencing a growing Islamic presence, it is said that less than half of one percent of the population are Christian. In the face of this, Canon Jack emphasized the important role that Christians in the United States have in deploying missionaries to difficult places around the world, “One of our key responsibilities as an emerging province is to make sure that we are on mission here. As North American Christians, we must also support relief and development for our brothers and sisters throughout the world.”
To that end, Canon Bill Jerdan bookended his participation in the Bangkok meetings with opportunities to serve and build relationships. Prior to the meetings he led a mission trip to Nepal. He then concluded his stay in Bangkok, visiting with representatives of the Anglican Church in Thailand.
Similarly, Stewart Wicker, well regarded in the Anglican Communion as a leader of the international missionary society, capitalized on the meetings to build and strengthen relationships with Primates from the Global South on behalf of both the ACNA and SAMS USA.
Reflecting positively on the meetings, Bishop Atwood concluded, “Bangkok provided a wonderful opportunity to build partnership. While the Global South Group will continue its networking and pursuit of mission, GAFCON/FCA has been agreed upon as a mechanism for global renewal. Biblical leadership offers bright hope for tomorrow.”
PHOTO 1 CAPTION: Global South missions conference delegates, Bangkok, Thailand, July 2012
PHOTO 2 CAPTION: (From left to right) Canon Bill Jerdan, Bishop Bill Atwood, Canon Jack Lumanog and Mr. Stewart Wicker pictured at Christ Church in Bangkok, Thailand.