Anglican Church of North America hosts East African Mission Partnership Festival
Last month Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) and the Anglican Diocese of New England (ADNE) held a 3-day East African Festival focusing on unity within the church to propel mission. The Most Rev. Jackson Ole Sapit, Archbishop of Kenya, visited the United States for the festival, and he was joined by Canon William Beasley, leader of the Gafcon Global Mission Partnership network and Director of the ACNA’s Greenhouse Movement, and the Rt. Rev. William Murdoch (“Bishop Bill”), Bishop of the Anglican Diocese in New England.
The festival brought together Sudanese, Kenyan, and Ugandan ministers from around New England to hear the Kenyan Archbishop give his address and engage them in conversation about the state of the church in Kenya and in New England. Archbishop Jackson called for unity in the church saying:
We do not have a white Christ and a black Christ. Christ is for all of us, and the church of Jesus Christ is a church for all, and we want to see this mission as a mission for Christ not for us as individuals, not for us as communities, not for us as segments but Christ for all of us.
He expanded on this by emphasising the importance of keeping the Word of God central to preaching and teaching:
God’s Word is what draws us together. God’s Word is what gives us life. God’s Word is what identifies with the churches. God’s Word and the commands of Christ is what establishes this community of faith.
Bishop Bill spoke on the issues facing the American church, and how it affects the next generation of East African Christians as the culture pushes the church into marginalization. Archbishop Jackson’s desire to bring the Church of Kenya into the centre of Kenya’s social development mirrors a desire that Bishop Bill has for the United States. He spoke on the importance of East African and American ministers praying and working together to bring the Christian voice to a new generation.
Canon William Beasley explained the condition of the church in the Chicago area amid a crisis in the city’s culture, ripped apart as it is by violence and racial division. In his appeal to stop putting up divisions between churches, but rather to come together and bring about change, he asked, “There are churches side by side on every corner, and what difference is it making?”. But change is beginning to happen – he has seen African-American, African, Hispanic, and Caucasian churches coming together in the name of Christ to plant small seeds which “have the power of the Kingdom of God to change the conversation” in their communities.
The following day a group met to address the difficulties facing church leadership and development in the East African churches located in the USA today. Questions arose such as how new communities, forged in the trial of cultural dissonance, can emerge with a common American identity while not losing the cultural heritage of their forefathers? Also, differences in the sacramental life of the church, ordinations, baptisms and confirmations, etc., between immigrant Anglicans in their homes of origin (particularly in East African countries like Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan) and in the United States, create gaps that can be hard to bridge.
The answer lies in developing a common understanding of our common mission for our common Lord in Jesus Christ. Archbishop Jackson said: “We are on a journey together.” The common journey that he refers to is what unites those from various backgrounds with a common purpose, making way for discussions that help us better focus on mission together despite our differences. As the Church of Kenya partners with the ACNA in bringing this unity of the faith to East African-American communities, it is evident that the common journey to heal wounds, unite factions, and express our faith in Jesus Christ transcends national borders. Gafcon provinces are leading the charge in the Communion to do just that as together they seek reconciliation, truth, and the transformation of people, communities, and nations through the Gospel of Jesus Christ.