On being Anglican
Many of us grew up with grandparents who were born Anglican (or Methodist, or Catholic, or ...), lived their entire lives as Anglicans (or ...) and died as Anglicans (or ...). They probably also worked for the same company their entire working lives and were proud of the gold watch this commitment earned them.
I am struck, every time we present teenagers to the Bishop for Confirmation, at how diverse these young people’s denomination of origin is. This points to the increasing trend for our generation to use different criteria in choosing the church we commit to. We rarely hold any long term commitment to any one denomination, choosing rather to find a faith community that meets our specific needs at a specific time in our lives.
And so what draws us to be Anglican in 2010?
The short answer is probably the vision and mission of the local Anglican congregation (in our case Corpus Christi in Garsfontein), and we will remain involved for as long as this congregation meets our family needs ... and then we will move on. But what keeps us involved in the here and now, and does the focus of the wider Anglican denomination have any impact on our present involvement? Do we know what the focus of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa is?
At our recent Provincial Synod (the chief Governing body of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa) held in Benoni we spent substantial time reflecting on the nature of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa with all the wealth of its diversity from the three Portuguese speaking Dioceses in Angola and Mozambique, to the English language-oriented Dioceses stretching from Namibia through South Africa to Lesotho and Swaziland (and don’t forget the island of St Helena). Despite the breadth of this vast diversity, we were able to agree on a common vision and mission, along with eight key priority areas that we all need to address. This is an exciting step that I pray will unite us as Anglicans in Southern Africa in a new way. It has the potential to cement our identity and our willingness to identify with the Anglican Church beyond just our congregational involvement. We need to be part of a comprehensive response to the many inter-related social-economic challenges we face in the Southern African region. The nature of the Anglican Church is that we are Diocesan rather than congregational, and although we may worship with a specific group of people, we are called to align ourselves with other Anglicans in the region (ours is Pretoria, stretching through to Rustenburg and beyond in the West and to the Mpumalanga Provincial boundary in the East).
And so to be Anglican in Southern Africa is now to be aligned with the following; we are called to ACT:
Anchored in the love of Christ
Committed to God’s mission
Transformed by the Holy Spirit
To honour of God in worship that feeds and empowers us for faithful witness and service
To embody and proclaim the message of God’s redemptive hope and healing for people and creation
To grow communities of faith that form, inform and transform those who fellow Christ
Liturgical renewal for transformative worship
Health: HIV and AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis
Women and gender
Protection and nurture of children and young people
Together, we can make a valuable difference. The challenge for us at both Diocese and Parish level will be to align our own vision and mission with those of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. Going into 2011 we will be exploring how we as Corpus Christi can contribute to reaching this vision. Provincial Synod did not expect any “quick fix” solutions, but rather saw this new alignment as an ongoing process over the next couple of decades. The eight identified priorities are there to guide us over the next five years.
If you are interested in helping guide this process – or any of its aspects – at Parish level, please let me know.