[ENS, Dar es Salaam] Theological education in the Anglican Communion, as well as issues of poverty eradication, economic justice and environmental ncerns — as embodied in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — were central to the Primates’ discussions February 17 as they met for their third day of sessions near Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The morning session was devoted to an extended conversation about theological education, which the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has upheld as a priority for the Anglican Communion.
Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Southern Africa and Hellen Wangusa, Anglican Observer at the United Nations, who had delivered afternoon presentations to the Primates on the MDGs, briefed the media on the day’s proceedings.
Adopted by the world’s leaders in 2000, the eight MDGs’ core objective is to halve the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2015, but also include goals to achieve environmental sustainability and to address preventable disease.
For its part, the Episcopal Church has adopted as its chief mission priority for the next three years peace and justice work framed by the MDGS, which Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori affirms as central in her own ministry.
Wangusa was officially installed February 4 as the new Anglican Observer at the United Nations during the 11 a.m. Eucharist at New York’s Trinity Church, Wall Street.
She will be installed again on February 18, this time in the presence of the Primates, duringa Solemn Eucharist in the Anglican Cathedral in Zanzibar.
In addressing the media, Wangusa said that she had the honor of sitting in the Primates’ Meeting for the first time and offering an overview of the goals and an analysis of the related issues. She said she is encouraged by the depth of the Primates’ interest around the MDGs.
She explained that the UN is a “norm-setting institution,” but that “it won’t come to a country and force it to implement what it agreed. So there is that challenge, that limitation. Even if it doesn’t help us eliminate poverty, it creates the forum for us to engage” in the issues that face the Communion.
Wangusa insisted that the world has to go beyond the threshold the MDGs are providing.
“Anglicans have a mandate that tells us that if one part of the body is sick, the rest of the body is sick,” Wangusa told the media. “So what we are saying at this meeting is a half is not enough, we have to go beyond a half.”
“Same thing on hunger. When Christ got people together, and they got hungry, he said what do we have? He didn’t feed half or a fraction, he fed all of them — we cannot say this half eats and this half doesn’t.”
Ndungane told media that the Primates had engaged in a lively afternoon discussion on economic justice. “In our world there is global apartheid where the rich are getting â€˜stinkingly’ rich and the poor are getting desperately poor,” he said. “We know that there are more than 800 million people living in poverty in the world … this is not only immoral, it is a sin, it is evil.”
He predicted that by 2010, there will be 50 million orphans in Africa as a consequence of war, famine, droughts, and preventable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.
At a March 2001 meeting of Anglican Primates, Ndungane was charged with moving the Anglican Communion forward by addressing issues of poverty, trade, debt and HIV/AIDS.
In his February 17 presentation, he set forth challenges of how Anglicans can respond “to make the world a better place for all … to ensure that there is sustainable livelihood for everyone so that every human being” has access to clean water, food, and healthcare.
He shared details about “Towards Effective Anglican Mission” (TEAM), a global conference on prophetic witness, social development and HIV/AIDS, set for March 7-14, in Boxburg, South Africa. The conference, Ndungane said, is “seeking to discover strategies of how Anglicans can contribute to make the world a better place for everyone,” through advocacy and commitment to the MDGs.
Williams has said that the TEAM conference “represents the best opportunity Anglicans will have in the coming year to put the extraordinary human resources of our Communion at the service of the most vulnerable in our world and our own local communities.”
Wangusa also spoke about the Anglican Women’s Empowerment, which is in its third cycle of participating in the United Nations Commission of the Status of Women (UNCSW), which will begin meeting in New York February 23.
In its 51st session this year, the UNCSW will focus on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.
In highlighting issues of trade injustice, Wangusa said: “Revisit the trade rules, revisit the trade practices and ensure that whatever we trade in provides benefits that are equitably distributed.”
Underscoring environmental concerns and issues of water and energy, Wangusa asked, “if water is more expensive than Coke, what shall the poor drink, because water used to be a global common good?”
“So it’s our role as Anglicans to revise that because it’s an anomaly — it deprives people of even the basics — and make sure that those entities then go back to producing that which maintains the dignity of life,” she said. “In short, the MDGs are a starting point for debate, for discussion, for analysis, but more than that for policy review and reversal so that everybody lives in a life that is dignified.”
Wangusa accepted the call to be the next Anglican Observer at the United Nations in October 2006 and officially took office on January 1, 2007. She serves as a staff member of the London Anglican Communion Office with her office based at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City, in close proximity to the United Nations.
In representing the Anglican Communion at the United Nations, Wangusa has a responsibility to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the secretary general of the Anglican Communion to provide regular briefings and a flow of accurate information on critical issues that come before the UN General Assembly.
In other business, Canon James Rosenthal, communications director for the Anglican Communion, said that the Primates had continued conversations about the Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report.
Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Australia was unable to attend the media briefing because he has been named a member of the Primates’ drafting committee that is charged with producing the communiquÃ©.
On Sunday, February 18, the Primates will travel by boat to Zanzibar for a Solemn Eucharist in the Anglican Cathedral — where the altar is built over an old slave trading post — as the people of Zanzibar commemorate the 100th anniversary of the last slave sold on the island and the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery in the British Empire.
— Matthew Davies is international correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.