Director for Mission at the Anglican Communion Office (ACO), Canon John Kafwanka, welcomed the theme as “the best news for the Communion at this point in time.”
Mr Kafwanka explained that “It has become evident in many parts of the Communion that the challenge we face today in Christian discipleship is the divide between ‘professed faith’ and ‘lived faith’. This is mainly because we have not taken seriously the need to intentionally equip ourselves and our members in considering the implications of faith in Christ in every sphere of our life. The theme for next ACC meeting calls us back to that.”
In the past two years, the Anglican Witness group of Anglican leaders and mission practitioners has been advancing the centrality in the life and mission of the Church of equipping all God’s people for intentional discipleship, so that Anglicans and Episcopalians everywhere become intentional in considering how their faith bears on their everyday life experience.
Focus on intentional discipleship has come as a response to Christian challenges such as failure to connect faith and professional life, low commitment and impact on community life, lack of confidence to share personal faith and pass it to next generation, and decline in Church membership in some cases.
A video, “Being a Christian in everyday life” has been recently published to illustrate some of the current issues both in the Global South and North, and why intentional discipleship is critical.
The chair of the Anglican Witness core group, the Archbishop-elect of South East Asia, the Rt Revd Ng Moon Hing, said: “In this season of turbulence, intentional discipleship is the way of going forward. . . I hope and pray that ACC will promote a season of intentional discipleship in the Anglican Communion.”
Anglican Witness is gathering a variety of resources to help churches equip their members to be Christ’s credible witnesses in every sphere of their life. It aims to promote good practice from dioceses and parishes where an emphasis on discipleship is already being implemented.
The Diocese of West Malaysia in the Province of South East Asia has been implementing a special focus on discipleship, or Christian living, for the past six years and has now held a seminar for faith leaders to look back on and share good practice.
The focus on discipleship was adopted by the diocese as a response to some of the challenges faced by Anglicans in South East Asia today; such as lack of commitment to practice personal faith and Christian ethics in all spheres of life.
“There are many full-time Christians but part-time disciples; many full-time pastors but part-time disciples,” the Bishop of West Malaysia and Archbishop-Elect of South East Asia, the Rt Revd Ng Moon Hing, said.
The seminar on “The Real Life Disciple” was held at St George’s Church Penang, the oldest church in the Province of South East Asia. Discipleship training, which began in 2009, is now carried out in five of the major languages spoken in the diocese: English, Chinese, Tamil, Malay and Iban.
In the midst of religious extremism and secularism in a self-centered world, Archbishop Moon Hing believes that discipleship training is the way forward for the church in this century. “The final product of the church should be disciples of Christ, and not programmes and activities or church membership,” he said.
The archbishop said that a disciple was somebody “who can articulate the Gospel of Christ clearly; can feed himself spiritually with the word of God; one who prays earnestly and hears from God; one who worships and serves God in season and out of season irrespective of name, position, title, privileges, or monetary gain; one who goes for mission to communities which are less comfortable than his own.”
The seminar included workshops and sessions on ministry philosophy, ecclesiology, ministry strategy, training the laity, Bible study and the practical issues of discipleship training. The Revd Isak You, from SaRang Church in Seoul Korea, led two open evening sessions looking at issues arising from changing the focus on discipleship and ways of encouraging the members of congregation to active discipleship.
Seminar participants highlighted the outcomes that some congregations had achieved as a result of the focus on discipleship, including a tripling of church funding after one year of engagement in discipleship training; and a large number of people involved in full time ministry. One congregation of 70 people has 70 per cent of its members actively serving the church in various capacities, including mission and outreach works.
“We should seriously consider and do disciple-making as our legacy for coming generations,” Archbishop Moon Hing said in his final charge to the seminar participants. “Like in the early church and throughout the past centuries, Christianity survived only through the real disciples of Christ. Today we do not need to re-invent the wheel.
“The success of discipleship training is not in the programme, course work, materials used or certification. It is measured with what happens outside the small group training or church – the life and character of the Disciple,” he concluded.
Archbishop Ng Moon Hing is the chair of a core group of theAnglican Witness, a communion wide initiative bringing together mission leaders and practitioners, to equip believers to live out personal faith in their communities. It aims at mobilising Christians and gathering good practice stories from dioceses and parishes where emphasis on discipleship is already being implemented in various contexts.Anglican Witness is inviting Anglicans willing to share their own stories and resources to get in touch.
The Anglican Witness initiative, coordinated by the Anglican Communion Office, has produced a new video, Being a Christian in everyday life, to highlight current issues in churches in the Global South and North, with a view to a possible Communion-wide response through a focus on discipleship or Christian living.
In the video, Anglican Communion mission leaders and practitioners note challenges such as a failure to connect faith and professional life, a lack of confidence to share personal faith and pass it on to the next generation, low commitment, impact on community, and a decline in church membership.
“Many youths feel the Church does not respond to their needs so when they go out they find other agencies that seem to warm up to who they are,” says the Revd Robert Sihubwa, a youth pastor in the diocese of Lusaka in Zambia.
“[The Church] should not try to bring the Kingdom in through power and influence and authority, but . . . through our manner of life; so that people will look at us and say ‘I don’t know who those people are, I don’t even believe what they believe, but, man, they’ve got something,’” concludes the Revd Robert Hurkmans, Rector of St James and St Brendan, Port Colborne, Canada.
Focusing only on evangelism and not taking into consideration other aspects of God’s mission is like “eating meat every day and forgetting vegetables,” the Archbishop-elect of South East Asia, the Rt Revd Moon Hing, says in the video. “Discipleship is a balanced diet,” he concludes.
Being a Christian in everyday life features faith leaders from the Anglican Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Kenya, the Church of the Province of Central Africa, the Church of the Province of South East Asia, and the Anglican Church of South America.
The video is one of several resources gathered by Anglican Witness, an initiative bringing together Anglicans and Episcopalians engaged in evangelism and church growth, to equip believers to live out their faith as disciples of Jesus in their communities.
The Anglican Witness initiative aims at mobilising Christian leaders and gathering good practice stories from dioceses and parishes where emphasis on discipleship is already being implemented in various contexts.
Anglican Witness is inviting Anglicans willing to share their own stories and resources to get in touch.
Bishop Francis Loyo from the Diocese of Rokon, South Sudan shares his personal journey through hardships of civil war in Sudan, reunification with his family after six years and strength of his personal faith and service which got him elected as a bishop even without knowing it.
I was born premature, weak and almost dying. My mother was ill and without milk. This was the beginning of my journey to life. I was breast fed by different mothers in the village and so I believed I am their son.
After one year my father died leaving me in the care of my mother and my elder sister. Six years later my mother also passed away.
When my mother was dying she spoke to my sister who has just got married telling her: ‘Take him and care for him as your eldest child’.
I became elder sister’s first child and she took me to the village school. I was keen to learn and listened carefully since I knew my parents were not there anymore.
I did not have much demands I only relied on good will mothers and fathers who were kind to me.
What helped me was the African philosophy by Dr John Mbiti: “I am because we are and, since we are, therefore I am.” We share and we are concerned for one another in times of hardships and happiness.
‘I began learning and working hard’
My elder brother was involved in the second liberation of South Sudan. He took me to a church mission school in Juba. I went to the middle school in Juba and was cared for by uncles while my eldest brother went to fight in the bush.
My mother’s words still spoke to me as she used to take me to the Church. I remembered God is the only one and Christ is the saviour to us all and particularly to me as a person.
I enrolled in a British Tutorial College and did a correspondence [distance learning] course; I was awarded a Diploma in English and became a teacher in a secondary school.
In 1985 I was detained for 7 months without a charge and kept by the security forces as being a supporter of the Liberation movement. Later on I was released after the overthrow of the Sudanese president. I was given an amnesty and went back to teach.
After my release I received a letter from our Episcopal Church office that I won a scholarship for further studies at the Trinity College in Ghana.
I had already six children with my lovely wife Linda Loyo. I resigned from teaching and left for Ghana in 1986. I went with the civil war ongoing. My wife told me that God would care for them even if I was absent.
‘We all burst into tears and thanked God’
The six years of separation with my wife was not easy. I passed exams with the support from God himself because my mind was divided as I missed my young children.
My wife suffered running away from the enemies, facing hunger and lack of clean water and hiding in the bushes because of the war. I had lost contact with my family, and did not know their whereabouts.
“What a terrible calling of God? Why? What have I done? I thought I have escaped my challenges during my childhood but they were still following me”, I would often say to myself.
My prayer kept me alive and strong. If God has indeed called me, he should use me to the maximum and show me the right path.
In 1990 I won a scholarship again from the Christian Council of Ghana to go to Nairobi, Kenya for another three years. This time I decided to venture through Uganda and the South Sudan border where I had to pass the rebel controlled area to try to find my family.
When I entered the South Sudan territory I was met by the Sudan’s People Liberation Army/Movement and they thought I might have come to join them. I told them that I was here looking for my wife and children whom I left in Rokon.
They supported me by sending eight soldiers to go and search for my family. They reached the Rokon area and found my wife Linda and the children safe but in difficulty.
The soldiers brought them walking for 21 days to reach the border of Uganda where I met them. We all burst in tears and thanked God for His mercy and His kindness. We will always serve our God wherever He my want us to.
‘Am I the right person to lead as I am still on a long journey?’
I do not think that we have the straight answers, but God Himself knew exactly what to do with us.
After my theological training in 1993 I decided to go to the war torn areas around Rokon which was occupied by the Islamic forces of the north Sudan government
I worked with NGOs to help me to travel to the areas where most population were displaced and ran into the bushes. It was not easy going without food, water and shelter and the risk of meeting the Sudanese army.
The first time I reached Rokon area, I was in tears but not hungry. People lived as animals – no food or soap, no clothes or blankets, even no tools for cultivation. I decided to return to Nairobi and look for any organization that could support me with the items people needed.
The diocese was declared vacant because my bishop passed away in Juba in 1994, then I was made a deacon and later a priest. After six months I was elected as a bishop in a different cathedral Church in the Diocese of Maridi, Western Equatoria state.
I was in Kenya when I was elected and many people did not know me. I was not aware that I would become one of the bishops. I was not sure whether know whether I was the right person to lead as I was still on a long journey.
It is important that we can learn to be the disciples of Christ in the difficult times. Out of our hardship we bear fruits of Christ and peace to the people we serve. Humility must cover us wherever the challenges may be.
Mission-centred relationship and openness about the challenges faced in both the global north and global south of the Anglican Communion were the key needs identified in the Companion Link consultation involving 25 Anglican/Episcopalian leaders from 11 dioceses in Canada, Ghana, South Sudan and Tanzania that took place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on 14-17 May.
Companion or Church links are relationships among Anglican Communion churches that agree to work together to enhance their local and global mission by sharing resources, exchange visits, work and cultural experience. “Companion Link relationships should become the heartbeat of each diocese,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada pointed out at the Tanzania meeting.
Meanwhile, political instability in the country prevented Burundi Anglican leaders from two dioceses and their Primate from participating in the consultation. Those who gathered expressed profound sadness and solidarity with their counterparts and the whole nation, and prayed for peace and co-existence among Burundians and the ability to settle differences and remain united.
The delegates discussed Companion Link achievements and areas for improvement to enhance cooperation among companion dioceses and parishes. The meeting provided an opportunity for the dioceses to know more about each other’s work and develop even closer partnerships.
Diocesan bishops shared personal stories of mission experience lived out in their contexts and across Companion Links. Bishop Jane Alexander from the Diocese of Edmonton in Canada talked of a church partnership with the local government to end poverty and homelessness, and highlighted the diocese’s vision to deal with the challenge to keep youth and young people in the church beyond confirmation.
Bishop Wilson Kamani of the Diocese of Iba in South Sudan talked about the high illiteracy levels and the role of the church in providing education, pointing out that the first school in the area was started by the church in 2007. Bishop Kamani also highlighted the vision for self-sustainability where more locally educated people and infrastructure support the work of the diocese so there is less need to depend on support from outside.
Some of the areas identified for future cooperation included regular communication of good practice stories and information as well as the crucial role of personal visits and exchange of theology students and young people to break down misconceptions and learning from each other’s culture.
Speaking at the meeting, the Revd John Kafwanka, Director for Mission of the Anglican Communion Office, implored the delegates to look at Companion Link as a means of “serving together” as disciples of Jesus Christ. “Companion Link provides a platform for common witness to Christ’s love in God’s world, expressed through the common voice, vision, mission, and unity of purpose in a world that is so divided by sin,” he said.
Mr Kafwanka also pointed out: “The Five Marks of Mission provides an avenue in which Companion Links can be intentional in serving together as partners in mission, and as global disciples.”