[Episcopal News Service – Canterbury, England] The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light entrenched global inequities and inequities, a fact that is likely to reshape and challenge the way churches engage in partnerships in the 21st century.
This reality came to the fore of Bishop Pradeep Samantaroy of the Diocese of Amritsar in the Church of North India at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when the world went into lockdown. As he began to get to know his own neighbors in his immediate community, he was reminded that “God entrusts us with the love of our neighbors”.
Extending the “love thy neighbour” feeling into partner relationships can lead to “discovering your neighbor in unexpected places,” Samantaroy said.
He was one of three Anglican and Episcopal bishops to speak about partnerships during a July 30 seminar at the Lambeth Conference on “Models of Partnership”, which explored the promise of mutual and interdependent partnerships between churches and dioceses. worldwide. The other bishops were Bishop of Texas Andy Doyle and Bishop of Southwark Christopher Chessun of the Church of England.
Lambeth Seminars focus on building relationships across the Anglican Communion, highlighting a variety of voices and providing an opportunity to learn about ministry in context while discussing issues impacting the church life and the world today. Seminars will be held on designated days throughout the conference. In addition to “Partnership Models,” topics covered on July 30 included “Thy Kingdom Come: A Life-Changing Prayer for Evangelism,” “Leading with Integrity with Those of Other Faiths,” and “Missionary Training with young people”.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the poor have become poorer and the most vulnerable and desperate have suffered disproportionately, said the Reverend Stephanie Spellers, Canon of the Presiding Bishop for Evangelism, reconciliation and the care of creation. Spellers co-chaired and facilitated the “Models of Partnership” seminar alongside Archbishop Nick Drayson, Primate of the Anglican Church of South America and Bishop of Northern Argentina.
“We knew that these injustices and inequalities were part of our life together, but COVID-19 has brought to light the pain that surrounds us. Lives at stake, in plain sight,” Spellers said. Now more than ever, she added, it is important to ask, “How do we walk together, partner together, pursue together the will and the kingdom of God?
It was an important topic before, she said, and “one that feels more urgent now that we’re here together. [There is] many things that separate us: geography, economics, theology, ideology. These differences can separate us, prevent us from making common cause in the gospel. Pray they don’t.
One way to approach partnership beyond differences is through the heart, as Samantaroy explained.
“Partnership is a matter of the heart. We are human beings and have a mind and sometimes we get influenced by our thinking and forget that in our heart we feel something different. The language of the heart is huge,” he said.
If you approach partnership from the heart, “partnership has no boundaries”.
In England, the approach has always been to look after members of your immediate parish community, said Chessun, who has been Bishop of Southwark since 2011. But when he came to the community it was quite “stovepipe”.
He recommended talking well about each other and modeling that behavior in all structures and relationships. “Accepting diversity is not always easy. A good disagreement is the result of understanding [and] assuming the other person’s good faith even if they don’t presume yours.
Doyle sees partnership as an invitation to be holy and as a form of “living out the mission given to us as a form of God’s love in the world. And in no way do we aspire to holiness,” he said. “And considering all of that, that life, I believe, is lived in kinship.”
This “kinship” is partly based on the idea of welcoming foreigners.
“I don’t do kinship… Kinship is given as a gift from God who is Trinity,” he said. “And the perfect love of God in the spirit pours out to all people in creation and that kind of heavy theology gives us an understanding that there are no limits to the vision of Jesus in the world. “