First, for those of you familiar with my past writings, you’ll understand that this is the wrong question to be asking me. (Wait, you asked it? How can it be wrong?)
But I understand the motivation behind the question. Here’s my best shot at an answer.
I’m going to Juba, Sudan to spend time at New Bishop Gwynne Theological College. They have a very good web site, which I will let speak for itself. The history section is particularly helpful.
The dean of Berkeley Divinity School, my academic home, was at Bishop Gwynne in March, visiting and exploring the idea of some kind of relationship between the two institutions. My visit is the next step in that process. I hope to spend as much time as possible with the students at Bishop Gwynne, many of whom were ordained during the civil war that prevented people from going to school and are now getting education to help them be more effective clergy.
In particular, I’m interested in how these future leaders of the church see their role and the church’s role in their country’s uncertain future. As I’ve noted, the Episcopal Church of Sudan has been an important witness and advocate for peace and reconciliation. In the U.S., we often talk about the intersection of religion and politics but these students and their church are living that intersection and taking great risks to do so.
I believe that an important way to build the unity for which Christ prayed is to emphasize story-listening, as opposed to just story-telling. Traditionally, however, people from the developing world in all walks of life – religious and not – have had very little opportunity to tell their stories. I intend to approach this trip as an exercise in story-listening and then share those stories as I am able when I return to the U.S.
Of course, I see my presence alone as one (very) small instance of that unity of the worldwide Body of Christ. I hope that both formally but primarily informally my fellow Anglican seminarians at Bishop Gwynne and I will be able to learn a little bit more about the particular context that shapes our respective future ministries and question what we have to learn from each other.
These are my plans. I well know that the best-laid plans have a way of being suddenly, shall we say, “transformed” upon contact with reality and I’m prepared (and excited) for that.
Beyond the links at the top of this post, there’s also this neat YouTube video of opening day:
Trevor and Tina Stubbs are missionaries helping oversee Bishop Gwynne and they have a blog. Robin Denney – a former YASC missionary – is now in Juba and affiliated with Bishop Gwynne. She has a blog as well.
Bishop Gwynne College is named after Llewellyn Henry Gwynne, one of the first Anglican missionaries in Sudan. The Dictionary of African Christian Biography has a good entry on him.