When Anglican unity looks like a press release

A few posts back, I said Anglican unity “looks” like a pineapple. But it looks like other things too.

Hopefully, you’ve been reading about the devastation in South Kordofan, Sudan, especially in the Nuba Mountain region, that has been going on for the last several weeks. What has struck me about the coverage is just how critical the church has been in publicizing what has been going on. The bishop of the region, Andudu Elnail, has given many interviews to the media. But all this is to be expected when disaster strikes a region. Of course the bishop would be speaking out for justice and peace.

But there was one development early on – when most of the world was ignoring the killing – that I think is significant. Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, issued a press release calling attention to the violence. (This is just one small part of Archbishop Williams’ work for peace in Sudan. I attended a press conference at Lambeth Palace last semester at which he spoke in great detail and showed a deep knowledge of the ins and outs of the conflicts in Sudan.) Because he has a much bigger megaphone than a bishop in Sudan, that press release garnered the attention of – and was quoted in – the news coverage of the event that finally began to emerge more than a week after the violence began.

I don’t want to overstate this – there were lots of people calling attention to the violence – but I think this is one more instance of Anglican unity. The relations between members of a church family that span the globe are being used to call attention to the need for peace. Sometimes Anglican unity is as simple as a press release.

Throughout the north-south conflict in Sudan, church members around the world have played an important role in ending the conflict. The Bush administration envoy who negotiated the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the war was John Danforth, an Episcopal priest. (And former senator and ambassador to the U.N….)

I’ve been thinking about this in Nigeria, where people are in a tense mood – kidnappings and random violence in the East, Islamic terrorism in the North. It’s not nearly at the level of the Nuba Mountains. But it is significant. How could Anglicans around the world contribute to the church’s witness for peace here?

Of course, Anglican unity isn’t a panacea for the world’s problems, as the ongoing violence shows. Let’s not overstate what it can do. But let’s recognize these moments of unity in the cause of peace as they occur and pray that there will be many more.

It is worth emphasizing how many of the news stories about the violence have quoted church representatives. When the going gets tough – and it is very tough in South Kordofan right now – it is the church that remains in place when there is no one else left.

Who says the church is irrelevant in the 21st century?

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