I am a reader of The Economist, the British news magazine that has, to my knowledge, more foreign correspondents than any print news organization in the world. The Economist covers events even after they drop from the headlines in the rest of the world’s media.
But even it can falter. I thought about that while reading about the primate of Canada’s recent visit to the Church in Melanesia. Part of the visit included time in the Solomon Islands with Fr. Sam Ata, an Anglican priest and chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Solomons.
Let’s be honest. How many of us are aware of the ongoing process of recovery in the Solomons following the violence between 1998 and 2003? How many of us know that this TRC process has been ongoing for some time? Not even The Economist has been giving much play to it.
And yet—there is the church. When the eyes of the world are turned away, when even sister and brother Anglicans are focused on a proposed covenant, the sex (or sex life) of its bishops, or any of a myriad of other things, the local church in the Solomon Islands remains an instrument of peace and reconciliation.
It reminds me of the church in South Sudan, a place where I’ve spent some time. There, in intensely poor and incredibly remote parts of the country, the government’s remit does not run. But the church is still there, running schools, building clinics, feeding refugees, and much else; “preaching good news of peace” (Acts 10:36) in other words. When society is on the verge of breakdown because of inter-tribal violence, who does the government ask to negotiate peace? The church. No one else has the authority, the stature, or the ability to do so.
So, as at least part of the attention of the church is occupied by a defeated covenant, a proposal for “radical hospitality,” and conversation (dare I call it naval gazing?) about church structure, spare a thought for our sisters and brothers in Christ around the world on the frontlines of some of the most difficult and intractable situations imaginable.
And then ask yourself: how can we support our fellow members in the one body of Jesus Christ?