Bishops from the 61 dioceses of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan have hosted a programme of in Province Lambeth Conference Bishops Conversations during November, ahead of their General Synod meeting in Juba. Around seventy bishops took part
The meetings were held to coincide with the wider series of Bishops’ Conversations, that have been happening online as part of the ‘listening phase’ of the Lambeth Conference, ahead of next year’s event in Canterbury.
Anglican Bishops across the world have been taking part in online Bishops’ Conversations every month since July 2021. This has included bishops in South Sudan, however, many haven’t been able to take part, due to unreliable access to the internet.
Hosted by the Primate of South Sudan, the Most Reverend Dr Justin Badi Arama, the programme was facilitated by Bishop Anthony Poggo – Adviser on Anglican Communion Affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury – and Eeva John from the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England.
Bishop Anthony is South Sudanese himself and the former Bishop of Kajo-Keji. Since 2009, Eeva John has had strong links with the Episcopal Church of South Sudan as a partner of The Episcopal University of South Sudan.
The two were joined by Canon Kofi deGraft-Johnson, General Secretary of CAPA – the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa – who began each day with some inspiring words of exhortation from 1 Peter. Bishops enjoyed sharing meals and having time for relaxed conversations.
During their one and a half days together, the Bishops learned about the Lambeth Conference Journey and heard from other parts of the Anglican Communion. They met in small groups for Bible Study and prayer, exploring the first letter of Peter and questions like: “What does this letter have to say about being called to be obedient to Jesus Christ?” and “What does it mean to be called to mutual love, out of darkness into light and to humble ourselves? And “What are the gifts and challenges that the Church in South Sudan faces about these things?”
Bishops talked about the gifts of resilience, faithfulness, perseverance, belief in the power of prayer and rejoicing through song – and the challenges of insecurity, tribalism, poverty, natural disaster and illiteracy.
Punctuated by worship, prayer and singing in different languages, the Bishops also reflected on themes of discipleship, of being salt and light in the world, and what it means to follow in the pattern of Christ’s leadership.
In their small groups, the Bishops discussed what messages they wanted to send to their fellow Bishops across the world. Each group composed a prayer that will be shared with the Bishops who will join the final online Bishops’ Conversations in December.
Reflecting on some of the highlights of the conversations, Archbishop Justin Badi said: “I am glad that our bishops have been able to join in the Lambeth Conference Conversations. It’s good for us to think and pray about some of the themes of the conference in preparation for next summer. We have enjoyed sharing and praying together and making space to hear from God. We look forward to joining our prayers and voices with our fellow bishops from around the Anglican Communion next year in Canterbury.”
Bishop Anthony Poggo, the Adviser to the Archbishop of Canterbury said: “It has been a privilege to be hosted by Archbishop Justin Badi and the bishops of South Sudan for this special programme of conversations. The Lambeth Conference is all about providing a space for bishops to meet, dialogue, pray and study the Bible. When it meets in person next year, it will be a wonderful celebration of what it means to be part of a global Anglican family. I am really excited about what the bishops from South Sudan will bring to the conversations.”
Eeva John, from The Archbishops’ Council said: “It’s been a blessing and a joy to be involved in facilitating the Bishops’ Conversations this week. The bishops of South Sudan have much to bring to the Anglican Communion: they bring gifts and challenges that will enrich the life of the wider church.”
The Lambeth Conference is planned for July 27 – 8th August 2022 and will be held at the University of Kent in Canterbury. The planning team are also working to enable some parts of the event to be available online. Every effort is being made to bring people together and hear all voices equally.