African bishop, the Rt Revd Cleophas Lunga, wants the Church to step up its activity by putting its teaching into practice by living in harmony with each other and with nature.
Bishop Cleophas, is the Anglican Bishop of Matabeleland in Zimbabwe, a diocese in the western part of the country, bordering Zambia, South Africa, and Mozambique. He talked about his focus as a leader and his hopes for the future of the Anglican Communion.
How would you describe your role as a leader and what are your biggest priorities as a bishop?
“It’s an exciting job and it is a frustrating job. It is exciting to be a leader at this level because the scope for imagination and creativity is very wide. So, it’s exciting in that regard, that you have so much to do, but perhaps frustrating that there is very little time to be doing those things.”
“In my context, I always want those who work with me, and also those that we work amongst, to be able to look at the issues of food production. For me, food security is key in this part of the world, and especially with this whole climate change issue.” He said it is hard for people to understand how to tackle the environmental crisis. “I say to people, we can’t destroy the environment that God created. But if God is in us and is with us, we can still save the planet.”
What are the key issues that the Anglican Church needs to speak out about?
“As the Anglican Communion, as a worldwide church and with the leaders meeting at Lambeth, it will be critical that we look at the issues of what I would like to call ‘rehoming’. I believe that in our many different ways, we are displaced. You are displaced if you have been used to temperatures of 26 degrees each summer, and it starts to be 36 approaching 40 degrees. You are displaced if you are not where you’re supposed to be or have to leave your home.”
“If it isn’t climate that is displacing us, it is war. Poverty is also another factor that displaces us. So, all around the world, we are a displaced people. And therefore, we need to be looking at how we ‘rehome’. How do we go back home? How do we recreate in order to be in the same kind of environment that we have been familiar with?”
What’s the role of the church in all of this? And are there practical ways in which you see that happening already?
“I think the Archbishop of Canterbury has done an excellent job in teaching. And now we’re approaching nearly a decade of teaching about the issues that can help us live together in harmony. That means living in harmony with ourselves, with each other, and in harmony with nature. Yet the implementation in our various places of operation is what needs to be stepped up. Now we need to put into practice the teaching that we are we are talking about.”
“The church has always been the conscience, the voice of the world. And now we need to be in a situation where we are able to say, ‘Are we accessing our parliaments? Are we able to contribute together in a place where we can interface with the policymakers?’ I think policies can be complicated and difficult to understand. But unless churches interface with politicians, one on one, over a long period of time until the message is clear, it will be difficult for policymakers to really understand what the Church is trying to teach.”
“I think the conference will help in a very big way. We meet as different bishops from different contexts and different parts of the world, being obedient to the truth. We are different, but we are the same, in that we want to embody that truth. There is diversity of thought and diversity in very many ways, and yet, we are to be one people.
“When it eventually happens and we meet together, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we will begin to see the hand of God in all these things. We have been kept together through resilience, through patience, and through the communication we are using. But God is giving us an opportunity to actually see each other face to face at the conference, and I think this will be a wonderful opportunity.”