The eighth annual meeting of bishops from Canada and Africa has just taken place in Kenya, with the Bishop of Niagara, Michael Bird, suggesting the yearly encounter could act as a model for reconciliation across the Anglican Communion.
The meetings were initiated after the 2008 Lambeth Conference, amid divisions over issues of same-sex unions and larger questions of Scriptural interpretation. Interested African dioceses started theological correspondence with Canadian counterparts, first on human sexuality and then mission.
A fluid group of bishops from Canada, the U.S. and various African countries have now met in Cape Town, Accra, Dar es Salaam, Toronto, Coventry and Virginia in the United States. Together they seek to build common understanding and respect among parts of the Communion that have been in conflict.
“We focus on reconciliation and mission and what we agreed this time around, was to produce a testimony for Lambeth 2020,” said Bird. “We feel what we have been doing for eight years shows a way forward for the Communion and we hope the next Lambeth conference will help to generate more of these face to face conversations.”
Bird described the first meeting as somewhat guarded but within a day or so all the participants felt they were doing the right thing – guided by the Holy Spirit. Strong bonds have also been formed, he said: “I have developed a wonderful friendship with the Bishop in Ghana: he came to Canada and my wife and I went to visit his diocese. The wider Anglican Communion could learn a lot from the way, as a group, we have come together. There is so much misinformation on the internet, there really is no substitute for encountering someone face to face with an openness to the other, that allows us to listen and to come to understand the context in which others are ministering.”