Election sign of hope for united church

By on May 1, 2008

The Episcopal Church of Sudan, which recently elected Bishop Daniel Deng Bul of the diocese of Renk as its next primate (national archbishop), has been divided in recent years.

The split came about after Gabriel Roric Jur, bishop of Rumbek in south Sudan, refused to obey a church order that bishops must live in their dioceses. (He had been absent from the diocese for 10 years.) The former bishop, who was living in Khartoum and serving as Sudan’s deputy foreign minister, was also accused of helping the Muslim-backed government in its persecutions of Christians. After he was deposed in 2003, he posed as an archbishop and sold the church’s headquarters and also set up a rival church, the Reformed Episcopal Church of Sudan; he has since ordained and consecrated seven new bishops. (In early April, the Sudan Mirror newspaper reported that a court returned a guesthouse to the diocese after ruling that Bishop Roric had no authority to sell the property.)

At a recent meeting of leaders of various Sudanese churches in Juba, Sudan, Archbishop Deng’s election was cited as a sign of hope that the two churches could once again be united. He succeeds Archbishop Joseph Marona, who stepped down recently, two years ahead of schedule, due to ill health.

“We have a challenge ahead of us. We need to teach our people for unity and love,” said the archbishop, a Dinka from the Bor County in South Sudan, in remarks following his election. “We should not be divided along tribal lines. We are Christians. We should lead our people in peace.”

Archbishop Deng was scheduled to be enthroned as primate on April 20.

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