Forum to Name Options for Engaging God's Global Mission of Reconciliation

Jul 15, 2003 11:50 PM EDT

Global dialogue will return to an historic space during General Convention 2003 as Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold hosts "The Presiding Bishop's Forum on Global Reconciliation" at St. Mark's Cathedral in Minneapolis on Thursday, July 31, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The purpose of the forum, according to Griswold, is to "lift the vision and perspective of the General Convention and the wider Episcopal Church beyond ourselves and our limited experiences and concerns within the United States." The forum will also offer practical "options, avenues and incarnational witnesses" for alleviating global suffering.

"I see the Forum on Global Reconciliation as an offering to the convention--giving us a deeper sense of both the challenges we face as global citizens and the enormous potential there is for us to make a positive contribution to the healing of our world as members of the Anglican Communion," said Griswold.

Meeting in a sacred space

The Global Reconciliation Forum will take place in the same locale where the first World Anglican Congress to be held outside Great Britain took place in 1954. "It is a sacred and historic place that played a pivotal role in raising global awareness in the Anglican Communion," said the Rev. Ian T. Douglas, professor of world mission and global Christianity at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is a member of the team assisting Griswold in planning the forum.

Douglas wrote about the significance of the 1954 Congress in his book, Fling Out the Banner: The National Church and the Foreign Mission of the Episcopal Church. What resulted from the Minneapolis Congress, according to Douglas, was nothing short of a "new understanding of the commonality" of the Anglican Communion.

"I was convinced that such an event as this Global Reconciliation Forum, held during a General Convention in Minneapolis, simply had to take place in the very room where global dialogue in the Anglican Communion received such a boost," said Douglas. "I am delighted that the Diocese of Minnesota has decided to play host to history again. There will again be a theme of global commonality in St. Mark's on July 31 as we attempt to look beyond ourselves and our country in understanding the realities of the wider world."

Reconciliation activists on the global stage

The two primary presenters at the forum are internationally acclaimed for their leadership in combating global suffering, especially that resulting from the HIV/AIDS pandemic and escalating debt in Third World countries.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of the Province of Southern Africa, successor to former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, is the foremost Anglican leader working to confront these issues. In 2001, Ndungane was asked by the primates of the Anglican Communion to develop a consensus report on the nature and scope of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. The purpose of the presentation was to report on progress made and persuade the Anglican leadership of the critical situation caused by the pandemic in Africa, to eliminate stigma and to call for the creation of a global Anglican response to HIV/AIDS.

The reaction to the HIV/AIDS ministries strategic planning process and the results it produced were striking, according to the Anglican Communion Office in London. In April 2002, Ndungane not only received praise and support from the primates of the Anglican Communion for his report but was also re-commissioned to continue leading the worldwide Communion in tackling the AIDS pandemic.

Ndungane has also declared the international debt crisis a "human rights emergency--a matter of life and death," in remarks made to the 2001 Primates Meeting in the United States. "Vast sums of money are pouring out of impoverished African countries into the coffers of those in the so-called first world,'" said Ndungane. "The direct result is that governments of impoverished countries have wholly inadequate funds to address basic human needs for food, clean water, health and education. Wealth is not trickling down from the rich to the poor, as people like to think. In order for us to effectively deal with the challenges of globalization, we need to work towards a world in which human values take precedence over material ones."

Also featured in the forum is Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute and Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development at Columbia University in New York. He is a special advisor to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on a group of poverty-alleviation initiatives called the "Millennium Development Goals." He also serves as an economic advisor to governments in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Asia and Africa. He became internationally known in the 1980s for advising these governments on economic reforms.

At a symposium at Episcopal Divinity School last year, Sachs estimated that one penny of every 10 dollars earned in the world's wealthiest nations would save 25,000 lives every day. "We can do this," he said. "We can do this for health, we can do this for education, we can do this for hunger, we can do this for access to clean water and sanitation--if the rich and the poor of the world will be partners."

Emerging leaders

The Global Reconciliation Forum will also introduce three emerging young leaders who have dedicated their lives to global reconciliation. "They are three young people who embody the can do' spirit of a new generation of church leaders," said Griswold. "They represent those many incarnational witnesses who can truly help us engage God's mission globally."

Presenting responses to the forum's major presentations will be:

--The Rev. Sabina Alkire, an Episcopal priest and Oxford-educated economist, former coordinator of the Culture and Poverty Learning Research Program for the World Bank and currently a researcher for the United Nations Commission on Human Security;

--Ranjit Matthews, current intern in the Office of the Anglican Observer at the United Nations and former assistant to the HIV/AIDS Office of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, where he was an organizer for HIV/AIDS youth activism in Cape Town; and

--Abagail Nelson, current director of Latin American Programs at Episcopal Relief and Development, who formerly worked with the government of Ecuador on its coastal management program.

The forum will be streamed live to the Internet through the General Convention Website at Complete webcast details will be announced during General Convention.

Because of limited seating in St. Mark's Cathedral, tickets will be required for admission. The free tickets will be available at General Convention at the Information Booth and the Diocese of Minnesota Exhibit. Shuttle buses will begin departing the Convention Center at 6:15 p.m. but the cathedral is also within walking distance of the Convention Center.

A reception will follow the event where forum guests can meet the presenters. A Service of Compline, presented each night of convention at 10:00 p.m. by the General Convention Young Adult Program, will have a theme of global reconciliation.