‘What will we unite against?
What will we stand together for?
What will we not let come between us?’
These were the key questions posed to senior Anglican leaders by the Hon. Kay Sharon McConney, Minister of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology on the first full day of USPG’s triennial International Consultation in Barbados, 7-14 June.
With primates and other leaders from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean and Oceania the consultation is focusing on relationships between church and state across the Anglican Communion. Experiences vary greatly: for some discriminatory practices are commonplace, for others attempts are made to co-opt the influence of the church. For bishops and archbishops the issue of when and how to speak out, and when to remain silent is a fundamental one.
In the face of these dilemmas, McConney’s keynote opening address was striking for the way in which it mapped out a model of how church and state might work together as partners in a ‘co-creative mission’ united by a vision of shared concern for the welfare of the people they serve.
In particular, the Senator focused on how the church and state in Barbados must come together to tackle the challenges of caring for the growing aging population and raising the nation’s children ‘with humanity, in a digital age’.
A lifelong and deeply committed Anglican, Kay McConney went on to lay down a missional challenge to the church leaders assembled:
Do you know yourself and you story as a church well enough to know what to change?
The keynote address with its focus on the possibilities of fruitful cooperation (under the right conditions – a cooperative and benign state) contrasted powerfully with the bible study that preceded it.
There, reflecting on the Nazarene manifesto and the prophetic dimensions of Christ’s ministry, the Ven Rienze Perera spoke out of the experience of the Easter Day bombings in Sri Lanka, as well as the challenges faced by so many who are marginalised and disempowered. He drew a sharp distinction between theologies of power and domination and the liberating nature of the gospel message which ensures that ‘People who are “no people” get an identity because of Jesus’.
This juxtaposition heightened our collective awareness of the profound tensions inherent in the church/state relationship and of the essential role for discernment and prayer as the Church reaching out in mission seeks to tell its transforming story.