From Kalerwe to Winchester – One Church, One Mission [opinion]

Friday September 19, will remain a memorable day in my life as a day when the reality of the global Church in local mission and a local church in global mission was enacted in one event: the ordination and consecration to the office of Bishop in the Church of God and installation of Canon David Williams to be Bishop of Basingstoke.

My role in the service, together with Rt Rev Timothy Dakin, Bishop of Winchester and my former colleague in Church Mission Society, was presenting Canon Williams for ordination and consecration. I was invited by the Church of England to do this as one who has known David and his ministry well enough to vouch for his calling to the order of a bishop.

The act of ‘presentation’ is equivalent to the ‘act of God-parenting’ during baptism. David and I have partnered in ministry over the last eight years – in Kampala and Winchester. Christ Church Winchester, where David served as Vicar, partnered with St Nicholas Kalerwe Church of Uganda in a programme serving families and the community of Kalerwe (that has provided education for hundreds of children).

David has led clergy retreats in Kampala diocese and preached in All Saints Cathedral several times. I have preached at Christ Church Winchester many times and our two families have grown to be friends. I, therefore, count myself privileged for having been part of this moment – in David’s life and in the life of the Church of God, the Church of England and the Church of Uganda.

I should mention that among the clergy participating in the service are my fellow bishops from the Church of Uganda: the Rt Rev Hannington Mutebi, assistant bishop of Kampala the Rt Rev Cranmer Mugisha, Bishop of Muhabura Diocese and their spouses, as well as the Rev Fred and Mrs Mirika Kisitu, who serve as priest in charge of St Nicholas Kalerwe.

I cannot remember any more powerful moments when I experienced the coming together in one event the truth that the Church of God is one, global in scope and local in mission action, reflecting the one global mission of the Gospel incarnated in a community of believers, in a place and at a particular time (a local church) a Ugandan together with a Brit, presenting for ordination and consecration a Brit whose faith has some roots in East Africa to serve as a Bishop in England.

But this is surely what it ought to be always. It is what Jesus prayed for, which would distinguish his followers from the rest of the world: “that all may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me”. (John 17: 21).

It is what Apostle Paul imagined, in writing to the nascent Church in the Roman province of Galatia: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. (Galatians 3:28)

Sadly, this is not the picture that the Church presents to the world most of the time. Instead of being united in mission and ministry, irrespective of where we come from – our race, tribe or region, we are divided.

I am not speaking here about the denominational divisions – Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, Baptists and more. It is the fact that even in the same denomination, in the same local church, there are divisions based on class, tribe, race, gender, political party affiliation and more.

In my own church, Church of Uganda (Anglican), it has become the norm that bishops can only be installed in their tribal or regional areas even in the same region or tribal area, conflicts are rife along district and sometimes clan lines. The picture we see most often is a local church divided along worldly-sectarian lines. This ought not to be.

It is time to recover our true identity in Christ: one diverse community, united in Christ, serving him together in the one Gospel mission locally, wherever God has called us.

The author is a retired assistant bishop, Kampala Diocese.

Source : The Observer

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