25 July 2022

USPG conference hears of
newest Anglican province
in Mozambique and Angola

Bishop Vicente Msosa of Niassa speaking on the formation of the new Anglican Province of Mozambique and Angola at the USPG conference in High Leigh this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

The annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) heard this evening about interesting developments among USPG’S partner churches in Africa, including the formation of the newest province in the Anglican Communion.

Bishop Vicente Msosa of Niassa and both the secretary-general of USPG, the Revd Dr Duncan Dormor, and Fran Mate, USPG’s Regional Manager for Africa who was speaking on USPG’s work in Africa, spoke of the formation last year of the new church, the Igreja Anglicana de Moçambique e Angola (IAMA), the Anglican Church of Mozambique and Angola, which has become the 42nd province of the Anglican Communion.

Both Mozambique and Angola have Portuguese as their official language. Until last year, the Anglican Churches in the two countries were part of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. The new Portuguese-speaking Province was formed with the support of the Anglican Primate of Southern Africa, the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town.

‘A long-held dream is coming to fruition,’ Archbishop Thabo said at the time. ‘Wow, what a journey, and what a witness to the fruits of the Spirit and faithfulness of our Province’s fastest-growing dioceses.’

The formation of the new province involves four Anglican dioceses in the two countries being increased to 12.

The single diocese serving the whole of Angola became a fully-fledged diocese in 2019 after 16 years as a Missionary Diocese. It now becomes four dioceses: Luanda North, Luanda South, Uige, and Central and South of Angola.

In Mozambique, three existing dioceses are being reorganised to create five new Missionary Dioceses – Maciene, Inhambane, Pungue, Zambezia, and Tete – in addition to the smaller dioceses with the current names of Lebombo, Niassa and Nampula.

Bishop Vicente Carlos Matsinhe of Lebombo spoke this evening of the major and increasing problems facing Mozambique, including terrorist attacks, internal violence, drug trafficking, climate change and tropical storms, the confiscation of land without compensation and in favour of oil exploration companies, and people trafficking. When he became a bishop in 2017 at the age of 35, hHe was the youngest bishop of the Anglican Communion.

At the time of the formation of the new province, Carlos Matsinhe of Lebombo describbed it as ‘both a token of a growing witness of Anglicanism in the region of Southern Africa and a calling to have this church use its potential to minister God’s gifts to his people in the fullest manner.’

Bishop Carlos said then that the IAMA would ‘committedly hold hands together with the Anglican provinces of Africa and the worldwide Anglican Communion to proclaim the saving love and hope in Christ to a world living in fear of its future. It is the birth of a new family within our loved Communion.’

The Anglican Communion is now a family of 42 independent but interdependent autonomous national and regional churches in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. New Anglican Provinces, or Churches, are admitted into membership of the Anglican Communion by the Standing Committee, with the assent of two-thirds of the Primates of the Anglican Communion Primates.

The Episcopal / Anglican Province of Alexandria, which embraces ten countries across north Africa and the Horn of Africa, became the 41st Province of the Anglican Communion in 2020 year when it was carved out of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East.

The Church of Ceylon is also seeking official recognition as a Province of the Anglican Communion. Currently, the Church of Ceylon’s two dioceses in Sri Lanka are an ‘extra provincial’ church under the Metropolitical authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Igreja Anglicana de Moçambique e Angola (IAMA) or Anglican Church of Mozambique and Angola adopted its constitution and canons at a special synod, and was formally inaugurated on 24 September 2021, in an online teleconference including Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, then Secretary-General of the Anglican Consultative Council.

At the inauguration of the province, Bishop Carlos Matsinhe of Lebombo became the acting presiding bishop and Bishop André Soares of Angola is the acting dean of the province.

The Diocese of Lebombo is the oldest diocese in the province, and dates from 1893 a result of SPG/USPG missionary activity in Portuguese Mozambique in the 19th century. The diocesan cathedral is Saint Augustine’s Cathedral, Maciene. The largest city in the diocese is Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.

Anglicanism reached the Portuguese colony of Angola in 1923, due to a lay missionary Archibald Patterson, and after many internal struggles was helped to integrate into Anglican structures through contacts with SPG/USPG. The Diocese of Angola was created in 2003 from that of Lebombo; until 2021, its territory was all of Angola. The current bishop is André Soares. At some point during or after the diocesan reorganisations, this diocese is to become the Diocese of the Good Shepherd (Bom Pastor).

This evening’s programme also heard of USPG’s work in other African countries, including Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Basetsana Makena spoke by video link from the Diocese of Mpumalanga in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. She is a student at the University of South Africa and the President of the Anglican Students’ Federation of Southern Africa.

She is a feminist interested in matters of leadership and governance, and she hopes to bring about meaningful change in society. She spoke of women’s struggles in South Africa, and spoke movingly and graphically about people trafficking throughout southern Africa. It is a sad reflection of the current mean-minded attitudes in Britain that Basetsana was refused a visa, but she is joining us through a web link.

This year’s USPG Conference is focused on the theme of ‘Living Stones, Living Hope,’ which comes from I Peter, the epistle at the heart of this year’s Lambeth Conference, ‘God’s Church for God’s World,’ which begins later this week.

Bishop Carlos Matsinhe, the Presiding Bishop of IAMA, invited people to join in prayer as IAMA was inaugurated:

Faithful God of love,
the same yesterday, today and tomorrow:
Your protection and provision
over the years is indescribable.
We thank you for calling us to
your ministry of evangelisation and reconciliation
and for choosing IAMA for this ministry.
Bless the members of the Provincial Synod,
and all who join for the Inauguration of
the Anglican Church of Mozambique and Angola,
in your name,
because you live and reign
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever Amen. Amen.

The USPG conference in High Leigh continues tomorrow morning (26 July 2022).

Fran Mate, USPG Regional Manager for Africa, speaking on USPG’s work in Africa at the USPG conference in High Leigh this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

‘Living Stones, Living Hope’
… USPG conference
begins in High Leigh

The High Leigh Conference Centre at Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire … the venue for the USPG conference this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022; click on image for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

I am in High Leigh this week for this year’s conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), with the theme ‘Living Stones, Living Hope.’

The USPG conference in 2020 was planned for the Hayes Conference Centre in Swanwick, Derbyshire. But, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the conference was a ‘virtual’ event that year and again last year. This is the first time the conference has been a residential event since 2019, the last time I was at the High Leigh Conference Centre at Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire.

In the past, I have taken part in USPG conferences in High Leigh in 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, and in 2017, 2018 and 2019, and in Swanwick in 2008, 2010 and 2016, and online in 2020 and 2021.

This year, the planned rail strike on Wednesday threatens to curtail or limit some of the programme’s plans. Nevertheless, this year’s conference aims to create space for the USPG family to gather again, to celebrate and to be inspired by the mission activities of partner churches around the Anglican Communion and to hear about USPG’s unique contribution to the world church.

People from across the world church are in High Leigh to discuss the defining issues of our time, including:

• the climate crisis
• legacies of slavery
• youth participation in the church
• gender injustice
• the future of theological education

The conference is taking place immediately ahead of the Lambeth Conference, which opens tomorrow (26 July) and continues until 8 August, the first time it has met since 2008. Additionally, the World Council of Churches’ Assembly takes place at the end of August.

In his editorial in Koinonia, USPG’s magazine, the Revd Dr Duncan Dormor, General Secretary of USPG, points out that these events ‘offer opportunities for churches across the Anglican Communion and further afield to connect with each other and reflect on the challenges of the past few years.’

He emphasises how it is ‘important for us as a USPG family to connect and reflect. After a couple of years with very few in-person events, it will be wonderful to meet with some of you again for the USPG conference …’

The theme of ‘Living Stones, Living Hope’ comes from I Peter, the epistle at the heart of this year’s Lambeth Conference. In his welcome to this week’s conference, Duncan Dormor says the ‘metaphor of the Christian community as living stones that make up the household of God reminds us not only that we are individuals within a wider community but also that we are each connected to Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of our faith.’

He continues: ‘Churches, as living stones, are most truly in Christ when they offer living hope. When they commit themselves to justice, peace-making and reconciliation. One example of this is the hope offered by Anglican provinces across Africa in raising awareness of climate change. Another is the Anglican Communion’s response to the crisis in Ukraine. The Iglesia Filipina Independiente’s service to indigenous communities in the Philippines is yet another example of the living hope brought by our partners. These initiatives will all be discussed in our conference sessions.’

He adds, ‘These days together offer us the opportunity to reflect on what it means for us to offer living hope, both as churches and as individuals.’

The speakers at this year’s conference are from across the world church. Clifton Need from Grenada, who spoke this afternoon, is a member of the Diocese of the Windward Islands in the Church in the Province of the West Indies. He is the Anglican Alliance’s Caribbean Facilitator, the Anglican Consultative Council’s Lay Member from the CPWI, and a convener of the Anglican Communion Youth Network.

Basetsana Makena, who is speaking later this evening, is from the Diocese of Mpumalanga in the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. She is a student at the University of South Africa and the President of the Anglican Students’ Federation of Southern Africa. Basetsana is a feminist interested in matters of leadership and governance, and she hopes to bring about meaningful change in society. It is a reflection of the current mean-minded attitudes in Britain that she was refused a visa, but she is joining us through a web link.

The Revd Suchitra Behera, who is speaking tomorrow morning, is a Freelance Development Consultant in the Church of Bangladesh, and she works voluntarily alongside her husband, Bishop Shourabh Pholia, in Barishal. She is passionate about women’s rights and is an advocate of women’s ordination. Suchitra has been a Country Representative for Tearfund in Bangladesh.

The Most Revd Rhee Timbang is joining the conference for the launch tomorrow afternoon of a new research report looking at human rights abuses in the Philippinesis. He is Obispo Maximo (or Primate) of the Philippine Independent Church since 2017 and is the Spiritual Head, Chief Pastor and Chief Executive Officer of the Church. He has chaired a number of fellowships, formations and movements that advocate for human rights, social justice and peace. They include the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, Pilgrims for Peace, One Voice and the Ecumenical Bishops Forum. .

The Venerable Dr Leslie Nathaniel has been the Archdeacon of the East and Germany with Northern Europe since 2019. His church roots are in the Church of South India (CSI), and he has been an officer for ecumenical affairs for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Württemberg and Interchange Adviser for people and resources with the Church Mission Society (CMS). He has worked with Archbishop Rowan Williams and Archbishop Justin Welby as International Ecumenical Secretary and European Secretary.

Our daily Bible studies each day are being led by the Right Revd K Reuben Mark, Deputy Moderator of the Church of South India. He has been the Bishop of Karimnagar, a predominantly rural, Dalit and tribal diocese in the South Indian state of Telangana, since 2015. Before that, he was a Professor in Homiletics (1995-2015) in the Andhra Christian Theological College, based in Hyderabad. He trained for the ministry in the United Theological College, Bangalore, where he also completed his Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Homiletics. He is president of the governing council of the United Theological College.

Each evening, there is entertainment from the Igorot dancers.

Praying with the World Church in
Ordinary Time: Monday 25 July 2022

Saint James the Great … an icon in the Chapel at Saint Columba’s House, Woking (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In the Calendar of the Church today, we celebrate Saint James the Apostle (25 July 2022). Later today, I hope to take part in the annual conference of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), which begins this afternoon in the High Leigh Conference Centre at Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire. This year’s conference has the theme ‘Living Stones, Living Hope.’

I am continuing my prayer diary each morning this week in this way:

1,Reading the Gospel reading of the morning;

2,a short reflections on the reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

Matthew 20: 20-28 (NRSVA):

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favour of him. 21 And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ 22 But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ 23 He said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’

24 When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26 It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.’

Today’s reflection:

The English name James comes from Italian Giacomo, a variant of Giacobo, which is derived from Iacobus in Latin and Ἰάκωβος in Greek. It is the same name as Jacob in the Hebrew Bible. In French, the name is Jacques, in Spanish it is Jaime, and in Catalan it is Jaume. Variations include Diego in Spanish, giving us San Diego and Santiago, and Diogo in Portuguese.

This Saint James, traditionally regarded as the first apostle to be martyred, is said to have been a son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of Saint John the Evangelist. He is also called Saint James the Great to distinguish him from Saint James, son of Alphaeus, and Saint James, the Brother of the Lord, or Saint James the Just.

His father Zebedee was a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, and probably lived in or near Bethsaida in present Galilee, perhaps in Capernaum. His mother Salome was one of the pious women who followed Christ and ‘ministered unto him of their substance.’ But James and John are also known as ‘the Sons of Thunder’ (see Mark 3: 17).

This Saint James is one of the first disciples. The Synoptic Gospels say James and John were with their father by the seashore when Christ called them to follow him (see Matthew 4: 21-22; Mark 1: 19-20). James was one of the three disciples, along with Saint Peter and Saint John, who witnesses to the Transfiguration, which we celebrate on Saturday 6 August.

Saint James and Saint John, or their mother, ask Christ to be seated on his right and left in his glory. They also want to call down fire on a Samaritan town, but they are rebuked for this (see Luke 9: 51-6).

The Acts of the Apostles records that Herod (probably Herod Agrippa) had Saint James executed by sword, making him the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament (see Acts 12: 1-2).

Saint James is linked with the Camino, a mediaeval pilgrimage that has become popular in recent decades with people seeking spiritual rootings that are relevant to the demands of modern life. The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain is the reputed burial place of Saint James the Great.

According to Spanish legends, Saint James spent time preaching in Iberia, but returned to Jerusalem after seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary on the bank of the Ebro River. One version says that after his death, his disciples shipped his body to the Iberian Peninsula, to be buried in what is now Santiago. Off the coast of Spain, a heavy storm hit the ship, and the body was lost in the ocean. After some time, however, it washed ashore undamaged, covered in scallops.

A second version of the legend says that after Saint James died his body was transported by a ship piloted by an angel, back to the Iberian Peninsula to be buried in Santiago. As the ship approached land, a wedding was taking place on the shore. The young groom was on horseback, and on seeing the ship approaching, his horse took fright and horse and rider were plunged into the sea. Through miraculous intervention, both horse and rider emerged from the water alive, covered in seashells.

Saint James became the patron saint of Spain, and Santiago de Compostela became the end point of the popular pilgrim route known as the Camino. The emblem of Saint James is the scallop, which has become a general symbol of pilgrims and pilgrimage. The name Santiago is a local Galician form of the late Latin name Sancti Iacobi, Saint James.

The history of the Camino de Santiago dates back to the early ninth century and the discovery of the tomb of Saint James in the year 814. Since then, Santiago de Compostela has been a destination for pilgrims from throughout Europe.

The Way of Saint James became one of the most important pilgrimages in the Middle Ages, alongside those to Rome and Jerusalem. With the Muslim occupation of Jerusalem and later during the Crusades, the Camino became a safe and popular alternative to pilgrimages to the Holy Land.

The flow of people along the Camino brought about a growth in the number of hostels and hospitals, churches, monasteries and abbeys along the pilgrim route.

The scallop shell has long been the symbol of the Camino de Santiago. Along the Camino, the shell is seen frequently on posts and signs to guide pilgrims, and the shell is commonly worn by pilgrims too. Most pilgrims receive a shell at the beginning of the journey and either sew it onto their clothes, wear it around their necks or keep it in their backpacks.

As I head off from Stony Stratford for London and then to Hoddesdon for the opening of this year’s USPG annual conference, I hope I am asking myself questions about where I am in the pilgrimage of life, what role am I playing in the Kingdom of God, and whether I am truly seeking to serve God’s kingdom rather than serving my own interests in life.

The silver reliquary in the crypt in Santago de Compostela is said to hold the relics of Saint James and two of his disciples (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘The Way Towards Healing,’ looking at the work for peace of the Churches in Korea. This theme was introduced yesterday by Shin Seung-min, National Council of Churches in Korea.

Monday 25 July (Saint James the Apostle):

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Today we give thanks for the life and works of St James the Apostle. May we follow Jesus’ call with the faith and conviction he showed.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org