Preparations are well underway for "Towards Effective Anglican Mission" (TEAM) -- a global conference on prophetic witness, social development and HIV and AIDS, set for March 7-14, 2007 in Gauteng, South Africa -- since Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town convened with national and international planning committee members October 5-6.
Four hundred representatives from each of the 38 provinces in the Anglican Communion will meet in a context of prayer and theology, to share experiences on issues related to the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), an eight-prong declaration that has at its core the eradication of extreme poverty by 2015.
Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori has asked Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold to lead the official Episcopal Church delegation. The other members are President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson; the Very Rev. Pascual Torres of the Diocese of Honduras; Laura Amendola, a youth representative from the Diocese of Minnesota; and the Rev. Canon Eugene Sutton of Washington National Cathedral.
A delegation of Episcopal bishops and staff from the Episcopal Church Center will also participate in the conference. Limited invitations are expected to be available later this year after the Provinces have responded to the initial invitations to send delegations. All primates, representatives from Anglican networks, numerous development organizations and a number of ecumenical guests have also been invited.
The Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, director for Peace and Justice Ministries and a TEAM planning committee member, said the recent meeting, which included representatives from Burundi, Central Africa, Southern Africa, Uganda, the United States, and Zambia, generated a lot of enthusiasm.
"Already, 200 of the 400 people to attend from around the Communion have accepted invitations," he said, "and the financial support of Episcopal Relief and Development, the Episcopal Church Center and the bishops of the Episcopal Church has been very encouraging."
More than $500,000 so far has been committed from around the Communion.
"The planners really have their eye on the ball to address poverty and the tragedy of AIDS," Grieves said. "The potential of a Communion-wide coordinated response to these related problems is very exciting to contemplate. The key will be in the follow up to the conference itself."
Also attending the planning meeting, Alexander Baumgarten, international policy analyst for the Office of Government Relations, said, "People of faith, both in the United States and around the world, have a critical role to play in building the moral will necessary to achieve the Millennium Development Goals."
Baumgarten noted that Anglicans worldwide have brought a great deal of energy to the MDGs, both in the church's own work in fighting poverty and disease, and in offering a public witness that holds governments accountable for their leadership role. "The TEAM conference provides an exciting opportunity to integrate these energies together so that the Communion's response to the tragedy of deadly poverty is as effective and coordinated as possible," he said.
Setting the tone for the conference, the opening Eucharist is expected to take place in a local township setting. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, will preach.
"I can see the drum majorettes meeting the delegates at the beginning of the township, the sound of drums leading us to the opening Eucharist venue; delegates getting out of the buses joining the procession, waving banners that bear the messages of hope to the residents," said Ndungane, who at a March 2001 meeting of Anglican Primates was charged with moving the Anglican Communion forward by addressing issues of poverty, trade, debt and HIV/AIDS.
"International development is not something that stands isolated from mission, but is integral to it," Williams said. "The TEAM meeting represents the best opportunity Anglicans will have in the coming year to put the extraordinary human resources of our Communion at the service of the most vulnerable in our world and our own local communities."
The planning committee's worship team has drawn resources for daily worship sessions from the rich, diverse cultural contexts within the Anglican Communion, a TEAM media release noted.
The program will include daily Bible study, worship, keynote addresses, workshops and group discussions, as well as a day of rest with worship at local congregations and possible project site visits.
"Working within the guidelines of the planning committee, the facilitation team will ensure that speakers and workshop presenters are adequately briefed, all plenary sessions are facilitated, daily discussions are prepared, a strategic framework is drafted with a toolkit, resolutions are formulated and a conference report is completed," said Delene Mark, chief executive officer of HOPE Africa (the social development arm of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa) and coordinator of TEAM.
Priorities for the eight-day conference will be to review the response of the Anglican Communion to the MDGs and analyze the impact of the goals on women and children; assess the first Pan-African Anglican Consultation on HIV and AIDS ('Boksburg 1'), which was held in August 2001 and share the African experience with the Anglican Communion; encourage opportunities for learning and transformation through dialogue among people with diverse experiences and perspectives; and encourage a prophetic articulation for an Anglican theology which supports witness and action for social justice.
The conference will also include an exposition of the Biblical principles and Gospel imperatives on the mission of the church in society.
"This conference is a much needed platform for Africans to explore strategies that will lead to a successful battle against HIV and AIDS, poverty and other social ills. Through dialogue we will be able to find solutions," said Mark.
Further information is available at the TEAM conference website.