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Listening: Anglican women reaffirm commitment to church's mission, unity
'Rebuilding and reconciling the world is central to our faith,' UNCSW delegates say

By Matthew Davies
3/4/2007
[Episcopal News Service]  A group of Anglican women, as an expression of their faithfulness to the church's mission, issued a statement March 3 reiterating their unequivocal commitment "to remaining always in 'communion' with and for one another," and emphasizing that "rebuilding and reconciling the world" is central to their faith.

The statement came as more than 80 Anglican women are meeting in New York February 26-March 9 for the 51st session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW).

The Anglican delegation is the largest non-governmental representation at the UNCSW, an annual meeting that brings thousands of women from around the world to New York, in part to address the challenges raised by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially Goal 3 which calls for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

"We remain resolute in our solidarity with one another and in our commitment, above all else, to pursue and fulfill God's mission in all we say and do," the statement said.

Citing the global tensions "so evident in our church today," the women refused to accept "that there is any one issue of difference or contention which can, or indeed would, ever cause us to break the unity as represented by our common baptism.

"Neither would we ever consider severing the deep and abiding bonds of affection which characterize our relationships as Anglican women."

The women noted that they had been challenged in their time together "by the desperately urgent issues of life and death faced by countless numbers of women and children in our communities."

In their conclusion, the women proclaimed: "This sisterhood of suffering is at the heart of our theology and our commitment to transforming the whole world through peace with justice. Rebuilding and reconciling the world is central to our faith."

The statement will be publicly presented by UNCSW delegate Jenny Te Paa at "Towards Effective Anglican Mission" (TEAM), a March 7-14 conference in Boksburg, South Africa, that will focus on the church's contribution to achieving the MDGs.

Te Paa is the ahorangi or dean of Te Rau Kahikatea (College of St. John the Evangelist) in Auckland, New Zealand.

"Over the past two years since Windsor the women of the Communion have I believe moved from bewilderment to outrage at the ways in which a small cabal of leaders have continued to insist that the issues exercising them alone over human sexuality are inevitably to preoccupy us as well," said Te Paa,  who was a member of the Lambeth Commission on Communion, which produced the Windsor Report. "What these leaders have failed to realize is that the priority focus for Anglican women always has been the pressing issues of life and death which are daily facing too many of the women and children of God's world -- how can we compare the needless horrific suffering of women and girls being brutally raped when collecting firewood or water with the endless hysteria of male leaders wanting to debate whether gay men have full humanity or not? How can we compare the daily horror of living with war, with death, with utter human futility with the missiological preferences of those who want to argue a fine line argument about whose method of biblical interpretation is best? Now I know the comparisons may be seen as very unfair but for global Anglican women the unrelenting determinations of any church leader to distract us from our primary mission agenda to heal God's world is what is also being seen not only as unfair but theologically reprehensible."

The statement, Te Paa said, "is intended as a clear, confident, Gospel-based, deeply pastoral reminder of how we see our ministry as being first and foremost among those who are the least among us. It was a statement which emerged with ease among the women gathered at the UN -- it was a statement which emerged with profound urgency for the work needing to be done and with deep love and respect for the Church to which we each proudly belong -- a Church which in spite of its occasional faltering still enables us to be prophetic witnesses to Christ's love and compassion in and for the world."

"This statement comes following a 'sacred space listening process' that we invited delegates to participate in," Nomfundo Walaza, an Anglican UNCSW delegate from South Africa, said in an email to the Anglican Communion's secretary general, the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon. "Women were given an opportunity to share their concerns about the consequences of the current tensions within the Communion and the effect that these have on their work and ministries."

Walaza said that the statement was "passionately received" by all Anglican UNCSW delegates during a working session on March 3 and that more than 80 women signed it.

Walaza asked Kearon to relay the statement to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams with a request that it be sent to the Communion's 38 Anglican Primates -- the Communion's presiding bishops, archbishops and moderators.

The effort to bring the women from all 38 provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion is that of the Office of the Anglican Observer at the United Nations and Anglican Women's Empowerment (AWE) -- an international grassroots movement founded in 2003 to use the power of women's voices and presence to pursue a humane agenda for women worldwide.

The delegates, selected by their Primates, attend nearly two weeks of meetings with the commission, an arm of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The delegation this year includes 10 teenage girls, aged 13 to 18, and the focus on this year's gathering is to create policies for member nations that will "eliminate all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child."

The full statement follows:

From the Anglican Women gathered at the 51st Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

March 3, 2007

In the name of God, Saviour, Redeemer, and Giver of Life.

We, the women of the Anglican Communion gathered in New York as the Anglican Consultative Council delegation to the 51st Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and as members of the International Anglican Women's Network representing the diversity of women from across the world-wide Anglican Communion, wish to reiterate our previously stated unequivocal commitment to remaining always in "communion" with and for one another.

We remain resolute in our solidarity with one another and in our commitment, above all else, to pursue and fulfill God's mission in all we say and do.

Given the global tensions so evident in our church today, we do not accept that there is any one issue of difference or contention which can, or indeed would, ever cause us to break the unity as represented by our common baptism. Neither would we ever consider severing the deep and abiding bonds of affection which characterize our relationships as Anglican women.

We have been challenged in our time together by the desperately urgent issues of life and death faced by countless numbers of women and children in our communities. As a diverse delegation, we prayerfully reflected on these needs.

We thus reaffirm the conclusion of the statement presented by our delegation to this year's Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women:

This sisterhood of suffering is at the heart of our theology and our commitment to transforming the whole world through peace with justice. Rebuilding and reconciling the world is central to our faith.

Amen.