The strategies embodied in the Millennium Development Goals are the focus of an international conference titled "Towards Effective Anglican Mission." Known by its acronym TEAM, the week-long conference will welcome more than 350 Anglicans to Boksburg in South Africa, beginning with an opening Eucharist March 7 at All Souls Anglican Church in Tsakane.
In an interview with Episcopal News Service, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who is attending the conference as a keynote speaker, offers some perspectives about the gathering and the mission priorities for the Anglican Communion.
An audio stream of the interview is available at here.
Williams will be the preacher at TEAM's opening eucharist, which will be webcast live on March 7 at 5 p.m. local time (3 p.m. GMT, 10 a.m. EST) at the TEAM website.
The full text of Williams' interview follows.
ENS: What is the purpose of the Towards Effective Anglican Mission conference?
WILLIAMS: The Anglican Communion is involved in all kinds of ways across the globe in work moving towards development. Every Mothers' Union in every province is heavily involved in development work even if they don't call it that. Every Anglican Church across the world is involved in education. Pretty well every province is involved with struggling with HIV/AIDS.
In other words the Millennium Development Goals, about the eradication of poverty and disease are very high on the agenda. But the Anglican Church hasn't really worked very hard at coordinating all this so far. So what I think this week means is a chance to compare notes, to shape some strategy, and to think forward to make the best use of the resources we've got.
ENS: Why are the Millennium Development Goals such a good framework for this conference and for the Anglican Communion?
WILLIAMS: The Millennium Development Goals don't, of course, exhaust what Christians ought to be doing for their neighbors, but they do present us with the primary challenge of poverty.
Poverty is about powerlessness, it's about not having a voice. And the Christian gospel says that in Jesus Christ everyone has a voice potentially. Everybody has the possibility of making some difference in the circumstances of their life. Preaching the gospel is offering that power, the freedom.
ENS: Do you see this conference as an important opportunity for refocusing people's attention to the church's true mission?
WILLIAMS: The mission of the church is always authentic when it's focused on addressing these matters. I think it's very important that the Anglican Communion in the present time with a lot of instability and controversy should not lose sight of what it's there for. It's there for the gospel, it's there to give good news to the poor; and if that can be a focus coming out of this week that will be wonderful.
ENS: Why is the HIV/AIDS pandemic being given particular attention?
WILLIAMS: The HIV/AIDS pandemic, of course, in this country, in the part of the world is quite simply the major killer. It's something that not only takes away the lives of individuals, it undermines the lives of families, it undermines whole economies. If we're looking at poverty and depravation and disadvantage, HIV/AIDS is at the center of nearly all of it in this part of the world and that's why it has to be near the center of how we address the challenges.
ENS: Throughout your travels around the Anglican Communion, what do you see as the priorities right now?
WILLIAMS: One of the big priorities in the Communion is strengthening the church's role in education. There are many, many countries -- especially in Africa -- in post-trauma, post-conflict situations where the great need is stability, economic growth, and a kind of corporate self-confidence. Education is a part of that and in many areas the church is a uniquely positioned provider for that, really engaging the local communities, really bringing the values that are needed for responsible development.
ENS: What would you hope to see emerge from TEAM in terms of the delegates' following up on the conference?
WILLIAMS: I hope very much that the delegates to this conference will have a chance to build some networks here, strengthen existing networks, like the CAPA network -- the Council of the Anglican Provinces in Africa -- and the Anglicans in Development website network that we've launched from Lambeth Palace. I want those to be strengthened, better resourced, and I want to see people really giving priority to those things. There's plenty of chance to exchange stories and good experiences here, and the hope is that will then carry over into some good strategy.