Editorial: "Death Has Come to Reveal the Faith": Studies and Stories of Sudanese Anglicanism

Article excerpt

Several years ago in the context of a clergy retreat I was asked by the leader to close my eyes and imagine "the typical Anglican." Dutifully, I obeyed. When we had opened our eyes the leader asked for our reactions. Most, it seems had envisioned an older woman, more than likely a member of the altar guild. He agreed with us that we were probably correct in identifying the representative Anglican as a woman. He then informed us that that woman was probably in her 20s or 30s, had several children, made a living by subsistence farming and was more likely to live in Nigeria, Uganda or the Sudan than in Canada, the United States or Great Britain. In a recently published work Professor Andrew Walls reflects on this same reality-the importance of "the demographic shift in the centre of gravity of the Christian world", a shift which has seen the European and North American churches decrease in numbers and the churches of the south come to make up more than half of the world's Christians. According to Walls this is significant since,

The Christian typical of the twenty-first century will be shaped by the events and processes that take place in the southern continents, and above all by those that take place in Africa... the things by which people recognise and judge what Christianity is will (for good or ill) increasingly be determined in Africa. The characteristic doctrines, the liturgy, the ethical codes, the social applications of the faith will increasingly he those prominent in Africa. New agendas for theology will appear in Africa.1

This issue focuses our attention on one part of the emerging and growing Anglican family in Africa, the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, possibly the fastest growing church in the Anglican Communion, probably the church which has experienced more suffering and death than any other. The day that I sat down to write this editorial I received an e-mail message, a press release from the American State Department. The subject line of the e-mail read "US suspends discussions with Khartoum." The heading of the press release itself read, "Aerial Attacks of Feeding Station in Sudan." It seems that on 20 February 2002, a helicopter of the government of the Sudan fired between six and eight rockets into a World Food Program station killing seventeen people and wounding many. I might have been shocked, but I receive this kind of information on a regular basis. The Catholic Information service reported in November of 2001 that up to that date the government of the Sudan had launched 119 air attacks on civilian targets in the Southern Sudan: refugee camps, hospitals, schools, churches. Many of the people killed and wounded in these attacks are our sisters and brothers. …