Relationships change everything.

The media often have a perception of the church that allows through their filter only anything that has to do with sex or conflict. The 2008 Lambeth Conference involved a load of relationship building that didn’t press the buttons of the people looking only for conflict. It is hard – nigh impossible – to measure relationships.

In the last thirty years Anglican dioceses have established links with other dioceses in parts of the world where the culture, language and church is different. For the last eleven years of my ministry in the Diocese of Southwark we were closely linked to dioceses in Zimbabwe. Bradford is linked with Southwestern Virginia in the USA and Sudan.

A three-way link is a gift. Looking at developments in the American diocese though the lens of an English diocese is interesting enough. But, to look through the eyes and listen through the ears of Sudanese Anglicans provides a whole different challenge.

Yesterday I had a long conversation with Bishop Andudu who has been forced into exile from his Diocese of Kadugli in Sudan. While he was having medical treatment in the USA his home was destroyed, his cathedral torched, his office looted, his people attacked and dispersed. Andudu cannot now return to his people, so is ministering to his people who are exiled in a variety of places including Southern Sudan, Egypt, the USA and the UK.

While Bishop Andudu is here in the USA the Archdeacon of Bradford is in Sudan with another of the Bradford clergy.

The Youth Council here in Roanoke has raised $35,000 to fund 142,000 food packs for Sudanese refugees who have been expelled from their homes since the conflicts and ultimate separation of Southern Sudan from the north. This evening we will help them pack them, ready for transport to where they are needed. Who said all young people are selfish narcissists?

The young people have with them a remarkable man with a remarkable story to tell. He is a Sudanese rapper (former child soldier) called Emmanuel Jal and he has been brought over from London to work with the young people here in Roanoke. I am writing this as he has 200 teenagers on their feet dancing. Even Bishop Andudu is dancing. I am sparing everyone’s embarrassment and sitting at the back writing…

This is the Anglican Communion. This is what the media misses when thinking, writing or broadcasting about the Anglican Church. Sudan has a different response to some of the ethical and social challenges faced in the USA or UK, but we are all here together and focused on making a difference where we can.

It is a remarkable sight (and sound). It is the sound of a common vocation and a common humanity in and though a common church. It is colourful. And it is very loud…