LAMBETH: Bishops March on London for UN goals
By Hans Zeiger in Canterbury
July 24, 2008
LONDON-Over 600 Anglican bishops and spouses marched through the streets of London on Thursday to demonstrate their support for the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Clad in violet robes and toting signs that read "Halve Poverty By 2015," the bishops chatted amongst each other as they walked from Whitehall past Parliament and Westminster Abbey and over the Lambeth Bridge to Lambeth Palace. There they listened to speeches by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, moving on from there to Buckingham Palace for a meeting with the Queen.
Before the march commenced, Virtue Online spoke with the Mrs. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church and a leading advocate of the MDGs. Her press agent explained that our questions would have to address the MDGs.
The question was, "What do the MDGs have to do with the Great Commission?"
Jefferts Schori replied, "Jesus sent people out to spread the Good News," and that news included the "prophetic understanding" that temporal needs should be met. It included "people having enough to eat." Christ's message was a matter of "human dignity," she said. Jefferts Schori concluded, "God cares about us in this life and not simply after we die."
The eight MDGs, established by the United Nations at the 2000 Millennium Summit, include eradicating poverty, combating HIV/AIDS, promoting gender equality, and ensuring environmental sustainability.
Also asked to explain the link between the MDGs and the Great Commission, the Rt. Rev. Marc Andrus, Bishop of California, told VirtueOnline that the Great Commission is "about making and baptizing disciples. Baptizing is a lifelong process of transformation. We live out the dying and the resurrection to new life over and over again. We die to our false self. And we would have enough in the world if we would share with one another."
"The MDGs are a practical way to meet the core needs of the poorest in the world," Andrus explained. "The MDGs are aimed at the most poor. They are focused on abject poverty. The Episcopal Church has made a full commitment to fulfilling the MDGs."
Not all of the bishops who marched in London were as enthusiastic about the goals as were Jefferts Schori and Andrus. "One of my concerns with the MDGs is that we haven't effectively connected Christ with them," said the Rt. Rev. Bill Love, Bishop of Albany. Love said that he supports ministry to people around the world, but he isn't sure that the church should be lobbying for a United Nations agenda. "I believe that the church should not relegate these responsibilities to the United Nations, but we as the Body of Christ need to be more effective at carrying them out ourselves. Far too often we rely on government to cure the ills of the world. We should not be so reliant on the government, or the UN in this case."
Love said that the MDGs will only be beneficial to the Gospel ministry if they are based on the Gospel. "It depends on how they are presented," he said. "If in carrying out the MDGs we bring Christ into it and provide for the needs of the less fortunate and make known the Name of Christ, it will be a means of evangelizing. But if we fail to mention Christ, we will be just one more social agency. We are obligated to mention Christ."
Other bishops marched in full support of the MDGs, but admitted potential shortcomings about the goals.
The Rt. Rev. Clive Handford, former Bishop of Jerusalem and Presiding Bishop of the Middle East, said that there is "always a potential" that abstract goals can be elevated over care and witness to individual souls. "That has to be watched," he said. Nevertheless, Handford said that the MDGs "can be a stimulus" toward the Great Commission.
The Rt. Rev Stacy Sauls, Bishop of Lexington, said that the MDGs are related to the Great Commission because "Empty stomachs don't have ears to hear [the Gospel]." The MDGs are "proclaiming the Gospel in action," he said.
Yet Sauls admitted that the broad issues of poverty reduction, health, and education are less important than personal relationships. "I am much more interested in encouraging building relationships." Sauls said that his own experience as a missionary in South Africa was "completely relational." "I don't deal with issues so much as people," he said.
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