“In the Anglican Church, the different groups seem to be in flight. Flight in this case is seen as trying to escape the problem. However, Hagar’s flight leads her into a situation of listening to God and also reflecting on the issues at stake.”
(The Revd Dr Emily Onyango, Senior Lecturer in Ecclesiastical Studies, St Paul’s University, Limuru)
Conflict and the search for alternative ways of reconciliation are familiar themes in Kenyan life following the violence surrounding the elections of 2007. These themes were on the minds of twenty Kenyan theologians meeting at St Paul’s University, Limuru, in October 2009, to shape the Continuing Indaba project, which aims to intensify relationships across and between the member churches of the Anglican Communion as they seek to develop their local mission.
Based in Scripture and drawing on African cultural models, eighteen presentations were heard and discussed by the group, chaired by the Revd Canon Professor Joseph Galgalo, Dean of Theological Studies at St Paul’s.
Dr Emily Onyango’s reflection on the conflict between Hagar and Sarah in Genesis was a plea for the natural urge to flee from conflict to become a quest to hear the voice of God and of reason in the search for a resolution.
The Revd John Mark Oduor of All Saints Cathedral, Nairobi spoke of the contrasting drum beats of Vita (war) and of the Baraza, the traditional assembly of the Luo of western Kenya at which communities meet to discuss their collective concerns and reach a common mind. Just as the drum beat informs the community of the issues to be discussed, the Church should consider the character and origin of its own drum beat.
“It is when we forget the drumbeat to which we should be dancing that the rain started beating us. We, the church got so wet that we almost forgot that the church was supposed to be different.
“What is our drum made of? Is it made of crocodile skin of careless rhetoric, or hippo’s skin of revenge? Could it have been made of genuine leather of love, forgiveness and grace’s skin? “
Dr Zebedi Muga, Lecturer in Biblical and Religious Studies at St Paul’s, gave a wider perspective on conflict and resolution in the Pentateuch, while Robinson Kariuki spoke on the part money plays in mission partnership by considering the response of the Galatian Church to St Paul’s proposal to raise money for Jerusalem.
Others addressed taboo, hospitality, mission, forgiveness and conflict in the Bible and in African traditions.
The meeting ended with commitments to develop the presentations further and to seek wider audiences for them, both online and by including them in similar meetings in other parts of the Anglican Communion. Professor Galgalo and the Revd Catherine Njagi of Nairobi Cathedral will be attending the meeting in South Africa, and others are planned in the USA, England and India.
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