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Letter from the Bishop of Colombo
by the Right Rev. Duleep de Chickera
CEYLON 050524-1
May 24, 2005

From the current issue of the Ceylon Churchman

[The Church of Ceylon (E-P) - Ceylon] 

My dear Sisters and Brothers,

Pentecost: By the time this issue of the Churchman is out, we shall be celebrating Pentecost. The Holy Spirit as a separate person in the Godhead was clearly defined by the writers of the New Testament. The Holy Spirit was associated with Jesus’ birth and descended upon him at his baptism; the Holy Spirit was active in Jesus’ life and public ministry on earth; and the Spirit was at work in his passion, death and resurrection. The Church through the ages has been inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit to discern and be faithful to the purposes of God. The Nicene Creed refers to the Holy Spirit as the Lord, the giver of life. Consequently, this same Holy Spirit is also at work in the world at large, transforming God’s actions into relationships of harmony and fulfillment.

The Nation: The continuing trend of violence in the form of abductions and killings in the Eastern Province, and more recently in the South, is a concern to us all. The killing of the journalist Sivaram (and three other journalists before him recently in the East) in particular needs to be condemned. The freedom of the media is an essential democratic component. Even though we may not have agreed with his political stance all the time, his and the right of all to express their views is a basic human right that needs to be protected for the growth of a mature Sri Lankan society.

A pending anti-conversion bill requires the response of the Church. The Heads of Churches of the NCC have taken notice and we are awaiting developments. Two other recent bills presented in Parliament the Tsunami Special Provisions Bill and another bill that permits the Police to detain persons on suspicion for up to 48 hours needs to be studied and responded to.

While the joint mechanism for tsunami rehabilitation between the Government and the LTTE is most welcome, a continuing dialogue with dissident voices is required if is to work.

I request very special prayers during Pentecost for our Nation and the challenges we face.

Obituary: The death of St Elmo Gunasekera, who served our Diocese with dedication for over twenty years, came as a rude shock. He was Honorary Treasurer of the Diocese and Manager of the Diocesan Office and he brought thought, care and distinction to his work. He initiated many new schemes for the welfare of the clergy and lay workers. He was a person of discipline, honour and utter integrity. We shall miss his loyal presence very much. We assure his wife Ruby and sons Charles and Maxie of our love and prayers.

I have set up a Trust Fund in St Elmo’s memory for the welfare of church workers. This was a very close concern of his. Those of you who wish to contribute towards this, should please contact Sriyanthi de Silva at our Diocesan Office.

The Tsunami: Our Relief and Rehabilitation Desk, together with the Task Force, continues to play a very meaningful role in the post-tsunami reconstruction effort. A report on the some of the projects planned and undertaken appears elsewhere in this issue of the Churchman. I would also refer to the Church of Ceylon page in the Anglican Communion website: www.anglicancommunion.org/provincialnews/churchofceylon. We are grateful to our many partners and friends for their overwhelming support for our reconstruction efforts. A special word of thanks is due to Episcopal Relief & Development of the Episcopal Church of the USA who have responded positively and generously to our every request.

Primates Meeting: In the last issue of the Churchman, I referred to the meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in Newry, Ireland. I had hoped that the unanimous recommendations of the Eames Commission which were an endeavour to mirror values of the Gospel to look for healing not division, pastoral reconciliation not punishment, to hold to our shared witness not only in mission but in the processes by which our Communion works out the current tensions would be followed through. The moratorium recommended on the three issues of public rites for same-sex unions, episcopal ordination of persons living in same-gender union and interference by one Diocese in the life of another would, we believe, have led to a cooling-off period and provided space for greater dialogue. To stay together and talk differences and then to forgive and reconcile is the Christian way. The Windsor report quoted that ‘to turn away from one another is to turn away from the Cross’. The exclusion of any Church from any of the Instruments of Unity is not the way to reconciliation and healing. It was also sad to note that the Primates were unable to share bread and the Cup at the Lord’s Table. ‘To turn away from one another is to turn away from the Cross’

Clergy Conference: We had a very meaningful clergy conference at the Buona Vista Conference Centre in Galle from 6th to 9th April. The emphasis was on our response to the Tsunami and on the issues of human sexuality being debated within the Anglican Communion. Dr Vinoth Ramachandran and Bishop Kenneth Fernando led our discussions on these themes. Frs Adrian Aaron and Jameson Gnanaponrajah led the Bible Studies. While these conferences enable us to discern a way forward, we also need to share these challenges with the wider family of Christians. I hope these will lead to meaningful and liberating ministries amongst and through our different communities throughout Sri Lanka.

Christian Conference of Asia: The 12th General Assembly of the CCA was held in Thailand in early April. The Revd Charles David was the official delegate of the Diocese, while several others from our Diocese attended as representatives of other bodies the Revd Dr Jayasiri Peiris (General Secretary NCCSL), Israel Paulraj and Rohan Edrisinha (CCA Exco), Marie Wijeratne (Principal Deaf School), S Balasundaram (Co-ordiantor, CCYM) and the Revd Noel Fernando (CWF). The CCA has a new General Secretary in Dr Prawate Khid-arn from Thailand. The Revd Dr Jayasiri Pieris was been elected to the General Committee of the CCA. We are grateful for the ministry of the CCA and should hold those in responsibility in our prayers.

Schools: We have encouraged our Church Schools to enter into a twinning partnership with state schools in the tsunami affected areas for mutual benefit and encouragement. I must say I am very appreciative of the response of the Principals and students who have entered into these links with much enthusiasm. I hope these links will continue to nurture us mutually and widen the perspectives of our students for life.

Bishop Roger Herft: Bishop Roger Herft will be enthroned as the Archbishop of Perth, Western Australia on 11th June. Owing to prior commitments, I am, much to my regret, unable to accept the invitation to be present at this service of enthronement for my friend, batchmate and colleague. We uphold Bishop Roger, his wife Cheryl and their sons in our prayers and send them our warmest wishes for his archepiscopate. During his recent visit to Sri Lanka, the Diocese was fortunate to be able to felicitate Bishop Roger and Cheryl.

Visitors: Many of our visitors during last two months have been in connection with tsunami relief and rehabilitation work. Bishop James Bell, Bishop of Knaresborough in the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, spent two weeks in Sri Lanka, dividing his time between our dioceses. It was his first visit to us and he therefore spent a lot of time traveling to all Archdeaconries to see and learn of the work being done. Bishop Roger Herft and his wife Cheryl came on a private visit but spent a lot of time with us and travelled to the south and east as well.

We are grateful to the USPG who have provide support by sending three priests for a one-month period to relieve the burden on our clergy in the tsunami-affected regions. The Revd Helen Griffiss is attached to the Church of St John the Baptist, Chundikuli, Jaffna, the Revd Dr Peter Knight is attached to St Andrew’s Church, Batticaloa and the Revd Simon White is with the Holy Emmanuel Church, Moratuwa. Drs Chrisantha Perera, David and Jennifer Baughan and Wimala Ismail were here to conduct training workshops on trauma counseling. The Revd Shariya Molegoda from the Diocese of Massachusetts USA and Ms Florence Creighton from the Diocese of Clogher, Ireland also visited. The Revd Richard Browning from the Diocese of Canberra, Australia, brought a group of students with a view to establishing links through our Church Schools with tsunami affected State schools.

Pastoral Visits: Since the last issue of the Churchman, I have been on pastoral visits to St Matthias’ Church Laxapathiya, Church of SS Mary and John Nugegoda and St James’ Chilaw. In most of these churches, I held cluster confirmation services to include neighbouring parishes. I have also been on pastoral visits to the different Archdeaconries where I was able to talk to people of our churches and to the people and leaders of other faiths. This was particularly useful in the context of our post-tsunami reconstruction efforts which we are attempting, as far as possible, on an ecumenical and inter-faith basis.

Overseas Visits: The Ven Dhiloraj Canagasabey, and the Revd & Mrs J S Charles represented the Diocese at the General Synod of the CSI Diocese of Madras and later attended a consultation between the CSI Diocese of Madras and their partners on strengthening links, etc. The Revd Nilanga Gunasekera attended a workshop in Chennai on disaster planning and management. He also took the opportunity to meet with our friends from the CSI Diocese of Madras.

With Peace and Blessings.

Yours very sincerely,

+ Duleep de Chickera