Bishop Stephen: Sudan visit evensong homily

Over 40 Sudanese bishops and their spouses were welcomed to Salisbury Cathedral on 8 August, this is Bishop Stephen's welcoming address

Jeremiah 31.23-25, 27-37, James 2.1-13

My sisters and brothers of the Sudan and South Sudan, welcome home. Welcome home to the Diocese of Salisbury where we love you. And congratulations for surviving the assault course of the Lambeth Conference! We came together as equals by virtue not of our consecration as bishops, but because of our baptism, and we have walked together in each other’s shoes.

In many ways it was the Lambeth Conference against all odds. Only by inter-cultural walking together can we reduce fear in the other.

Communion happens when we sit with someone we don’t agree with at a picnic table, and we listen. Yesterday, Bishop Karen and Bishop Andrew and I presented Archbishop Justin Bardi and Archbishop Ezekiel with a pectoral cross each, a Canterbury Cross, as a sign of our fellowship and commitment to one another for the next fifty years of our partnership. I believe the Anglican Communion is stronger for the last two weeks.

Thank you to Canon Ian Woodward. Bishop Andrew and all the Sudans Link team for all your hard work and planning. For all the patient organising and care of our brothers and sisters. Thank you also to our generous hosts and Deanery representatives for the visits to come after this service. Thank you.

The global pandemic made it clear to us all that we are one human family. For the virus, there was no difference between Salisbury and Juba or Khartoum. Our differences should never get in the way of our relationships, for if they do, we are only left with disease. Our relationships must defeat disease and division by lasting longer than both. As the prophet Jeremiah said to us this evening; ‘The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. God says, ‘I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’ If God loves us, we should do the same for each other. As Archbishop Justin said, a church in civil war has no future, and you know all about the cost of civil war, unlike us. If we love one another, the church always finds renewal. I believe in the Salisbury Sudan partnership; we have the best example of loving relationship in the whole Anglican Communion, so we are called my friends to show the whole Communion how to live, how to love, and how to stay together in Jesus Christ. It is essential that we are people who remember who we are.

Remembering who we are, and who we are called to be as church for God’s World is why we are here in this great place today. And the Letter of James has given us our job description. ‘So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement’.

I want the last word not to be from a bishop, but from a Steward volunteer at the Lambeth Conference. You will remember him. He was twenty years old and in interview he told us all, archbishops and bishops, what we should be. He said, ‘I want the world to look at us as a church that loves.’

This is my prayer too. ‘I want the world to look at us as a church that loves.’ My brothers and sisters, welcome home.

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