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Clean Elections and Discipleship in South Sudan

by glynch — last modified 29 Jan, 2018 03:00 PM

Primate elect to prioritise deeper discipleship after election as a model of transparency

Clean Elections and Discipleship in South Sudan

Photo credit: Facebook

The Primate-elect of the Episcopal Church in South Sudan has said making and training disciples will be the theme of his tenure, following concerns that Christian faith in the country is broad but not necessarily deep.

The Rt Revd Justin Badi, currently Bishop of Maridi, was elected by a margin of only one vote on Saturday, but the result was universally accepted by supporters of the other candidate after an election process that was a model of transparency.

Given the violent political and ethnic conflicts afflicting South Sudan at present, holding a clean, fair, and universally-accepted electoral process for its top office, especially in the context of a close race, is a major achievement for a young church.

Robert Hayward OBE, a Sherborne churchgoer who has known South Sudan for many years as Christian Aid’s country manager, attended the election and reported, “The election process opened with a Eucharist at which Bishop Hilary of Adeba preached on the theme of unity within the Church.

“The new archbishop would be elected by 159 delegates, comprising the diocesan bishop, and one clergy and one lay person from each of the country’s fifty-two dioceses, as well as a small number of additional delegates as laid out in the ECSS Constitution. The nave of the Cathedral was cleared after the Eucharist to allow it to be prepared for the election.

“The voting delegates were name-tagged and were checked back into the Cathedral first, before we observers went up into the gallery.

“The Chancellor explained the procedure and Retired Bishop Emeritus Enock Tombe checked all the delegates. All those 159 delegates promised to vote ‘without fear or favour’. As these represented 97.5% of the possible 163 voting delegates, the meeting was declared quorate and on we went to the Nominations. These were taken by the Dean, Archbishop Peter Mundi, Archbishop of Western Equatoria.

“As some other possible candidates had withdrawn their names the previous day, just two candidates were left, Bishop Justin, and Bishop Abraham of Awiel. The nominations showed a commitment by the Church to transcending ethnic divisions that cause such damage in South Sudan.

“Bishop Justin is an Equatorian, while his nominator and one of his seconders were Dinka.”

The Dinka are the largest ethnic group in the country, about 36% of the population, including Bishop Abraham. He, in turn, was nominated by an Equatorian bishop.

Robert, who is a member of the Salisbury-Sudans Partnership Commttee and a Christian Aid volunteer was one of only two Westerners to attend the event.

“After their nominations” Robert continued, “to be sure, the Chancellor asked if there were any other nominations and, when answer came there none, exclaimed ‘Al Hamdulillah’, meaning ‘Praise be to God’, to much clapping and laughter.

“The two nominated bishops were invited to come forward to accept their nomination, and embraced each other as friends and brothers, before reading a long statement, including the words, ‘If I do not win, I will respect the result and will remain loyal and will not instigate supporters to work against the Church.’ After that, they were asked to go outside and agree with each other whether one of them should stand aside, in which case no vote would be necessary. When they came back, they said that, ‘although we are good friends, we want the vote to go ahead, as we cannot disappoint our supporters’.

“A white basket was held up by Bishop Enock Tombe, a widely-respected retired bishop of great experience, and turned to the congregation to show that it was empty. Bishop Enock then counted in 159 blank ballot papers and, one by one, each delegate was given one ballet paper, wrote on it the name of his or her choice and put it into another basket. The white basket was held up to show that it was empty and the number of papers in the other basket counted – yes, 159, much to everyone’s relief.

“The votes were then counted in full view, by someone taking out each marked ballot paper one by one and calling out the name, ‘Justin... Justin... Abraham... Justin... Abraham…’

“On a flip-chart, Bishop Enock tallied the votes until the basket was shown to be empty. It was actually quite exciting, as Justin got way ahead to start with and it looked as though he was going to win by a mile. Then came a lot of votes for Abraham, the numbers on the flip-chart got more even and, by the end, it was clear that it was going to be a close result.

“I don’t think anyone realised just how close, until +Enock counted up the lines and it was announced: 80 votes for Bishop Justin, 79 votes for Bishop Abraham.

“There was no call for a recount, Bishop Abraham graciously embraced Bishop Justin, Bishop Justin made a short address, urging everyone to live by the Lord’s Prayer, and his four children appeared in chorister cassock and surplice, to read the Lord's Prayer in English and then sing it in Dinka. This was another important statement of Church unity across ethnic lines in a country that can be so divided.

The Enthronement of the new Primate is currently planned for Sunday 22 April until which time the Dean of the Province will run the ECSS, as Archbishop Daniel stood down at the time of the election after ten years’ service that coincided with some of the most dramatic times in the region’s history.

At the main Sunday morning service at All Saints’ Cathedral in Juba, Primate-elect Justin told the congregation that he would be going back to his Diocese of Maridi to take a confirmation service and to hand over, before returning to Juba in March to prepare for the enthronement.

Primate-elect Justin also explained the proposed theme for his tensure, ‘Making and training disciples.

“My elder brother, Archbishop Daniel, has done evangelism”, he said, “but Christianity in our country is not deep and we have seen tribalism. People in other countries have asked ‘How can you call yourselves Christians?’. We must live as Christians and not bring shame on our name as Christians”

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