Hope from mission companionships with Sudanese Christians is shared with large Mission Thursday group

Sixty-five people participated in the Mission Thursday webinar on “Mission Companionship with Sudanese Christians” sponsored by the Global Episcopal Mission Network (GEMN) on Feb. 16.  That was out of 105 people who registered for the event on Eventbrite, both figures indicating the high level of interest Episcopalians and other Anglican have in engaging with Christians in Sudan and South Sudan.

The webinar was hosted by Ambassador (ret.) Dane Smith, executive director of the American Friends of the Episcopal Churches of the Sudans (AFRECS), assisted by the Rev. Dr. Richard Jones, emeritus mission professor of Virginia Theological Seminary and a founder of AFRECS, who has expertise in Muslim-Christian relations.

A video of the gathering is available on GEMN’s YouTube channel here.

Noting the extraordinary growth of Anglicanism in Sudan, the Rev. Canon Dr. Joseph Bilal, acting vice chancellor of the newly established Episcopal University in South Sudan, said the Episcopal Church of South Sudan has 61 dioceses, 2,111 congregations and 3,518 clergy serving the several million Anglicans.  He said the recent visit of Pope Francis, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and  Church of Scotland Moderator Iain Greenshields had energized the South Sudanese with hope that the long-running political and ethnic conflicts of the country would finally be resolved, despite some groups declining to participate in a peace agreement.

Bilal reported that the university has been accredited by the country’s Ministry of Higher Education and that it has five colleges dispersed across the country.  In response to a question from Dr. David Bassouni of the Bassouni Group, Bilal said that the university practices gender equity and is actively recruiting women to enroll.  He believed the university’s graduates would be in a position to serve amid the country’s economic and environmental crises, which include inflation, climate warming, the combination of drought and floods, and the rise of “anti-social behaviors.”

Speaking from Rumbek, the Rev. Tom Prichard, founding executive director of Sudan Sunrise, highlighted the distribution of millions of seeds for moringa trees, a nutritious deciduous tree that helps mothers produce enough milk for their infants.  He spoke of significant inter-religious initiatives with Muslims.

Mama Harriet Baku, coordinator for the South Sudan Mothers Union said the organization empowers women through literacy programs that began in 2000 and through combating rape and domestic violence.

The Rev. Canon Ian Woodward of the Diocese of Salisbury bore witness to a 50-year companionship with Sudanese Christians, a link that includes the 67 dioceses in the two countries.  It began small in education, which led to the establishment of Bishop Gwynn Theological College, and it now includes medical work focused on malaria and maternal natal healthcare.

Speaking from Khartoum, Robert Hayward of Christian Aid mentioned collaboration with Episcopal Relief and Development, work in business skills training, and strategic training for bishops.

Bob Shea of Water for Sudan, a foundation in Rochester, N.Y., said the organization was founded by one of the so-called Lost Boys.  Having dug over 500 wells, the foundation employs over 60 Sudanese and works on hygiene education and sanitation in collaboration with the Carter Center and UNICEF.

The Rev. Tad deBordenave, founding executive director emeritus of Anglican Frontier Missions, highlighted that group’s evangelistic ministry among the 2 million Beja people of Port Sudan.

The Rev. Daniel Karanja, Africa Partnership Officer for the Episcopal Church’s Office of Global Partnerships, said his office co-hosts a Sudan-South Sudan contact group with AFRECS and entities in the Church of England.  “Partnership needs to sink down to the lowest level,” he emphasized, in order for change to occur in traditional and cultural patterns of oppression and injustice.

Providing background on AFRECS, Richard Jones said the network was founded in 2005 when hopes were high for peace after two generations of war and many mission companionships were established.  The network weakened after 2013, he said, but was renewed after 2019, especially after the US visit of a Sudanese archbishop.

GEMN is grateful to AFRECS for hosting the webinar and invites all participants to explore GEMN membership at www.gemn.org.


Mission Thursday on Mission Companionship with Christians in the Middle East – March 16 at 1pm Eastern.  Sponsored by GEMN and hosted by Buck Blanchard of Stand With Iraqi Christians, who is assembling presenters with work in Middle Eastern countries.  Free registration is here on Eventbrite.

Mission Formation Program, organized by GEMN for missionactivists in congregations and dioceses, will be offered midday to midday, Tuesday-Wednesday, May 2-3, at St. Mark’s Church in Tampa, Florida.  Highly recommended for background in biblical mission, mission history and theology, companionship guidelines, cultural sensitivity and practical networking.  Occurs just before the Global Mission Conference.  Registration information is here.

• “Mission: Journey into Healing” is the theme of the 2023 Global Mission Conference for the Episcopal Church organized by GEMN.  Noon to noon, Wednesday-Friday, May 3-5, at St. Mark’s Church in Tampa, Florida.  This is a great opportunity to grow in understanding together at the first in-person GlobalMission Conference since 2019, before the pandemic. Registration information is here.

Posted in Global Mission News, Mission Networking, Mission Practice, South Sudan, Sudan.