You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave (Mt 20:25b-27)
To the people of God everywhere:
May the grace and peace of God our Mother, the liberating power of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and the transformative inspiration of the Divine Breath, the Holy Spirit of love, be with you!
For the life of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil this is a time of new beginnings.
We are experiencing, as an Ecclesiastical Province, what it means to have a female Primate, the first in the Anglican Communion in the Southern Hemisphere, from Amazonia. And, in its General Synod, which took place in the heart of the rain-forest, our Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil (IEAB) chose not only a female Primate, but also a female president of its House of Clergy and Laity, the Rev. Carmen Etel Alves Gomes (the first woman ordained in the IEAB), and a female General Secretary, lay woman Christina Winnischofer.
The next four years will be marked by the gifts of a female leadership team. This was a daring and innovative decision which will certainly resonate in the Anglican Communion as a whole. It is, therefore, a time of expectancy. But mostly, it is a time to journey together in common cause.
The Primacy that we are now beginning, like the one before it, received the unanimous support of the House of Bishops, and broad majority support in the House of Clergy and Laity. This adds strength to the principle of “shared authority” in which the Primate is first among equals while, at the same time, she also assumes the challenge of representing the whole people of God in this part of Christ’s Church. She does so amid the concrete and urgent challenges of our ecclesial, social, environmental and political reality.
As we begin these four years, as a social body (Church), we are challenged to comprehend deeply our vocation, which is to be a MISSIONARY CHURCH, called to serve, to bear witness to justice, and to seek peace and reconciliation.
For this, we will need to become conscious of the social and political dimensions of our mission. In the daily life of our dioceses and communities, we want to live a faith rooted in reality; we want to live into the commitments that we express in the Five Anglican Marks of Mission and profess in our Baptismal Covenant.
In recent years, our world has become sadder, more fragile and dangerous. In Brazil, we are living through a dehumanizing regression in our society, marked by environmental destruction in Amazonia and in other important ecosystems.
This is the fruit of the human incapacity to choose life over profit; it is the fruit of the sins of hunger, racism, patriarchy and gender violence, hate speech, religious intolerance, prejudice, discrimination and the extermination of vulnerable populations.
In the face of such a reality, to be a Missionary Church is to be a Church where all people are welcomed. To be a Missionary Church is to bear witness that the Gospel is about not only personal salvation but the salvation that Jesus promises in the coming of the Reign of God, the fullness of God’s will in all things, in every reality.
To be a Missionary Church is to experience the salvation which happens as we live out a communal faith, through the experience of the Christ body, broken and shared through us. This Christ body brings life to humanity by our: seeking justice through public advocacy; engaging in the struggle to bring an end to violence against women and children; standing with and supporting indigenous peoples. All this at the same time as we learn to build new relationships that will help us to care for God’s Creation (our shared home) and fight to slow down climate change.
During the next four years, our reflection, faith life and mission across the whole of our Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil will be focused on these words, which must lead us from reflection and prayer into action: Serve, Witness, Reconcile. These are practical dimensions of our mission as the Church.
The Church cannot think of mission as an external activity or program. On the contrary, the Church must be the incarnation of the Mission of God, must live the mission entrusted to Jesus and passed on to his disciples (which is us). The world will never hear the Gospel if it is contradicted by the life of the community that proclaims it. Only a truly transformed Church can be an agent of transformation. To believe and bear witness is not only to recite the truths of the faith we were taught, but to show evidence of that faith in life-giving action, in abundant living (John 10:10).
Each of us needs to discover and understand our responsibility, which comes with baptism. Without such awareness, understanding and commitment, the Church remains weak and has little impact on the world. Our faith must be expressed in actions and intentions that embrace every aspect of our lives.
In the next four years, our challenge is to be on a journey together in which we live our commitment to:
SERVE – We are called to expand our missionary presence wherever our society is living with violence, injustice, fear, exclusion, pain, environmental destruction. Jesus Christ, the full incarnation of God in our world, is the first cause and reason for our action in society, our starting-point, and the model of our mission.
WITNESS – The Gospel of Christ commits us - full of hope and responsibility - to the world. It commits us to the “transformation of the kingdoms of this world into the Kingdom of our Saviour Jesus Christ”. And this requires our prophetic witness, as part of that mission, in struggle against the unjust structures of society, in the quest for kinship, for the integrity of God’s creation, for justice and fullness of life. Opening ourselves to welcome, opening our homes and our churches, acting in tune with the Gospel, refusing to keep silence in the face of whatever contradicts it.
RECONCILE – We seek to live according to the principle of unity in diversity, which demonstrates our commitment and deep desire to find a way through all our differences by respectful dialogue. To reconcile is to take every opportunity to ensure that the bonds that unite us will be strengthened through fellowship, communion and sharing. We take up the commitment, therefore, to be a Reconciling Church that understands that dialogue with truthfulness, depth, integrity, and love makes us better people.
May the Lord encourage us and give us the flexibility to accept our own transformation and the transformation of others. In a world full of violence and hate, may the Lord give us courage to sow love and good will. In a world marked by discrimination and inequality, may Jesus Christ cause the seeds of unity and communion to take root and bear fruit in us, and may the Breath of God give us the ability to overcome our divisions. In a world marked by polarization and superficiality in relationships, may the witness of our lives and of our communities make us signs of joy and hope. May we find courage and daring to truly become a Missionary Church.
May it be so!
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Belém, December 1, 2022.
++Marinez Rosa dos Santos Bassotto
Diocesan Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Amazônia
Primate of the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil
(Translated and edited by Ven. Graham Bland)