Recife: Anglican Theology and Public Engagement: Interweavings No 21, May 2017

Graham Kings

by Graham Kings

Date added: 01/06/2017

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Introduction

When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.

This well-known aphorism was coined by the famous Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazil, Dom Hélder Câmara (1909-1999).

I was reminded of it on Saturday 22 April by Professor Joanildo Burity when he showed me the Cathedral at Olinda, a beautiful ancient town on a hill overlooking Recife.

Joanildo is the Continental Editor for Latin America of our Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion project and organised our conference in Recife on ‘Anglican Theology and Public Engagement, 24-27 April 2017.

He is Lead Researcher and Professor at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation and a Fellow in two postgraduate programmes at the Federal University of Pernambuco (Sociology and Political Science). Previously, he was Senior Lecturer in both the School of Government and International Affairs and the Department of Theology and Religion, at Durham University.

As a lay theologian, he served as a provincial representative to the Anglican Consultative Council (2009-2016) and as a member of the Anglican Communion Standing Committee (2012-2016).

We first met at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Lusaka, Zambia in April 2016 and developed the concept of the Recife conference then. Professors Paul Murray and Robert Song at Durham University had suggested, individually to each of us, that we should made contact: God surprised us when we realised we were both in Lusaka together.

On Sunday 23 April, I preached at Recife Anglican Cathedral Church of the Good Samaritan in the morning at the invitation of the Dean, Gustavo Oliveira, and attended another service in the afternoon, led by the Bishop, João Cancio Peixoto. The Bishop also joined us for some of the sessions and our final service of Holy Communion.

The Conference and Papers

This was our fourth global conference following Cairo (April 2016), Bengaluru (October 2016) and Jerusalem (March 2017). Our next one is in Fiji (June 2017).

We met in the Diocesan House of the Diocese of Recife and the first morning we were joined, through skype, by the Presiding Bishop of Brazil, Fancisco de Assis da Silva.

The papers were written, or translated into, English, and circulated beforehand by email, but the language of the conference was Portuguese. I was very grateful to Rafaela Burity, a student of journalism and daughter of Joanildo, who kindly and expertly translated for me.

We published the five papers, revised during the conference in the light of discussion, on the Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion site before our final session.

The Very Revd Dr Gustavo Gilson Oliveira (Lecturer in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education at the Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife; former Dean of the Recife Anglican Provincial Seminary, Recife-PE), 'Public Theology and the Brazilian Religious Field: Questions and Contributions from an Anglican Perspective'

Revd Inamar de Souza, (Vicar, All Saints Parish Church, Niterói-RJ, Anglican Diocese of Rio de Janeiro), 'God is not homophobic: An Anglican Contribution to Overcoming Homophobia'

The Revd Dr Lilian Lira (Research Fellow at the Postgraduate Programme in Education, Cultures and Identities at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation/Federal Rural University of Pernambuco; President of the Recife Diocesan Standing Committee, Recife-PE), 'Ecumenism and Interfaith Dialogue: A Mode of Doing Public Theology'

Prof Paulo Ueti, (Theological Advisor and Regional Facilitator for Latin America of the Anglican Alliance; Lay member, Anglican Diocese of Brasilia), 'Biblical Notes on Mission and Theology: Doing theology through activism for life'

Dr Joanildo Burity (Lead researcher at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation; Professor of the Postgraduate Programmes in Sociology and in Political Science at the Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife-PE), 'Public religion and public theology: the message of justice and affirmation of pluralism in a divided and commodified society'

The theologians who responded to the papers were:

Dr Ronaldo Sales (Lecturer, Federal University of Campina Grande); Dr Bianca Daebs (Lecturer, Dom Pedro II College, Salvador-BA); Dr Wellington Santos (Lecturer, Federal University of Pernambuco); Revd Dr Cláudio Ribeiro (Senior Lecturer, Methodist University of São Pauloand Pastor, Methodist Church, São Bernardo do Campo- São Paulo).

As in Bengaluru in October 2016, we were delighted to have a resident artist with us, who had recently been ordained deacon, Eduardo Henrique, who paints under the name Ribeiro Halves. We published photos of his earlier work and his conference work: his blog is worth reading.

Media Coverage: Anglican News and BBC World Service

The Anglican Communion News Service interviewed participants on the phone at the end of the conference and published an article about it the next day. The following quotes are from that article.

Joanildo Burity was quoted about our resident artist:

It gave this instant experience of what we had spent hours talking about - lengthy theological discussions summarised in pictures. Making sense of the theology through our sight – instead of arguing!

Paulo Ueti, described the conference as very inspiring:

The papers and conversations were about what we can do on the ground and how we can share our Christian spirituality; we are to be activists in the world; this is our mission and our work as theologians is to reveal it.

Dan Damon, presenter of World Update on the BBC World Service, recorded an interview with Joanildo Burity on the phone and it was broadcast the day after the conference finished, 28 April, the day of the General Strike in Brazil, which was backed by the Episcopal Church of Brazil.

Conclusion

It was my first time to visit Brazil, the home of two key liberation theologians who have influenced me, Leonardo Boff and Ruben Alves. Conviviality and joy were integral parts of the ethos of the conference and I am very grateful to all who were involved in organising it and in taking part, especially Joanildo Burity. Thanks be to God who cares for the downtrodden and sets people free.

 

 
 

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Wood panel

Wood panel

A bronze

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