February will be a month of airplanes and suitcases for Archbishop Fred Hiltz. With trips to Egypt, Kenya, Burundi, and Costa Rica, it’s his busiest stretch of international travel since his election as Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada in July 2007.
In all these diverse trips, the Primate will be sharing the work of the Canadian Anglican church—what he calls “our beloved church”—through the lenses of the Marks of Mission and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Archbishop Hiltz has steadily been upholding these two sets of markers in his previous travels abroad and in Canada. The five Marks of Mission lay out the Anglican Communion’s priorities for evangelism, making disciples, serving others, social and environmental justice. The MDGs are eight targets for international development that United Nations member states agreed to achieve by 2015.
The Primate’s first stop is in Alexandria, Egypt, from Feb. 1 to 5, where he will attend his first meeting with the other 38 primates of the Anglican Communion. Archbishop Hiltz is one of five primates who will give presentations on how the current Communion crisis over homosexuality has affected mission in their church.
Archbishop Hiltz said he plans to emphasize what the Canadian church is doing in light of the Marks of Mission. “I think to some in the Communion we’re regarded as a one-issue church,” he said. “We need to keep reminding people that yes, the blessing of same-sex unions is an issue, and we’re certainly attentive to it, but there are lots of other things our church is really committed to as well.”
The primates will also discuss the global economic crisis, the political situation in Zimbabwe, and the Anglican Covenant, a proposed document intended to define the relationships between provinces in the Anglican Communion.
In an interview, Archbishop Hiltz expressed surprise that two major themes from this summer’s Lambeth Conference—the MDGs, and the proposed moratoria (on the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of persons in same-sex unions, and the intervention of bishops into other dioceses)—were not on the primates’ agenda.
From Egypt, the Primate will travel south to Nairobi, Kenya, for the first of two visits on behalf of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF). Between Feb. 9 and 11, Archbishop Hiltz will meet with regional PWRDF partners in Nairobi to review those partnerships, and to brainstorm about the meaning of partnerships in general. Archbishop Hiltz, who serves as president of the PWRDF board, will offer reflections at the end of the meeting.
The Primate will then travel to the Diocese of Bujumbura, in Burundi, which has had a longstanding partnership with the Anglican Church of Canada (their bishop, Bishop Pie Ntukamazina attended General Synod 2007). Archbishop Hiltz will spend Feb. 12 to 16 visiting local projects and representatives.
Archbishop Hiltz said the MDGs will be on his mind during his time in Africa. He is interested in learning how the Mother’s Union in Kenya and Burundi support the MDGs of improving maternal health and decreasing child mortality. In Burundi, he will also have an opportunity to visit people affected by HIV/AIDS.
“It will be good to visit the clinics where our church, through PWRDF, is supporting HIV/AIDS patients and their families,” said Archbishop Hiltz. “That work is a clear reflection of our commitment to the MDG to combat HIV/AIDS.”
The Primate’s time in Burundi also coincides with a visit from a PWRDF Canadian youth delegation that is cultivating a relationship between young people in Canada and Bujumbura.
Anglican Mission in the Americas conference
After a quick turnaround at home, the Primate will make his final February trip, to join an Anglican Church of Canada delegation at a conference in San Juan, Costa Rica, from Feb. 22 to 28. With the theme “Mutual Responsibility and Mission,” this conference will gather representatives from almost all Anglican provinces in North and South America to talk about interdependency and accountability. Other Canadian Anglicans in attendance include Archdeacon Michael Pollesel, the General Secretary, and Partnerships director Henriette Thompson.
At a recent General Synod staff meeting, the Primate asked for prayers during these demanding and diverse trips. He is accustomed to much travel in Canada, but this intense international schedule will require an extra measure of grace.
“I’m the kind of person that even when I travel in Canada, at the end of the day I really value some quiet time to reflect on the events of the day,” said Archbishop Hiltz. “I reflect on the people I’ve met, the issues I’ve heard, the pain I’ve heard, and I offer all that to God in prayer.”
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