[Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming] In February of 2014 the bishops of Kiteto, Leicester, Mount Kilimanjaro, Trichy-Tanjore, and Wyoming, met in Trichy-Tanjore, South India, to discuss existing links between their dioceses and how they may go about furthering their relationships.
The Rt. Rev. Isaiah Chambala (Kiteto), the Rt. Rev. Tim Stevens (Leicester), the Rt. Rev. Stanley Hotay (Mount Kilimanjaro), the Rt. Rev. Gnanamuthu “Paul” Vasanthakumar (Trichy-Tanjore), and the Rt. Rev. John Smylie (Wyoming) studied Scripture, reflected, worshipped, and experienced life in Trichy-Tanjore through visits to churches, temples, schools, and hospitals.
The bishops issued a joint statement from the 2014 gathering, which reads in part, “All of these ingredients helped forge strong working relationships in an atmosphere of generous hospitality from the Trichy-Tanjore diocese. This landmark meeting of Bishops from four continents was found, by all participants, to be enriching, inspiring and, by turns, challenging. [It was] a time of sensing the movement of the Holy Spirit and a model in microcosm of the Anglican Communion at work across widely varied cultures and contexts.”
They also developed affirmations, commitments, and resolutions detailing their hopes, plans, and steps in nurturing the Companion Links relationship. The list of these items is below.
The bishops met again in April and May of 2015 in Jerusalem, their focus being the continued development of their relationships and the connections between their dioceses. Their coming together also functions to model the idea of embracing “difference without division” within the Anglican Communion.
The joint statement issued from the 2015 meeting expresses the bishops’ pledge to work together and disallow differences to inhibit their common goal to spread faith through ministry.
In May of 2016 the bishops came together for a third time in Leicester, England, for the installation and seating of the Rt. Rev. Martyn Snow, who succeeded the Rt. Rev. Tim Stevens, as the bishop of Leicester.
This year, the Diocese of Wyoming will host all the bishops of the Companion Links Dioceses at the end of August and into September. They will reunite in Casper, Wyoming, and travel together to Cody, Wyoming. Bishop Hotay will give a presentation at the Diocese of Wyoming’s annual clergy spouse conference regarding the strong growth experienced within the Diocese of Mount Kilimanjaro.
While in Cody, the group will stay at Thomas the Apostle Center, a diocesan retreat facility. The Rev. Dr. Suresh Kumar of the Diocese of Trichy-Tanjore and the Very. Rev. Lori Modesitt of the Diocese of Wyoming will be facilitators for the group.
The group will attend a local rodeo and visit Yellowstone National Park, but the primary objective for their gathering includes discussion of a formal covenant between the Companion Links Dioceses. The hope is to further clarify the connection and build a better understanding of the Companion Links relationship so the relationship is not entirely dependent on the Bishops, but carried on by other members of the dioceses. If possible, the hope is for the group to come to a determination on the covenant, which can be presented and voted upon during the Diocese of Wyoming’s annual convention in October.
The Rev. Roxanne Jimerson-Friday, the first Native American woman from the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming to be ordained to the priesthood of the Episcopal Church, will speak to the group about Native American experiences in the church. The Rev. Warren Murphy, author of On Sacred Ground: A Religious and Spiritual History of Wyoming, will speak about environmental stewardship, which is a concern for all of the dioceses, especially Tanzania, where they are experiencing severe draught.
Each visiting bishop will attend a service at a local parish and participate as a member of the congregation; they won’t be preaching or presiding, but experiencing the services, the people, and church life specific to that church as if they are a member.
The visiting bishops will be introduced to Mutual Ministry, a unique model that is not seen in many other parts of the world beyond North America. It is a model that focuses on the inclusion of entire congregations to support, promote, and advance ministry.
Wyoming was one of the first dioceses to use the contemporary version of Mutual Ministry, as its recognition that all baptized individuals are responsible for ministry has helped small, rural congregations grow their ministry and leadership. The Rt. Rev. Bob Jones (bishop of Wyoming, 1977-1996) started thinking about adopting the model and the Rt. Rev. Bruce Caldwell (bishop of Wyoming, 1997-2010) made that vision a priority for the diocese. Bishop Smylie, has worked to strengthen the diocese using the model with the formation of clergy and laity.
Visit www.wyomingdiocese.org or follow the Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming in Facebook to keep apprised of Companion Links happenings.
Companion Links Relationships
1. Joy in the partnerships already shared between dioceses, a continuing honoring of agreements already in place and commitment to more fully realizing the promise these global links hold for future mission and ministry
2. The contribution of each other to God’s mission in the world
3. The continuing need to listen, learn and be enriched by each other through a deepening process of engagement
4. At diocesan, church community and individual levels affirming the significance of mutual support, encouragement and challenge in nurturing relationships across cultures as an expression of our communion in the Body of Christ and our openness to the movement of the Holy Spirit.
5. The developing of processes at diocesan and local level to enhance local mission (e.g. in growth of the church, depth of discipleship and engagement with the wider community) through our interactions and mutual resourcing.
1. A spiritual and theological pilgrimage together of intensifying relationships, modeling a microcosm of the Anglican communion through mutual trust, sharing and cooperation in furthering God’s mission.
2. Continually asking how we partner together in ways which keep Jesus Christ as our focus and center, exploring how we understand Jesus Christ and our following of Christ in our different cultures.
3. Exploring in our own lives and that of our dioceses through these relationships how to develop greater transparency, honesty, mutual accountability, self-critique and openness to transformation.
4. Strengthening bi-lateral and other linkages between the five dioceses as the Holy Spirit leads, taking seriously the work of prayerful discernment and missional experimentation.
5. Extending the present partnering more widely to leaders and Christian communities within our dioceses.
6. Take seriously one another’s challenges (e.g. corruption, clergy training, growth, poverty, wealth etc.) and collaborate practically, prophetically and persistently on addressing such challenges.
7. Take seriously the differences in modes of communication between our cultures and endeavor to be mutually understanding, flexible and responsive in communicating.
1. Meet between April 27th and May 4th 2015 in Jerusalem in a spirit of pilgrimage to continue conversations on the affirmations and commitments above, exploring doing so with at least one other senior leader from each of our dioceses as we seek to widen the circle of conversation and participation in partnership.
2. Be in quarterly contact (May, July, Oct & Jan) with one another as bishops between face-to-face meetings through coordinated communications (via Rev. Dr. Suresh Kumar and Canon Mike Harrison) and so forge a sense of on-going relationship and journeying together.
3. Share this statement with the relevant church bodies of our dioceses, inviting consideration of the affirmations and commitments outlined above with a view to deeper relationships in Christ between one another’s dioceses.
— Kate Miller is the Diocese of Wyoming’s director of communication.