Amid joyful celebration and colorful ceremony, the Most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul was enthroned April 20 as the fourth primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS) at All Saints Cathedral in Juba.
The four-hour liturgy -- punctuated with cheers, applause, Dinka calls, and hymns of praise in English and Arabic -- was attended by bishops, priests and laity from the 24 ECS dioceses, as well as international guests and political dignitaries, including President Salva Kiir Mayardit of the Government of Southern Sudan and the first vice president of the Republic of Sudan.
Archbishops Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya and Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, along with bishops and priests representing many of the Anglican Communion's 38 provinces, were led in procession by a marching band and massed choir that included a troupe of trumpeters from the Sudanese Diocese of Yei.
An ecumenical delegation from the U.S.-based Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) included Episcopal Diocese of Chicago Assisting Bishop Victor Scantlebury, officially representing Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; the Rt. Rev. Francis Gray, former assistant bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia and diocesan of Northern Indiana; the Rev. Howard Wennes, retired ELCA bishop of the Grand Canyon Synod and interim president of California Lutheran University; and the Rev. Duane Danielson, ELCA bishop of the North Dakota Synod.
Representing the Diocese of Virginia, which is among the seven Episcopal Church dioceses in the U.S. that share a companion relationship with ECS, was Bishop Coadjutor Shannon Johnston; Buck Blanchard, world mission coordinator; and Russ Randle, lay deputy to General Convention.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was represented by Church of England Bishop David James from the Diocese of Bradford, while a delegation from the Diocese of Salisbury, which also shares a companion relationship with the Sudan province, included its two suffragan bishops Stephen Conway and Tim Thornton.
The service marked a new day for many Sudanese Christians whose nation was roiled by a 20-year civil war, largely recognized as a conflict between the southern, non-Arab populations and the northern, Arab-dominated government. The war claimed more than two million lives and displaced four million people. Despite the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005, a conflict lingers in the Darfur region of western Sudan where Arab militias, known as Janjaweed, casually attack civilians and refugee camps.
"For years you have struggled, but now you are back home," said Kolini, who preached at the service. "God has a plan. You have to be strong so that you can be a good bridge between the north and the south."
Kolini and Deng were fellow students at Virginia Theological Seminary in the early 1990s. "The job of an archbishop is to preach a clear and anointed message," Kolini told Deng, "and your primary calling is to build the people of Christ."
Saying that Rome was not built in a day, Kolini told Sudanese Episcopalians that they need the patience and knowledge to build a new Juba and southern Sudan. "Take your time," he said, "not for yourselves, but for the glory of God."
Following the sermon, Deng thanked the gathered crowd for their support for ECS. "We are here to stay," he said. "We are not going anywhere. We want a united Episcopal Church."
Speaking on behalf of Jefferts Schori, Scantlebury said the Presiding Bishop was "grateful for the work and witness of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan and the partnerships that have enriched both our churches."
Bishop Evans Kisekka of Luweero in the Anglican Church of Uganda brought greetings from his primate, Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi, who thanked Deng for his commitment to bringing peace to Northern Uganda, which has been devastated by years of violence from the Lord's Resistance Army. "We will hold one another's hands for the sake of peace and unity in Christ," Kisekka said on behalf of Orombi.
Nzimbi noted that Kenya and Sudan have worked together on many issues and initiatives in the church and on the national level. "I feel like we are one," he said. "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others,"
Mayardit praised ECS for its role in peacemaking and recognized its present and former leaders, including outgoing primate and Deng's predecessor, Archbishop Joseph Marona.
During the afternoon, Deng delivered a charge to a crowd gathered outside the cathedral. He emphasized the need to combat tribalism, nepotism and corruption, and called for unity and diversity in the Church and throughout Sudan, especially in addressing the violence in Darfur.
"The Episcopal Church of the Sudan believes that God created humanity in his image, irrespective of ethnicity, religion, culture, sex or otherwise, having the same values, rights and dignity," he said. "The Episcopal Church will work hard to eradicate ignorance and assist in the support of the rights of the poor and oppressed, and to remove injustice."
Deng, who will also serve as Bishop of the Diocese of Juba, called on all citizens of Sudan "to respect yourselves, your government and the country as a new nation trying to rebuild itself. Listen to God and pray for prosperity, love and peace, while keeping an eye on those who may wish to fail us."
Following Deng's address, several dignitaries and guests offered speeches outside the cathedral from the platform built for the occasion of former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey's visit to Sudan in 1994.
The Minister for Gender and Religion said that the Episcopal Church is the largest single entity in Southern Sudan and that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which has reported some recent setbacks, "belongs to the people."
The dean of the Cathedral spoke about the need to reach out to those who have been displaced by the violence of the civil war and underscored his hopes for peace, reconciliation and justice.
The Government of Southern Sudan announced that it would be providing Deng with a motor vehicle to help assist his new ministry.
Deng succeeds Archbishop Joseph Marona, who retired on December 31, 2007 after serving eight years as Sudan's primate. Deng was elected February 14 on the first ballot out of a field of three nominees during an emergency General Synod at All Saints Cathedral in Juba.
Deng has long been recognized for his commitment to peacemaking and building up the Church in Sudan. In his time as bishop of Renk, a volatile region that lies on the border between the north and south, the diocese experienced incredible growth.
Episcopalians from the dioceses of Chicago and Virginia traveled to Renk in February 2006 for the consecration of its new cathedral.
Deng served as chairman of the ECS Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission which has brought together Church and community leaders to assess currents situations through Sudan's several regions and to plan how the Church can respond in cooperation with communities and the government.
"It has been wonderful to see such a joyous occasion in the life of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan," said the Rev. Emmanuel Sserwadda, partnership officer for Africa. "Archbishop Deng has proved to be a wonderful leader, a peacemaker and a reconciler. This is evident in his former Diocese of Renk, where the church has grown physically and spiritually, and also in his work as chair of the Justice, Peace and Reconciliation Commission."
The U.S.-based Episcopal Church has long-standing partnerships with ECS through companion relationships, Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) and the Office of Government Relations (OGR).
Current companion relationships include Albany with the Province of Sudan, Bethlehem with Kajo Keji, Chicago with Renk, Indianapolis with Bor, Missouri with Lui, Southwestern Virginia with the Province of Sudan, and Virginia with the Province of Sudan.
In addition to bishops from the U.S.-based Episcopal Church and ELCA, the ecumenical delegation attending the enthronement included Sserwadda; Janette O'Neill, director of Africa for ERD; Alexander Baumgarten, international policy analyst in the Office of Government Relations; Richard Parkins, former director of Episcopal Migration Ministries; and Kimberly Stietz, director for international policy in the Washington Office of the ELCA.
Archdeacon Robert Franken represented both the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri and the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, a group that is dedicated to bringing awareness to the issues of ECS and helping to build relationships with the Church there.
"I found this to be a day of new hope for the ECS. Archbishop Daniel is committed to breaking down the tribalism that threatens not only the southern part of ECS but all of ECS," he said. "It is imperative that they find a way to walk together so that the help that comes from partners like the U.S. Episcopal Church is the dawn of a new day and the end of the violence that has wracked the church through war and now threatens them through tribalism."
Following the service, many people commented on the spirit-filled occasion and acknowledged their appreciation for the mission-oriented work of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan.
"It is such a joyful moment in the life of the province of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, and it is encouraging to see so much of the world represented here," said Chicago's Scantlebury. "It is an expression of our wishes for peace and reconciliation among the people of Sudan and important for them to feel that they are supported by the whole world through our prayers and our desire to walk with them."
Gray said it has been a privilege to be involved with ECS for the last nine years, especially through mission work in the Diocese of Renk.
"Because of God's graciousness and mercy this church has experienced an incredible moment" in Deng's enthronement, said Gray, acknowledging the long history of priests and martyrs throughout the years who have laid down their lives for the sake of the Church. "This is a new and glorious day for the Church in Sudan."
Daniel Marsh, a lay person from the Dinka tribe in the Diocese of Juba, described Deng as a competent and spirit-led person whom, he said, "will work well with all of us in Southern Sudan." He commended the work of outgoing Archbishop Joseph Marona and noted his encouragement that the service was so well attended. "We have all gathered to worship the Lord, the almighty God, to serve peacefully and work for the unity of God."
The Rev. J. Barney Hawkins, executive director of the Center for Anglican Communion Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary, where Deng was a student in the early 1970s, said he is proud of the new archbishop. Hawkins said that Deng has "many friends in Christ around the world." Deng will receive an honorary degree from VTS in May, "when once again we will convey how we want to continue being a partner with him in serving the people of God in the Episcopal Church of the Sudan," said Hawkins.
The Rev. Robert Marshall from the Diocese of Southwestern Virginia said it was an honor to be a part of the celebrations, which "exemplify how strong the church is here.
"From the throngs of people who have come to be here today, it is quite obvious that the church is an integral part of their lives and in such a positive way," he said. "We need to continue this relationship because this is such a strong Church that does so many things for so many people in great need."
ELCA's Wennes has visited East Africa several times but this is his first trip to Sudan.
Wennes said he has been humbled and inspired by the Church in Sudan, which he describes as a symbol of hope. "Many of us have been praying for the Sudanese people for so long," he said, "so it's a great thrill to be here and to see the vitality of faith, and to come together with people from so many different nations to express the faith and hope that the spirit is at work in our midst."
A priest from the Diocese of Rejaf expressed his gratitude to God and to all the people of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan for their steadfast prayer and dedication to peace. "It gives us all hope when we witness God's presence in one another, and today we've seen it in our friends from around the world," he said.
"An event such as this empowers and encourages people to live into a life of peace and reconciliation," said Parkins. "It has incredible meaning to those who've had such a life of tragedy and suffering. Hopefully it's the beginning of a life of peace and stability."