The Episcopal Church of the Sudan’s synod has decided not to divide between North and South Sudan, but will rename the church: The Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and Sudan.
The synod also reaffirmed its support for the church’s traditional teaching on human sexuality, rejecting innovations in doctrine and disciple that would permit gay blessings. On the day the Church of England (Nov. 28) released the Pilling Report, which recommended the church allow clergy to “mark” same-sex unions with unofficial blessing ceremonies, the Sudanese church released a statement from its 10th Provincial Standing Committee stating: “We reaffirm our position rejecting same-sex relationship.”
Clergy and lay delegates from each of the church’s 31 dioceses along with 35 bishops met from 27-30 Nov 2013 in the Jonglei state capital, Bor, South Sudan to discuss the future of the province.
At the start of the gathering, the Bishop of Lianya, the Rt. Rev. Peter Amidi told the Sudan Tribune the tremendous growth of the church over the past generation, coupled with the 2011 independence of South Sudan had raised the question of division.
A split would “not [be a] separation as such but an arrangement within the Anglican communion where you devolve power from the mother provincial authority to the area of clusters of dioceses”.
The retired Bishop of Bor, the Rt. Rev. Nathaniel Garang said the discussion of division was a sign of growth. “There were four dioceses before in Sudan, but there are more than 30 dioceses today”, he said.
“The Church of Sudan here can separate to [a] province in Sudan and [a] province in South Sudan. We are not separating but we are developing. The Church is one in the world, but it is a growing Church”, he added.
Sources in the Sudanese church told Anglican Ink the decision not to divide was taken in order to support the church in the north. Khartoum’s Minister of Guidance and Endowments, Al-Fatih Taj al-Sir, has told the country’s Parliament the government will not permit the construction of new Christian churches in the country. On 17 April 2013 the government minister said that no new churches had been built since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011 due to lack of worshipers and the growing number of abandoned churches.
In a May 2013 briefing, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported stated that since December 2012, there had been “an increase in arrests, detentions and deportations of Christians and of those suspected of having links to them, particularly in Khartoum and Omodorum, Sudan’s largest cities. There has also been a systematic targeting of members of African ethnic groups, particularly the Nuba, lending apparent credence to the notion of the resurgence of an official agenda of Islamisation and Arabisation.”
In their communique, the Sudanese church welcomed the “improvement in relations” between north and south Sudan, and urged the two governments to “tackle any outstanding issues in a peaceful way.”
The communique also called upon the government of South Sudan to stem the recent outbreaks of tribal violence and called upon the international community to maintain pressure on Khartoum to halt the violence in Darfur, the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains.