In January, it was my privilege to spend a week at Canterbury Cathedral taking part in a program offered there for new bishops from around the Anglican Communion. I was one of 27 bishops there, and the only American. As you might imagine, spending that much time together, a lot of new relationships were formed–new friendships across international borders that we hope will last a very long time.
One of these new friends of mine is Bishop Elias Chapukewa of the Diocese of Tabora in the Province of Tanzania. Soon after we all returned to our homes, I received an email from Bishop Elias soliciting my help in applying for a grant from the United Thank Offering. His need is simply this: a reliable automobile. The Diocese of Tabora covers approximately 60,000 square miles. Right now, the Bishop gets around his diocese using intermittent and slow public transportation, and occasional lifts from friends. His ability to actually be the Bishop of Tabora is severely inhibited by the difficulty of just getting around.
The rules of the UTO require that an overseas diocese applying for a grant be at least in an informal companion relationship with a diocese of the Episcopal Church. Bishop Elias and I have decided, between the two of us, that our dioceses are in an informal companion relationship, just to get the process rolling.
Whether this informal relationship is ever formalized will require a period and a process of discernment. At the last meeting of the Diocesan Council, Norm Taylor (St Paul’s Cathedral), who heads our Department of World Mission, was asked to begin a process of re-examining the companion diocese relationships we already have. The diocese headed by my new friend Bishop Elias will be part of what is considered. In the meantime, I encourage you to do some sleuthing on your own about the Diocese of Tabora. Are we being called to a closer relationship with fellow Anglican Christians in east Africa? Something to pray about.