July 2017 Convocation Newsletter
The Anglican Dioceses of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau convene triennial synod in Conakry
The triennial synod of the Anglican Diocese of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau took place from June 26 to 29, 2014. It was the first synod presided by the Right Reverend Jacques Boston, diocesan Bishop since 2012. He chose for the synod the site of the first church built in 1856 by missionaries, St. James, in Fallanghia, province of Boffa. This little village is also the birthplace of the previous Bishop, the Right Reverend Albert Gomez, who was happy to show it off to the guests.
Invited as the president of the Francophone Network of the Anglican Communion, I found myself in the company of the Bishop of Freetown, Sierra Leone, the Rt. Rev. Thomas Williams, and the Bishop of Bo, the Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Tucker, as well as the Rev. Canon Anthony Eiwuley, provincial secretary of the Province of West Africa. We formed with Bishop Gomez what Bishop Boston called his “advisers”, his “wise men.” It soon became apparent that the young bishop had no need of our advice. His smooth presiding of the sessions, mixing humor, humility, and the power of his presence, made the synod run without a hitch. The delegates did not complain about their president’s style, for he saw to it that each resolution was fully and freely debated.
After the opening Eucharist on Thursday the 26th,which I had the honor of presiding and preaching, the synod opened with a series of speeches by political and religious leaders of the country. They included the Archbishop of Conakry, the Most Reverence Vincent Coulibaly, who had driven four hours to participate. (The apostolic nuncio was unable to attend, as his car got lost.) After the opening ceremonies, the assembly began a long examination of all the reports presented to the synod by the parishes and other institution of the diocese. Written according to a rigid protocol, several were judged to be deficient in form. The second session was almost completely consecrated to the separate meetings of the House of Laity and the House of Clergy. When the plenary resumed, each gave its opinion on the various resolutions and reports. As these often diverged, the debates were sometimes heated, but Bishop Boston saw to it that everything remained in order.
Other than resolutions of a technical nature, the synod looked to the future of the diocese. Canonical discipline of the clergy was strengthened by amendments to the diocesan constitution. Financial issues were also voted upon, especially the urgent need to build a home for the bishop and his family. Another priority was to equip the diocese with modern means of communication, including building a website for the diocese.
Moreover, the continuation of annual pilgrimages to Tintima, the location of the landing of the first two missionaries from Barbados, was unanimously approved. Located 21 kilometers from Fallanghia, the pilgrims meet to pray on a concrete slab, which may serve for a possible basilica built on the historic site. Then they walk on the path between the two villages. It was therefore decided to give the Fallanghia location more buildings, so as to house pilgrims and other visitors.
During the synod, the Fallanghia church received a large veranda, which had not been completed before the meeting started. So we could only use it on the last day. The constant noise of hammering and shouting punctuated the debates and the worship. I remarked that to have this synod meet in the middle of a construction site was highly symbolic, a diocese still being built.
The Anglican Diocese of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau has only seven true parishes and several smaller congregations, with about 1500 members total. Nevertheless, they run four clinics, each with physicians, nurses and laboratories. Two are in Conakry. The largest is at All Saints Cathedral, with a generalist and a pediatrician. There is also located the École Toussaint, with over a thousand students, from nursery through middle school.
Bishop Boston rebaptized the Fallanghia clinic, “Bishop Pierre Whalon Clinic.” When he showed me the plaque on the building, I was stunned — it was a total surprise. This great honor will require that I return to Guinea, to Fallanghia. That is no hardship, for Guinea is a new Eden, rich and breathtakingly beautiful. Its people are warmly welcoming, despite real poverty and corruption. The Muslim majority (about 80%) entertains excellent relations with the country’s Christians. The imams I was introduced to all boasted of the close collaboration with our own people for the common good of the nation. The influence of Arabic is clear, even in this little country in west Africa, in the language of the majority, Susu: God is “Allah” and Jesus, “Isa.”
Finally, it must be stated that, like Cameroon, the two Congos, Rwanda and Burundi, Anglophones did not found the Anglican Diocese of Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. This translates to a clear deficiency of means compared to the provinces evangelized by English and American missionaries. They represent the “second missionary wave,” that is to say, the future of the Anglican Communion, which will grow by the efforts of native missionaries. Nevertheless, these Churches deserve the support of the rich provinces, which can only be enriched by establishing close relations with their sisters and brothers. They may not necessarily speak English, but they speak “Gospel” just as well.
Allah tan tou! God be praised!
Allah i nu wali! Thank God!
Bishop Pierre Whalon
Réseau francophone de la Communion anglicane