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‘Relief & development work promotes inter-religious harmony’

By André Forget on March, 10 2015

 

"We realized that actually if we pooled our experience, we could start to develop what looked like the framework for quite a comprehensive strategy to respond as a Communion," says Rachel Carnegie, co-director of the Anglican Alliance. Photo: André Forget 


Rachel Carnegie is co-director of the Anglican Alliance, a position she has been in since 2014. Previously, she served as the Archbishop of Canterbury's secretary for international development and as a parish priest. Before taking holy orders, she spent many years working in the international development world with organizations such as Save the Children and Unicef. The Anglican Journal had the opportunity to sit down with her while she was visiting the offices of the Anglican Church of Canada and talk about the purpose of the Anglican Alliance and its role in the Communion.


If you had to explain your work with the Anglican Alliance to a regular parishioner, what would you say?

Around the Anglican Communion, there is such extraordinary work happening in the church’s mission, including the work it’s doing on issues of poverty, and justice, and caring for the environment. But until the Alliance was imagined, and envisioned by the bishops at the Lambeth Conference in 2008, we actually didn’t have any formal way of connecting, sharing our skills, encouraging one another, praying for one another and working in a more connected way. At its heart, the Alliance is a way of looking at the gifts that the Communion has in its experience and vision of church and community transformation, and seeing how we can bring those gifts to each other to strengthen the work that we do in holistic mission. The Alliance is both about working across the Communion to see where we have really good practice, and where we can share and build on that, but also seeing what are the emerging issues that are really challenging the church, and where we need to learn from one another and from outside to strengthen our response.

 

You’ve been with the Alliance for a year now, and before that you were working at Lambeth, but you have also had an extensive career working in the secular international development world. What do you feel you bring to the Alliance and to your position? 

I’ve lived in a number of countries, and worked and visited a number of countries as well—in Asia and Africa and also in the Pacific and Latin America. So I’ve had the privilege to live in and understand different societies and cultures, and the role of the church in those contexts. My work started in the secular development world, with Save the Children, Unicef and other organizations, and then increasingly I began to see that actually the development questions before us absolutely needed the faith communities, the churches, to be a part of the solution.

Through the ’90s, I was working on HIV/AIDS concerns and could see that churches and other faith communities engaged and transformed could be an extraordinary gift to actually producing a more just world, where we could talk about HIV, break through the stigma, own that all of us were affected. I became increasingly convinced about the role of faith in development, but also aware that there were sometimes challenges in that. A calling came to me at the end of the ’90s, and I was ordained at about that time, then carried on working in a local parish part-time and continued my work in development. That led ultimately to my working with the Archbishop of Canterbury as his secretary for international development.

I should mention as well that I came in just after the Lambeth Conference [of 2008], so in a sense [I] was part of the midwifery team for the Alliance. There were a number of us around the Conference who were charged with turning the vision of the bishops into a reality. In a sense, one of the main roles I had when I came in was to work on the consultation process for what the Alliance should look like. We launched it in 2011, with its first director Sally Keeble, who did a brilliant job establishing structures, governance and so on. 

And then I was thrilled when, in a sense, the role became something that was waiting for a new director. I job-share with Andy Bowman, who has also worked in the development field for a long time. It’s kind of a model partnership, right at the heart of the Alliance, because we share the very job of looking after the directing of the Alliance.

 

The Alliance is a body that can see where good work is already being done, and possibly also see gaps that exist. What has that process looked like?

I’ll give you one example. Through the regional consultations, the issue of modern slavery and human trafficking arose as a primary concern, and the more we talked to provinces, they were saying, “we know there is human trafficking in our countries. We just don’t know how to respond.”

First of all, we were aware that other Christian denominations—the Salvation Army and the Roman Catholics, in particular—actually had a lot of experience in this field. Then we started digging down, and were astonished and delighted to find that we had an extraordinary wealth across the Communion of people who were responding in different ways, but had never been connected before. So we brought them together for a consultation on looking at different dimensions to the response to human trafficking, which would include the prevention work, protection for survivors of modern slavery, looking at prosecution, developing policy work in governments on good legislation, but also what participation of the church in partnership with others looks like. 

We realized that actually if we pooled our experience, we could start to develop what looked like the framework for quite a comprehensive strategy to respond as a Communion, but also would be better able to work ecumenically to end modern-day slavery. 

So I just had a conversation, funnily enough, with an emerging group in the church of Canada, looking at human trafficking here, to discuss that very issue and to understand what is the context—it always needs to be based on the local context—and what lessons can be learned from other parts of the Communion that could help us to shape what the strategy might look like in Canada.

 

Given that the Anglican Communion, globally, is so diverse, when it comes to things like advocacy—part of the mandate of the Alliance is to speak with one voice—how does that work?

The core mandate of the Alliance is about capacity-building, so to some extent our primary job is to help provinces, dioceses, to understand what effective advocacy is, because they will have their own priorities of things that they are called to work on in their own context. So the primary thing is to really enable people to think reflectively about how we as a church have a voice, and use that voice.

One of the pieces we often share is that the church doesn’t need to say that it is the voice of the voiceless—it has within its own congregations and communities people who are directly affected by these issues, so let’s see how we can bring the most vulnerable to speak alongside our leaders. But through the regional consultations we do have two particular issues, which have risen up, which people want to work on collectively. So one is: what’s the shape of the post-2015 development architecture and the discussion about the sustainable development goals that is coming out at the moment? 

As a community, we’re encouraging and signposting people to engage with some ecumenical work on that. And because the Millennium Development Goals themselves were really embraced by so many of the provinces as a framework for engagement, I think they were actually quite electrified, some of the provinces, and the Communion as a whole. We hope there can be similar engagement post-2015.

The other one is, of course, around climate change…the eco-bishops are getting together. It’s not an initiative of the Alliance directly, but it’s something we really want to hold up and encourage. Those bishops are drawn from many different communities that are impacted directly by climate change. What we will do is learn from that, amplify what they have said, and allow others to listen in to the vision that they have expressed. What we’re hoping to do is each year take one example from around the Communion and feature it. One year I think it would be very important to look at the Arctic communities and look at the impact of climate change on them, because that is a voice that we rarely hear, globally. So it’s really to look at where in our Communion we have communities that are most impacted and how we can raise up that experience and those voices.

 

There are a lot of people who still insist that climate change isn’t happening, and some of those people are Anglicans. Does internal questioning about where the church should be putting its energy ever become an obstacle?

I don’t think it has been an obstacle, but I think what’s really interesting is that sometimes it can be easier to talk about injustices that are “out there.” But what’s really interesting about human trafficking as well as climate change is that it actually requires a change of heart and behaviour from each of us. Human trafficking, of course, is rather like the fair trade initiative—saying, you know, the goods that I buy, are they slave-free in their supply chain? Which is quite a searching question. Engaging with integrity on the climate change issue asks the same questions of us.

In a way, the churches are so well set up for this because repentance is already such a part of our discourse, and the most moving and powerful advocacy initiatives have actually come when the churches have owned a complicity or a silence on an issue of injustice, and then moved through that to hear the stories, hear from the survivors, and gotten really actively engaged.

 

When it comes to choosing issues to support—obviously in the Communion there are so many things happening—what are the criteria that you keep in mind when trying to put energy into an initiative?

Well, the agenda is set from the grassroots up, so it starts with consultations where people come together as a region, and they’ve been asked before they come to think about what the issues are and to talk to others in their home churches about what the most pressing issues are for them in their context. We’ve had a series of regional consultations around the world, which has filtered up regional priorities, and then the global advisory council has looked at those and then established which of the cross-cutting ones have emerged globally.

At this point, those are gender and youth empowerment (which includes gender-based violence but also economic empowerment); human trafficking, migration, and refugees; and finally climate change and food security. I’m really excited that we’re just on the verge of having a European regional consultation later this, which will start to surface what the issues in Europe are. And there is some overlap – human trafficking, modern slavery is certainly a key issue coming up – but in a sense it’s a kind of rolling discussion, and we’re constantly taking stock.

So two weeks ago we were in Nairobi with our global advisory council saying, “this is what we identified, but are there some other cross-cutting things coming up?” It turns out there were. One is the issue of social and financial inequality, within nations as well as across nations, that’s becoming starker and starker. The second thing that came up very strongly was how we ensure that our relief and development work promotes inter-religious harmony and promotes peace building.

 

What are the things that Alliance has been most successful with, and where is there room for learning?

The feedback we’re getting from the churches and partners is that the way that we [have been providing] a coordinating platform for relief and humanitarian responses has been helpful. Because the churches facing this crisis can articulate one response that everybody buys into – they have one reporting line, they can have accompaniment if they want it, to help with the delivery or the financial accounting. But essentially, through the conference calls and the reports, they only have to deal collectively with the group rather than in the past, when they may have had to work with 10, 15, 20 different partners. 

I think that as we dig into this work we become aware that while the church has itself been an enormous humanitarian gift to the communities, the churches themselves are under extreme duress in these times of crisis. The Alliance has been able to look at that and see if there are any other funding streams that can come in to help the church itself with leadership so it can concentrate on what it is delivering.

The advocacy piece is still very much a work in progress. What we’re seeking to do is to lift up other people’s initiatives…But speaking as a Communion—as opposed to speaking regionally—is a really interesting issue, and I think we’re still working out what the means. 

On the development side, I think that what we’re having to look at—and it’s still very much evolving—[is] how do we build the core competencies of churches? How do you manage development projects? How do you do the research? How do you make sure it’s consultative, inclusive, and so on? So there is a whole piece about what models work best for the church to express this, but keep the development work as an integral part of it’s mission in the church. 

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By André Forget| March, 10 2015
Categories:  News|National News

About the Author

André Forget

André Forget

André Forget joined the Anglican Journal in 2014 as staff writer and social media lead. He also serves as managing editor of Whether Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, The Winnipeg Review, and the Town Crier.

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