Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion 2008 Triennial

 

By Bruce Chilton

 

[ACNS] The Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion (CUAC) met at Chung Chi College in Hong Kong during the last week in May. With more than 120 institutions on all five continents, the association promotes cross-cultural contacts and educational programs. This global network of colleges and universities strives to assist faculty and students to become better global citizens of an increasingly pluralistic world.

Owing to its wide geographical distribution, CUAC meets once every three years, intentionally seeking to convene near a major Anglican center.Hong Kong was therefore a natural choice, guided by the demographic growth of the Anglican Communion in Asia as well as the historic importance of Chung Chi College and the Anglican Church in Hong Kong.

The organizers in the Asia-Pacific region chose “Excellence, Character, Service” as the guiding theme of the conference. The Most Rev. Paul Kwong, Primate of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, emphasized the interrelationship among the three in his sermon at the opening Eucharist.

As the conference progressed, participants identified the problem in higher education that specialization can lead to fragmented approaches that fail to encourage personal growth as they should. CUAC was founded in 1993 under the patronage of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and it has maintained a consistent purpose within an integrative perspective on education:

-enhance international/intercultural understanding through education, -develop visits and exchanges for students, faculty and administrators, -engage students and faculty in volunteer service to people in need, -schedule meetings and conferences on topics related to higher education, -communicate regularly through bulletins and newsletters, -promote joint curricular development, -encourage sharing of institutional and educational resources, -promote scholarly journals, research, and joint degrees.

CUAC has held international conferences for administrators, chaplains and faculty in Delhi, Toronto, and Tokyo as well as at Canterbury and York. It publishes a peer-reviewed Academic Journal called Prologue in addition to its newsletter, Compass Points, and also runs a website to facilitate exchanges, joint programs and services. Although participants in the conference expressed satisfaction in what CUAC has achieved, they also identified the challenge of developing specific models of education in a diverse world that address the integration of academic excellence, ethical character, and social service.

CUAC is an association of colleges and universities around the world who have historic or current ties with the various churches of the Anglican Communion, including those churches that have entered into ecumenical partnerships or unions. The diversity that the association embodies was especially apparent when the conference as a whole visited Mainland China, meeting with leaders and students at Lignan College, Sun Yat-sen University, Union Theological Seminary, as well as churches in Guangzhou and Shenzen. The vitality of these communities and their dedication to learning were as apparent as their enthusiasm for ecumenical inclusion and liturgical practice. A guest lecture on the history of the Church in China prior to departure for the Mainland by Professor Leung Yuen Sang, the Head of Chung Chi College of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, provided critical perspective on the experience. The experience itself provided direct evidence of thriving and growing communities, committed to education and Christian faith together, living in a working relationship within the People’s Republic of China.

Within this setting of growth, the particular purpose of the conference’s host institution, Chung Chi College, stood out clearly. Under the leadership of the Rev. Professor Lung-kwong Lo, the Divinity School of Chung Chi College has developed a coordinated program within the Chinese University of Hong Kong, so that academic excellence can be valued both in secular settings and within the practice of faith. By means of the impressive development of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, of which Chung Chi College is an affiliate institution, this member institution of CUAC is poised to play a key role in the growth of Christianity in China, a major factor for Church life and international relations during the twenty-first century.

After the visit of the conference to the mainland, the keynote address by Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, “The Anglican Way in Higher Education,” set out the nature of the strengths that the Anglican Communion brings to the pluralism that is increasingly the environment of faith:

Anglicanism is not ‘one size fits all’. It provides God’s tailor-made coat of many colours for every one of us! One of the strengths of the Anglican way of being Christian is precisely this enrichment that comes from legitimate diversity, and of the resources it gives us to deal with diversity – whether we face it within Anglicanism, within the ecumenical life of the difference Christian churches, or within the widely varying cultures of our world, into which we, and our young people, are called to be salt and light.

The controversy among Anglicans regarding ministry in its relation to sexual orientation was very much on participants’ minds. Although profound disagreement was acknowledged, at the same time the conviction remained that attempts to divide the Anglican Communion, rather than to address the causes of contention, reflect an inadequate understanding of the Church as the body of Christ. A measure of that conviction is CUAC’s choice of meeting in the United States in 2011, at the University of the South in Tennessee. Many who participated in the conference saw CUAC as an important instrument of communion during a period of stress.

Archbishop Ndungane also reported on the Historic Schools Restoration Project in South Africa, which seeks to bring back educational centers that had been deliberately run down during the period of Apartheid. As he said, “The Historic Schools Restoration Project is not specifically Christian, but I hope you can see how Christian values and aspirations are mirrored within it.” This principle of joining in action in the service of Christ, whether or not Christianity is specifically invoked, proved to be another key emphasis of the conference.

Another major address, by Margaret (Peggy) Pusch, the Associate Director of the Intercultural Communication Institute, stressed the value of service learning as an educational approach. Both her presentation and several panels of participants explored the integrating power of service to bring academic excellence into the formation of character. All previous Triennials involved CUAC members giving presentations, speeches and panels, but often by invitation only. This Triennial encouraged all delegates to contribute to the Participant Presentations, where reports were given on some of the programs and projects of their colleges and universities. This approach resulted in a much fuller sense of the richness of the constituent institutions, and facilitated direct contact between them in regard to the exchange of students and faculty and the development of common programs for service and study.

A measure of the success of the meeting is that its final business session undertook to enhance CUAC in two specific dimensions. First, the variety of ways in which service has been and is being conducted caused participants to commend that diversity, and not to seek a single programmatic approach. Second, the particular capacity of Anglicanism to offer common purpose in the midst of difference and even controversy brought the members to seek in future to articulate that aim within an agreed statement of purpose.

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ACNS: 4413, June 23, 2008

ACNS: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/news.cfm/2008/6/23/ACNS4413

ACNSlist is published by Anglican Communion News Service, London, UK.

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