“Intentional Discipleship in a Nation of Differences”
The 131st Annual Council of the Diocese was held from 27th to 29th October 2016 in the auditorium of the diocese.
The three day event which brings together representatives from all parishes of the Colombo diocese as well as the clergy, began with an Evensong on the 27th and concluded with the election of a new Standing Committee on the 29th.
His Lordship, Valence Mendis, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Chilaw was the Chief Guest at this year's sessions.
The customary evensong in the Cathedral preceded the session, where the preacher was Rev.Marimuthupillai Sathivel. Fr. Sathivel who is a well known and passionate advocate for social justice spoke on the theme “ A discipleship that stands by the God of justice and offers life”.
His Lordship Valence Mendis Roman Catholic Bishop of Chilaw and Secretary General of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Sri Lanka, who was the chief guest at the 131st sessions was warmly received and conducted to the auditorium.
The proceedings began with a short tri-lingual video presentation on some of the major issues facing the country today and challenging the church to take action. This was produced by the Communications Board of the diocese together with the Board of Mission.
Bishop Valence in his address highlighted our call to Christian discipleship in several areas, which the film too had touched upon. Gross poverty and inequality, migrant labour and its impact on family life, Education for Christian children, environmental degradation and unsustainable development were some of these. He stressed on the need for the Church to play its prophetic role in speaking and acting on these issues. The new global trend of social media, he said had opened the way for our youth to be led astray in ways previously not possible. Although we are in the world we are not of the world and our mind set must be different, having the ‘mind of Christ’ in us. Discipleship he emphasized was being with the Master, knowing the mind and will of Jesus. Because Jesus was with the people the Church too is called to be with the people, or in the words of Pope Francis “ The Church will become the Church when the Poor feel they are a part of it”.
Bishop Dhilo in his charge spoke on the significance of the theme “Intentional Discipleship”, similar to that of the Anglican Consultative Council – 2016, which would be the annual theme for the Diocese of Colombo until the following October. He reminded the assembly that a true disciple would always want to imitate the Master, walk, talk and act like him and challenged them to be authentic disciples to carry forward Gods’ mission in our country and in the world.
Under the section Church and Nation, the Bishop whilst appreciating the progressive legislation passed by the government urged it to work determinedly with the political parties of the North to bring forward sound and sustainable proposals for power sharing. Some of the other concerns highlighted by the Bishop were, the issue of safe drinking water for the people in some parts of the North Central and Northern provinces, the re-settlement of those still in camps or without proper shelter, provision of proper medical care for the war wounded and a stronger commitment to ‘good governance’ (yaha palanaya).
Speaking further the Bishop brought out two other issues which he wished to place before the Council. These were Child Rights and the creation of a Child friendly Church as well as the approach of the Church to LGBTQ communities.
Turning to 50 years of Anglo-Roman Catholic relations in 2016, Bishop Dhilo spoke of the very significant and moving service of Vespers in the Church of San Gregorio in Rome where Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby jointly commissioned 19 pairs of Roman Catholic and Anglican Bishops, including himself and Bishop Emmanuel Fernando to work together for encouraging common prayer, mission and a common witness in their own countries.
The Anglican Consultative Council meeting 2016 in Lusaka, Zambia authorized the Church of Ceylon under Resolution 16-32 to proceed towards the creation of a fully independent province of the Anglican Communion. Bishop Dhilo spelt out the steps taken in this regard.
The Bishop also made mention of the special ministries under his care such as the World Needs a Father, the Sports Ministry and the Pre-Schools programme and the work carried out and ended his Charge to the Council thanking all those who had contributed to the life and work of the diocese in the past year.