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Theological, Pastoral Insights of SECAM's Kampala Document: Drafting Member's Report

Sr. Teresa Okure, a member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ), reflects on SECAM's Kampala Document released 21 January 2021

The recently released Kampala Document (KD) of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) is a jubilee document that signals “collaboration beyond boundaries,” one of the drafting members has outlined.

In a report that seeks to provide “insights into the main theological and pastoral” dimensions of the 100-page document, Sr. Teresa Okure says that the manuscript is defined by “Jesus Christ and His Gospel.”

“Because jubilee defines the nature, character and purpose of the KD, we look to jubilee for key insights into its theological and pastoral message for the Church-Family of God in Africa and beyond,” Sr. Okure says in her January 21 report shared with ACI Africa.

She adds, “The term jubilee occurs 19 times in the KD.”

Just like Pope St. John Paul II’s Novo Millennio Ineunte (NMI), which he issued at the end of the Great Jubilee of our Lord Jesus Christ, the “KD is a forward looking document inviting all God's people to continue to reflect on the graces of the past 50 years, in particular, of the Church-Family of God in Africa, Madagascar and the Islands,” the Nigerian-born Sister who is a member of SECAM Theological Committee (COMITHEOL) that participated in drafting the document says.

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The invitation to continuous reflection, Sr. Okure notes, “Entails assuming personal and communal responsibility and commitment to grow more deeply in our desire to truly know Christ and closely follow him in order to receive from him the fullness of life that he came to give to humanity.”

Regarding the KD’s call to the Church in Africa to commit itself to return to its “baptismal roots in Christ and his gospel,” Sr. Okure, a member of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus (SHCJ) says this “can only be achieved through solid knowledge of, and rootedness in Jesus and his gospel.”

“The primary purpose of the KD is to call on all God's people to receive life in abundance which Jesus gives. It follows naturally that Jesus Christ and his gospel should feature prominently and pervasively in the KD,” the Professor of New Testament and gender hermeneutics at the Catholic Institute of West Africa (CIWA) in Nigeria’s Rivers State, Port Harcourt notes.

Just as one welcomes a visitor and listens to what they have to say, the Nigerian scripture scholar says, “The Church-Family of God that welcomed Christ its Savior during the jubilee year is now called upon to listen to him and his gospel.”

“The gospel occurs 137 times in the KD from the first to the last paragraph; Jesus and Jesus Christ combined about 98 times,” she says in her January 21 report and adds, “Indeed, the gospel which is both Jesus himself, ‘God's Gospel’ and his gospel message is the leitmotif of the KD.”

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Sr. Okure further notes that the KD published as a Pastoral Exhortation of SECAM under the theme, “That They May Know Christ and Have Life in Abundance” has “unrelenting emphasis on personal and shared/corporate responsibility for taking the concrete actions proposed in the Document.”

Responsibility regarding various categories of people such as the Church in Africa, African governments, African intelligentsia, and the baptized occurs 19 times in the KD, Sr. Okure says her report issued during the virtual release of the document January 21.

“It’s jubilee-rooted agenda already cited is packed with action words: to return; to deepen, to live, and to generate a new impetus for mission with the ultimate purpose ‘to build for all citizens [not just Catholics of Christians] a new Africa centered on God’,” she says.

In the report, Sr. Okure goes on to highlight what she terms “some significant newness in KD” and which includes the involvement of SECAM, whose leadership “commits itself to grow in this knowledge of Christ by returning to the original vision of its founders to work in unity.”

Accompaniment as a strategy is another newness that the Nigerian Sisters says is part of the KD, which highlights various forms of diverse accompaniment that “ensures that people understand what they are required to do and gives them hope that they are not alone.”

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“The KD highlights the need to review and learn from the past in the spirit of Sankofa,” Sr. Okure says, adding, “Since the Church-Family of God in Africa and the entire continent itself is not an island, it has been and continues to be adversely affected and exploited by foreigners with the collusion of some greedy Africans.”

To the Nigeria-based Scripture scholar, “A review of the progress and lapses of the Church-Family of God in Africa in the past fifty years, particularly in where it stands with regard to the mission mandate given to SECAM at its foundation ... aids towards activating and sustaining in the jubilee spirit, a firm commitment on the part of SECAM and the Church-Family of God in Africa, Madagascar and the Islands to move forward resolutely and courageously.”

The need for awareness that the Church-Family of God in Africa is not a passive recipient of the gospel is another new aspect in the KD, Sr. Okure says and laments the painting of Africa as “a mere recipient of the gospel message through the work of European missionaries. Or that Christianity in Africa is a foreign religion.”

“The KD takes great pains to document Africa's unique and enviable contribution to Scripture, to the life of Israel and of Jesus and indeed to the growth and expansion of the early Church,” she says and explains, “All this is in line with helping Africa to stand on its own feet and not feel inferior in any way to other nations. “

Other new dimensions that Sr. Okure highlights as present in the SECAM document include a call to act together as Church-Family of God; adequate formation, a necessary tool for proactive evangelization in Africa and the Islands; and the KD being a document full of hope.

“During the jubilee year (29th July 2018- 29th July 2019), SECAM invited us Church-Family of God in Africa to "welcome Christ our Savior"; now in this KD, SECAM has clearly invited us to listen continually to this Christ whom we have welcomed, and to embrace, accept, believe in, and live by his teaching in the gospel,” the member of COMITHEOL says.

She adds, “May we not fail in this mission of active reception of Jesus and his gospel. The sole reason he came among us was so that we may have life in ever-increasing abundance and share the same with all peoples in Africa and beyond. When we do this, our celebration of the Golden Jubilee of SECAM will yield the desired abundant fruit in a new and renewed Africa and the world.”