Page last updated at 15:28 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 16:28 UK

Clergy become the congregation

By Natalie Hancock
BBC News

The procession crosses Lambeth Bridge
The mood was lively, with plenty of laughs and jokes

In an Anglican Communion hit by division, it was a spectacular show of solidarity.

Over 650 bishops, their spouses, faith leaders and foreign dignitaries from across the globe came together to march through London to demand that more is done to fight world poverty.

Bishops' wives wore national costumes and dress from Colombia, Gambia and Sudan amongst others, adding colourful highlights to the predominantly purple haze of the clergy gathering outside Whitehall.

The mood was lively and many laughed and joked as they lined up behind each other to set off.

Some took umbrellas to shade themselves for the walk in the hot sun.

And Ezekiel Malaangdit, assistant bishop of Bor in Sudan, said the march was a fitting way to raise awareness.

"Walking is what we do in the Sudan. You walk to town, you walk to see a doctor, you walk to see people."

Ezekiel Malaangdit
The church in Africa is the voice of the people who cannot talk for themselves so that is why we are all here
Assistant bishop Ezekiel Malaangdit

He said Sudan never had a chance to recover from conflict as it had been plagued by war since its independence in 1956 with no sign of a respite.

Action was needed urgently, he added.

"We need the world community to come and help. The church in Africa is the voice of the people who cannot talk for themselves so that is why we are all here."

Many on the march were adamant that despite differences about the issue of homosexuality amongst Anglicans, world poverty was a unifying cause.

But can a divided Anglican community effect meaningful change?

Bishop Jane Alexander from Edmonton, Canada, thought so and said: "The general heart is to find a way to stay together. We are trying to find a way forward in a spirit of respect and love.

"No-one is here because they think it is going to be the last Lambeth - we will find a way to move on."

Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia from the Orthodox Church, a stark contrast to the other bishops in his black robes and headdress, said the current disharmony would not be a solely Anglican concern for long.

"The questions that confront the Anglican faith are going to concern the whole of christianity in due course - so they will be our problems.

"I am here to listen and learn from the Anglican experience."

Church 'power'

There was singing and dancing from some of those in the London procession and they brought traffic to a halt as they walked down Parliament Road.

Banners calling for an end to poverty were held high for the crowds and the TV cameras to see.

Some passers-by strained to see what was happening - a few even climbed on walls or monuments to get a better view and applaud.

After a sidelong glance at the approaching mass of clerics, others clutched their takeaway coffees a little tighter and hurried past.

Despite all the attention, could the march or events like it persuade governments to deliver on their Millennium Development Goals to cut poverty?

If the church sold off some of its property it could probably end poverty a bit quicker
Lorne Davis, passer-by

Oyvind Hervig, 25, from Norway, was optimistic: "Although people are less religious now in the western world, the church still has the power to make an impact.

"It has a responsibility as a spiritual organisation to aid those who are weaker."

But one of those looking on slightly bewildered at the procession was Lorne Davis from south Wales and his wife, Pat.

He said he was not sure exactly what form, if any, such aid would take.

"It's pretty spectacular, yes, but I think they could do more in a practical way to help.

"It's very middle England isn't it? They are marching against poverty but they'll probably march past some poor guy busking in the street without a second glance.

"I don't know what the church can actually do now - I think this whole gesture is pretty meaningless."

He added: "If the church sold off some of its property it could probably end poverty a bit quicker."


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific