On a night when it seems all but certain that southern Sudan will soon become an independent country comes this news via press release:
Russ Randle, a member of Christ Episcopal Church in Alexandria, has been chosen by Bonnie Anderson, president of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, as the first recipient of the President of the House of Deputies Medallion for Exemplary Service.
Randle, a three-time Deputy to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, was chosen for his 14-year commitment to aiding the often-persecuted Episcopal Church of Sudan in the midst of that nation’s civil war and its aftermath. He will receive the award on Friday, January 21 during the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia’s annual Diocesan Council in Reston.
“I am delighted to have this opportunity to honor Deputy Randle for his courage and his tenacity on behalf of the people of Sudan and the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” Anderson said. “His skillful diplomacy and passionate advocacy has helped the Church of Sudan to build a cathedral, translate the Bible, provide medical care, and to flourish, against all odds, in a climate of depravation and persecution.”
Randle, a partner at Patton Boggs in Washington, D. C., became involved in Sudan after meeting Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, the Primate of the Episcopal Church of Sudan in 1997 at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria, Va. Deng, who was studying for a Doctor of Ministry degree, was then Bishop of the Diocese of Renk, located in an especially vulnerable area on the border between Sudan’s primarily Muslim north and its Christian and animist south.
Randle, a board member of the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan, has visited Sudan four times, and become one of the Sudanese church’s most effective American allies. Working with Wycliffe Bible translators, SIL in Sudan and other donors in the US, he helped finance the translation of the Old Testament into the Dinka language. Randle played a key role in arranging the construction of St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Renk. He was also instrumental in building a health clinic in Renk and recruiting doctors to provide medical care.
Randle remains close to Archbishop Deng. At Deng’s request, he has offered pro bono legal services to the church, and assisted Sudanese lawyers in freeing political prisoners. He helped organize a protest outside of the Sudanese embassy when the Sudanese government seized church property in 2004.
In 2007 Randle participated in a fact-finding mission that helped alert U. S. church and government leaders to Sudanese government activities that threatened the peace accords that had ended the lengthy Sudanese civil war in 2005. International attention helped stabilize the situation, and the peace agreements held until a referendum last week in which it was widely expected that the southern Sudanese would vote to break from the north and form a separate country.
Randle has successfully encouraged other Episcopal dioceses and parishes to form relationships with the Church of Sudan. Currently, the Diocese of Virginia alone has some 20 parishes, schools, families and organizations active in 13 Sudanese dioceses. The Dioceses of Chicago, Missouri and New York and others also maintain “companion relationships” with dioceses in Sudan.
“The Diocese of Virginia is deeply blessed by Russ Randle’s indomitable passion and dedication for ministry in Sudan,” said the Rt. Rev. Shannon Johnston, Bishop of Virginia. “Russ has been indispensible in the development of key ministries and relationships with our brothers and sisters there, and for this we are extremely grateful. His tireless efforts have enriched the faith of so many people, not only within our or own diocese, but also across the Episcopal Church. It is so gratifying to see that the wider church values his talent and spirit as much as we here in Virginia do.”
Anderson established The President of the House of Deputies Medallion for Exemplary Service to honor individuals and communities who have exhibited an exceptional commitment to the work of reconciling a broken world.
“At baptism, every Episcopalian promises to ‘strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being,’ ” Anderson said. “Some of us keep this promise with such distinction that I believe they deserve to be recognized. Russ was just the kind of person I had in mind when I was preparing to establish this award.”