Update: Anglican Consultative Council Digest

May 10, 2009

Published at 10:20 p.m. EDT, this story updates an earlier version of the digest.

Much happens each day during the Anglican Consultative Council's (ACC) 14th meeting. In addition to Episcopal Life Media's regular coverage, here's some of what else went on May 11, the tenth day of the May 2-12 gathering.

ACC chair and successor consider past, present, future
ACC Chair and Diocese of Auckland Bishop John Paterson reflected on his tenure as he prepared to pass the chairmanship to Diocese of Southern Malawi Bishop James Tengatenga.

Paterson began his service on the ACC when Robert Runcie was the Archbishop of Canterbury (1980-1991). At the time, Runcie spoke of the Anglican Communion being held together by what he called "bonds of affection."

"I think after ACC-14, it will be easier once again to talk about the bonds of affection and that is due in part to the [Province] of the West Indies and the design of this meeting," said Paterson. The use of discernment groups to allow ACC representatives to air difficult issues in private before public debate and the time spent with members of the diocese in various settings make him confident that every voice on the council has been heard, he said.

The ACC, he said, moves between easy times and difficult times. Then, he turned the microphone to Tengatenga: "I am very willing to pass this on to my brother James."

Tengatenga described Paterson as "a hard act to follow."

Tengatenga, who has been involved with ACC since its 2002 meeting in Hong Kong, said that he never expected to chair the council.

"But as time drew close, I realized there were things that needed to be done and someone has to do it … I feel at the moment the communion is at a crossing and how it will come out, God only knows," he said, adding that he planned to carry on following Paterson's example.

"It's a hard thing for me in taking on leadership in a time of crisis," he added. "It's always nice to take it after the crisis, but that's where we are in this moment … and God has entrusted us with it."

On May 8, the council elected Tengatenga as its new chair to succeed Paterson. Tengatenga, who is the Province of Central Africa's episcopal representative on the council, will serve until the conclusion of the 2015 ACC meeting.

Four ACC members elected to Standing Committee
The ACC elected to its Standing Committee the Rev. Ian Douglas, clerical representative of the Episcopal Church; Anthony Fitchett, lay representative of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; Dato Stanley Isaacs, lay representative of the Province of South East Asia; and Bishop Azad Marshall, episcopal representative of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East. They were chosen from a field of 11 candidates.

The members will automatically serve as members of the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the Primates (JSC), which usually meets annually but has met biannually for the past two years. The JSC is the interim body that oversees the day-to-day operations of the Anglican Communion Office and the programs and ministries of the four instruments of communion: the Lambeth Conference; the Anglican Consultative Council; the Primates Meeting; and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The four new members will join Philippa Amable, lay representative of the Province of West Africa; Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe, episcopal representative of the Church of Ceylon; and Nomfundo Walaza, lay representative of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

The primatial members of the JSC are Phillip Aspinall of the Anglican Church of Australia, Mouneer Anis of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Henry Orombi of the Province of Uganda, Barry Morgan of the Church in Wales, and Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church. Those members could not vote in the election. The primatial members are allowed to vote on most other ACC matters.

Earlier in the ACC meeting, after Tengatenga's election as chair, the members elected Elizabeth Paver, lay representative for the Church of England, to succeed George Koshy of the Church of South India as the ACC's vice chair.

ACC passes budget with 3% increase in contribution request
With little discussion, the council passed a budget for 2009 and budget projections for 2010 and 2011. Those projections assume a three percent annual increase in giving from the communion's provinces over the next three years.

During the budget presentation earlier in the May 2-12 meeting, Anglican Communion Secretary General Kenneth Kearon noted, however, that few provinces met a similar request made by the ACC during its last meeting in 2005.

According to a list of provincial contributions asked and received, the Episcopal Church is the second-largest giver to the ACC behind the Church of England. Together the two churches paid the ACC 768,903 pounds sterling of the nearly 1.2 million it received. The total requested was 1,568,300 pounds sterling.

Six provinces paid no part of the money requested of them for 2007 or 2008 according to the list. They were Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan and West Africa. Another 11 of the 42 provinces and other churches that were asked to contribute gave money in only one of those two years.

Provinces asked to celebrate 'Season of Creation'
The ACC's representatives passed a multi-pronged resolution on environmental awareness that urges the communion's member provinces and churches to

  • weigh environmental as well as financial costs of all church activities;
  • aim to reduce their carbon footprint by five percent each year;
  • celebrate a "Season of Creation" as "an integral part of the church's yearly pattern of worship and teaching;
  • advocate for access to drinkable water "as an inviolable human right";
  • encourage faith communities to "understand that energy is part of God's provision," work to make renewable energy the standard power source and use fossil fuels "only when renewable energy is temporarily unavailable";
  • provide means for all Anglicans to become competent in environmental stewardship and theological reflection on the sustainability of creation and the appropriate use of science and technology; and
  • advocate for "sustainable restorative economies" with national governments, the United Nations and local constituencies.

ACC adds to work of Unity Faith, Order commission
The council asked the recently established Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) to include in an upcoming study of roles and authority of the instruments of communion consideration of existing work from around the communion on the subject, as well as "current best practices in governance for multi-layered complex organizations."

The idea of the IASCUFO study arose in the final report (paragraph 76) of the Windsor Continuation Group, whose recommendations the ACC endorsed on May 8.

Compass Rose Society's request for close link get nod
The Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the Primates will be asked to investigate how a closer link might be made between the council and the Compass Rose Society, which takes its name from the symbol of the Anglican Communion and which the ACC helped establish so that Anglicans could help provide financial support for the work of the communion.

The council's resolution suggested that the JSC look at specifying ACC work that the society might support, appoint an ACC liaison person to the society's board, help plans "strategic visits to further the mission of the Anglican Communion and the mission of the CRS," and invite regular reports to the JSC.

Since 1994, the society has donated $6.3 million to the work of the communion.

ACC members recognize post-conflict rebuilding effort
The council passed a resolution acknowledging "with admiration and gratitude the vital work of local churches in rebuilding communities that have been devastated by violence and conflict." The resolution, offered by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, urged Anglican and Episcopal development and aid agencies, along with other church and secular non-governmental organizations, to increase where appropriate their support of local churches' work in food security, education, sustainable livelihoods, health care, women's empowerment and internally displaced persons.

Council asks next ACC meeting to consider adding to Marks of Mission
The ACC endorsed requests from the Anglican Church of Canada and the recent Conference of the Anglican Churches of the Americas in Mutual Responsibility and Mission to add to the Five Marks of Mission a sixth mark that would call Anglicans to work for peace, conflict transformation and reconciliation.

The representatives agreed to ask the Anglican Communion Office's Mission Department to consider the request for the addition and make a proposal to the next ACC meeting, which is expected in 2012.

The ACC initially agreed to the Five Marks of Mission during its 1984 and 1990 meetings. They are:

  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom;
  • To teach, baptize and nurture new believers;
  • To respond to human need by loving service;
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society; and
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

The addition of a sixth mark such as the one proposed was seen as a way to address the need for reconciliation of war and other conflicts, as well as violence in communities and the need for reconciliation within the church and between the church and certain segments of the communities in which they operate.

The debate on the proposal centered partially on whether a specific sixth mark was needed or whether the work of reconciliation was assumed in all of the marks, but especially in the third and fourth ones.

Jefferts Schori has previously said that she regards the Five Marks as "the best demonstration of how the parts of the Anglican Communion can and need to work together." Near the end of the debate May 11, she told the council that "there is awkwardness for us in the Episcopal Church because our catechism defines the mission of the church as reconciling the world to God and each in Christ."

"Reconciliation is understood as encompassing all of these marks of mission," she continued. "It will be awkward for us in our teaching to add [a mark of mission] specifically about reconciliation."

ACC members encounter Jamaican ministry
On May 10, parishes throughout the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands invited ACC representatives to attend worship services, meet with members of clergy and the congregations to learn about the parishes and their local communities, and to talk about the mission challenges shared by churches throughout the Anglican Communion.

The representatives gathered back in Kingston on May 11 and broke into 10 groups to discuss privately their observations and define common themes.

The groups shared their observations during a 30-minute open plenary.

Those common themes included:

  • Hospitality: Delegates expressed appreciation for the large amount of time parishes spent in preparing for their visit. Delegates said they were met with generosity, graciousness, and joyful, colorful worship styles.
  • Youth involvement: The number of children and youth varied from parish to parish with some having large numbers of young people both in attendance and, in some cases, having roles in worship. In other cases, there were few young people in attendance. The challenge is to find projects that attract young people back to the church and encourage their involvement.
  • The absence of men: In some places the Anglican Church is seen as the domain of women, and in some of the parishes that were visited men were conspicuously absent. Parishes have initiated outreach programs targeted specifically to men.
  • Lay leadership: Lay leaders have stepped up in leadership roles. In some cases, parishes encourage lay involvement at all levels.
  • Mission/evangelism and church growth: It was noted that in rural areas mission is synonymous with church growth. And in some cases, the parishes are taking care of peoples' basic needs. Conversely, some people expressed concern that the church focuses too much on mission and not enough on evangelism.
  • Limited knowledge of the ACC: Congregations told delegates that they don't have much knowledge about the ACC or its relevance in parish life.
  • The question of Anglican identity in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands: How are Anglicans perceived by others in the world? In some places Anglicans are viewed as being wealthy and not quite Christian. How should Anglicans respond to that? And how do Anglicans help the needy when "we are perceived as the other?"
  • Difficult conversations/the Listening Process/challenges to the diocese: How can churches talk honestly about violence in inner cities and be engaged in transforming that violence without tarnishing the city's image?

"Everyone can see their own church, own situation, own province in the comments made here," said Stephen Lyon, a member of the Anglican Communion Office who helped organize the visits.

U.N. observer reports to ACC
Hellen Wangusa, Anglican Observer at the United Nations, addressed the ACC representatives regarding the nature of her work beyond the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The observer's office, based at the Episcopal Church Center in New York, is called to carry out specific objectives, including:

  • Support the work of the United Nations by taking part in appropriate intergovernmental forums, commissions, high-level events and summits.
  • Advocate the use of U.N.-developed instruments. The U.N. has developed instruments that can be used for awareness, creation and advocacy in countries, provinces and other constituencies, associated with the communion, Wangusa said.
  • To participate in a wide variety of U.N.-sponsored meetings and activities aimed at advancing the achievements of the MDGs.
  • To contribute to and further U.N. development programs, including sustainable development goals aimed at mitigating desertification and drought, and programs focused on agriculture.
  • To receive feedback on the effectiveness of U.N. MDG programs and to share that information with others.

The Anglican Communion has achieved a credible, legitimate, legal and effective presence in the U.N. based on a shared approach to mission, Wangusa said.

Group calls for new vote on covenant postponement; chair says ACC knew nature of decisions
Council chair John Paterson said he was "not at all embarrassed about the outcome" of the ACC's May 8 vote to postpone the release of a proposed Anglican covenant to the communion provinces.

"Look at the outcome," Paterson said. "We have a covenant that is intact. We've got the chance for a small group to do a little bit more work on the one section that is causing some people some problems. We've got a greater chance, therefore, of getting much wider acceptance of it and that's the result of the process that we went through."

He and Canon John Rees, the ACC's legal advisor, were asked during a news briefing about a statement from five members of the Anglican Communion Institute, which called the vote "an embarrassment to Anglicans everywhere, and a sad display of procedural confusion."

After a long day of debate that at times featured three different resolutions on the floor at the same time, the ACC voted to postpone releasing the covenant until its fourth section, which outlines a dispute-resolution process, could be better defined.

Rees told reporters the criticism came from "people who were not present in the room and therefore who could not discern for themselves what the general assent of the meeting was."

Paterson and Rees both repeatedly said that the ACC's process of debate has moved in the last 10 years away from a "western parliamentary model" towards one where the chair, in Rees' words, has "extensive powers for steering debate" and judging the mood of the meeting.

The Rev. Ephraim Radner, professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College in Toronto and one of two Episcopal Church members of the Covenant Design Group, joined four other ACI members on May 10 to call for a re-vote on the question of what version of the covenant to send to the communion provinces for adoption, and when to do that.

"If lawful and proper action on the covenant is not forthcoming from this meeting of the Council, the only appropriate response is for the churches of the communion to begin themselves the process of adopting the Ridley Cambridge Text," Radner: the Rev. Christopher Seitz, ACI president; the Very Rev. Phillip Turner, ACI vice-president; Mark McCall, a lawyer who is on ACI's 13-member advisory committee; and Diocese of Central Florida Bishop John Howe, also on the advisory committee, said in their statement.

The five said that the ACC's debate on the covenant was "improper, confusing and manipulative" in its parliamentary process and that those proposing amendments and substitute resolutions "could not describe them to the members in a coherent way even though their first language was English, unlike many of those voting."

Retired Province of the West Indies Archbishop Drexel Gomez, who headed the Covenant Design Group and on May 4 told the council that it needed to send the covenant to the provinces as soon as possible to preserve the communion, is also a member of ACI's advisory committee.

Paterson said that he has tried to be "measured and slow" in presenting matters for the council to consider. "The council is made up of intelligent people and they knew what they were voting on," he said. "They also knew that if they shared that confusion so much that they weren't sure what they were voting on, my style of chairmanship allows them to ask that question of me and they didn't."

Advocacy group criticizes ACC's affirmation of moratoria
The co-convener of the Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal and Anglican bishops, clergy and lay people who support the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Christians in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, said May 11 that "the ACC and the Windsor Continuation Group have made a grievous error by concluding that God is calling us to exclude baptized Christians who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender for the sake of communion."

Ruth Meyers said that the group is "grateful for the efforts of [the ACC] representatives, and we especially commend the decision to delay sending a draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant to the provinces until more work has been done that might strengthen, rather than tear down, our common life."

Meyers, an Anglican liturgical scholar, said that the two moratoria on same-gender blessings and the ordination of gay and lesbian people to the episcopate called for in the 2004 Windsor Report "are inconsistent with both the Anglican tradition of seeking unity through diversity and with scripture's mandate to do justice."

She suggested that Anglicans are "in danger of coming to believe that the Anglican Communion is defined by meetings, documents and resolutions rather than by our call to be the body of Christ in the world. All baptized people share equally in that call and no resolution or moratorium can diminish it."

The news release issued on Meyers' statement said that Chicago Consultation believes excluding GLBT people from the sacramental life of the church is a sin.

ACC background
The 40-year-old ACC is the communion's most representative decision-making body and includes bishops, clergy and laity. While it has no jurisdiction over the provinces of the communion, it makes policy, approves the Anglican Communion Office's budget and encourages the communion's members to engage together in mission and ministry. The Anglican Communion is made up of around 77 million members in 44 regional and national churches around the globe in 164 countries.

Previous ENS coverage of the ACC meeting is available here.

Video clips from the meeting may be viewed here.