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ACC members depart with stories of unity

20 April 2016

Anglican Archive

Forerunners: two girls strew petals ahead of a procession before a final outdoor service

Forerunners: two girls strew petals ahead of a procession before a final outdoor service

MEMBERS of the Anglican Consultative Council left Lusaka this week full of praise for the unity on display, despite taking with them differing interpretations about what had been agreed.

A letter to members of the Episcopal Church in the United States, published by its representatives, spoke of a meeting “filled with joy, grace, and love” that “visibly demonstrated, once again, our unity in diversity as the provinces of the Anglican Communion”.

The outgoing chairman, the Rt Revd James Tengatenga, sought permission to be “a little smug” in his closing sermon, asserting: “The rumour about the Anglican Communion’s demise is greatly exaggerated.”

It was clear from members’ responses to a request to list the most pressing issues in their provinces, that ecology, evangelism, migration, and violence were of far greater concern to them than issues of human sexuality (News, 15 April). Among the other 44 resolutions passed was a call for Anglicans to take “pastoral, priestly and prophetic action” on climate change. There were also a number of expressions of solidarity with Burundi, South Sudan, South Africa, and Pakistan — and with Asia Bibi, held in Pakistan on charges of blasphemy since 2009 (News, 24 July).

Climate-change and religiously motivated violence were the two actors that “dominate our world stage at present,” the Archbishop of Canterbury said in his presidential address last week. “Both characters can only be confronted with a theological and ideological approach, and with a story, with a narrative, that is sufficiently powerful to overcome the natural selfishness of one generation, or the selfishness of countries which are more secure.”

Not present in Lusaka were four Primates, three of whom are members of the council of GAFCON, which began its meeting in Nairobi on Monday.

The response to the Primates’ Meeting in January, including the consequences meted out to the US Episcopal Church, was discussed twice. Archbishop Welby presented a report on the Meeting at the beginning of the ACC (News, 15 April), and Resolution 34 was passed on Monday .

This was proposed by the Archbishop of Sudan, the Most Revd Daniel Deng Bul, and states that the ACC “receives” the report of the Primates’ Meeting delivered by Archbishop Welby; “affirms [the] commitment of the Primates of the Anglican Communion to walk together; [and] commits to continue to seek appropriate ways for the provinces of the Anglican Communion to walk together with each other and with the Primates and other instruments of [the] Communion.”

Archbishop Welby said on Tuesday: “The actions of the ACC demonstrate that it is working in close collaboration with the Primates. Given that my report, referred to in the resolution, incorporated the communiqué and was very explicit on consequences, the resolution clearly supports and accepts all the Primates’ Meeting conclusions.”

In a press conference on Monday he asserted that: “The consequences stand.”

The ACC representatives from the United States gave a different version of events. The Revd Gay Clark Jennings said on Monday that many members of her Church had been concerned about whether the ACC was going to “impose consequences. I want people to know that that didn’t happen.” The decision by the Bishop of Connecticut, Dr Ian T. Douglas, not to stand as chair of the ACC was “a loss”, she said, but was not a reaction to the communiqué.

Bishop Douglas said that the resolution was focused on the work of the ACC, and “not so much on what the Primates did or said, but what it means for us to live together in our differences in the light of another meeting that happened a few months before.” The members listened to the Archbishop’s report, “considered its impact on our lives, and then decided accordingly as to our work as the ACC.”

“We’ll look back on today and see that the door could have closed or opened,” he said. “It opened.”

In their letter home, the US representatives suggested that members of the ACC “seemed to have little energy for answering the Primates’ call for consequences, for discussing disagreements over human sexuality”.

Same-sex marriage was raised by the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, during a meeting with Archbishop Welby in Harare last weekend. Few details of the meeting have been made public, but the Archbishop told the ACC that he had explained to the President that there were differing views within the Anglican Communion, but that the majority one was that marriage was the lifelong union of a man and woman. He had also reiterated the Primates’ unanimous opposition to the criminalisation of LGBTIQ people as “entirely wrong”.

The ACC passed two resolutions on gender justice, including a call for churches to foster “awareness of harmful gender norms, cultural practices, and unjust power relations”, and transform “structures that prevent women and girls from offering their gifts and talents in the Church and in their communities”.

The Revd Terrie Robinson, director for women in church and society at the Anglican Communion Office, said that the Church was “lagging behind its good intentions” on tackling gender-based violence.

Dr Yossa Way, principle of the Anglican University in Bunia, Congo, said last week that his region was struggling to end violence against women. 

“I have come mostly to tell people that we are a post-conflict country, and need the help of everybody in different domains so that the country can become more liveable,” he said. “We would like friends and people to help the Congolese to build this peace, a sustainable peace, and, as a university, also we are teaching our students how to build peace, so that the country can become more quiet and more peaceful.”

The Revd Jacynthia Murphy of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, said last week that she had felt “thrilled and overwhelmed” as one of only two women clergy robed for the outdoor eucharist at the cathedral. The Church of the Province of Central Africa does not ordain women.

During the meeting she became the first woman to preside at the eucharist at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. She did so in her own language, Maori.

The meeting included elections. The Primate of Hong Kong, Dr Paul Kwong, was elected as the new chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, and Margaret Swinson, a member of the Church of England, is to be vice-chair.

ACC-17 will take place in Sao Paulo in 2019.

In a communiqué issued on Friday at the conclusion of their meeting, the GAFCON Primates said that the ACC's gathering had "highlighted the inability of the current instruments to uphold godly order within the Communion. Delegates from the Episcopal Church, by their own admission, voted on matters that pertained to polity and doctrine, in defiance of the Primates. This action has damaged the standing of the Anglican Consultative Council as an instrument of unity, increased levels of distrust, and further torn the fabric of the Communion."

They went on: "The future of the Anglican Communion does not lay with manipulations, compromises, legal loopholes, or the presentation of half-truths; the future of our Communion lies in humble obedience to the truth of the Word of God written."

The communiqué also announced the launch of a "Bishops' Training Institute" in September, and new staff appointments, including two men from the UK. James Stileman will be operations manager and Canon Charles Raven, the Archbishop of Kenya's Officer for Anglican Communion, who has permission to officiate in Durham, will head a new office of membership development. Canon Raven moved to Kenya in 2012, after founding Christ Church Wyre Forest, described as an "Anglican Mission in England church plant". The Archbishop of Kenya, Dr Eliud Wabukala, has passed chairmanship of the Primates' Council to the Archbishop of Nigeria, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh. 


Jesse Zink wonders where authority lies in the Anglican Communion

The relationships between the Instruments of Communion have grown up in a rather contingent and ad hoc sort of way. The Virginia Report in the 1990s, for instance, referred to the Instruments as “a complex and still-evolving network” of authority and that remains true. At various points in recent decades, various of the instruments have passed resolutions trying to clarify these relationships. What we have now is a situation in which authority is dispersed and the various instruments push and pull against each other in a process of mutual discernment and reception.

The differing interpretations of just what Resolution 34 accomplishes indicate the strain that such a system comes under in an age of global connection and instant analysis on the Internet. People want firm answers now and they want them to support their own position. Between the January meeting of the Primates and the April meeting of the ACC, many people will be able to find something that affirms their own beliefs.

It is perhaps a reminder that the focus of life together as Anglicans should not be simply resolutions and consequences. Anglican life around the world is rich, full, and vibrant. I continue to believe that the way forward for the Communion lies in broadening our conversation so that we are truly enriched by the voices of Anglicans at all levels of the church and from all parts of the globe. The ACC — in its many agenda items that directly addressed the pressing issues we face in the world — appeared to be an effort to do precisely that.

The Revd Dr Jesse Zink is director of the Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide

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