THE Anglican Communion Office (ACO) plans to double its expenditure and income over the next six years.
At ACC-17, members accepted a strategic plan for 2025 which would mean that its expenditure would more than double, from £2.3 million in 2018 to £5 million in 2025. ACC-17 also approved a new formula for calculating how much each Province should contribute to the work.
The strategic plan, which was accepted with minimal debate, gives a rough cost for various areas of work. The three most expensive items are: support for regional activity and groupings, which could have “substantial impact in areas of intentional discipleship and peace, reconciliation, and justice” (£500,000); consideration of an Anglican gathering “for all orders, including laity, to happen between Lambeth Conferences” (£500,000); and “full investment in priority strategic objectives, particularly intentional discipleship”.
More generally, the strategic plan’s clear signal of intent lies in the strategy document under the heading “Anglican Identity”. The first three points state: “The ACO will support the Instruments and Commissions of the Communion in defining and explaining Anglican Identity in the context of its long history of living as a community in unity and diversity.
“The ACO will support the development of an understanding of Communion that recognises the place of diversity, and that finds ways to live with difference and acknowledge and respect different interpretations of scripture and tradition.
“The ACO will support the development of expressions of Anglican identity which are faithful to tradition and confident about being the Church of God.”
Other items in the plan include the possibility of dedicated accommodation for visitors to the UK, and an improvement in translation. This is costed at £50,000 p.a., but dissatisfactions voiced at ACC-17 suggest that this figure could climb.
The challenge of raising these sums falls to the chief operating officer at the ACO, David White. He explained to members that contributions hitherto had been invited via a letter sent to each Province. Partly as a consequence of this laid-back approach, two Provinces — the UK and the United States — provided 63 per cent of the 2018 budget: most of the rest came from eight other Provinces. In 2018, 16 Provinces paid nothing, and several paid “substantially below the sum requested”.
In consequence, Mr White proposed a new formula for assessing provincial contributions, based on the number of active bishops in a Province (a rough indication of church size) and their total remuneration (a rough indication of the state of the economy in the Province). The Province’s contribution to the ACO would be ten per cent of this.
Crucially, the calculation would be left to the Province to do, “rather than from a desk in London”, Mr White said. And he welcomed conversations and negotiations to cover the transitional period.
These would be important in the case of the Episcopal Church in the United States. Mr White acknowledged that this was the most extreme case. It currently contributes approximately £250,000 p.a. When the new formula was approved by the ACC after a short debate, the three US Episcopalian members voted against. One of them, Canon Rosalie Ballentine, spoke of the contribution asked of the US according to the new formula as increasing “exponentially”.
Another complication in the US, and perhaps elsewhere, is that the remuneration of bishops varies greatly, and is not held centrally. The only national body in the US that holds these figures is the Church Pension Fund, and it considers the information to be confidential.
Were a Province to be able to pay, but chose not to, it would have consequences on its representation at future ACC meetings, Mr White suggested. “Those who make no contribution cannot continue to be supported, with the cost falling on other provinces directly.”