ALMOST the first item of business at ACC-17 was an apology from the chief operating officer of the Anglican Communion Office, David White. He had been asked by a member of the Anglican Consultative Council from South Sudan why they were meeting in such a luxurious hotel “with chandeliers in every room”.
In response, he explained about land economy in Hong Kong. The last time the ACC had met in Hong Kong, in 2002, it had taken place at the YMCA building in the centre of the city. Since then, the cost of land “and everything that happens on that land” had increased greatly.
Being away from the centre, the Gold Coast Hotel was “way cheaper” than any of the other options that they had looked at, Mr White said, and the hotel owner was a worshipping Anglican in Hong Kong, and was keen to host the meeting (applause from the members).
On top of this was the tradition of generosity and hospitality in the region. Mr White said that he had attempted to argue down the level of quality that was being offered. “I’m sorry to report that I failed.” Members should therefore enjoy the level of hospitality offered “with no sense of guilt”.
The other potential source of guilt was the environmental impact of an international gathering. This was addressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the opening press conference on Saturday.
“We have adopted a policy, over the last few years, of an increasing use of electronic meetings, and that has cut back the amount of travel.”
He said, however: “Sometimes, it is necessary to see each other face to face, because you can just do and say things that you can’t do in any other way.
“And, sometimes, even with the carbon footprint, those who are suffering particularly from climate change need the experience of being with others who are there physically with them, who put an arm round them literally rather than metaphorically, to express their concern and sorrow, and go away more determined to campaign.”
It was a balance that he and the Anglican Communion were very conscious of.
The ACC operates a carbon-offset system, making payments to the Anglican Alliance, the international development agency. ACC-17 was also attempting to be a paperless meeting, Mr White explained. The one offer of help which was not being offered by the staff at the hotel was printing, he said. The information desk had a small number of electronic tablets to loan to members who did not have their own.
Hear more about ACC-17 on the Church Times Podcast