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ACC: Safety of people in the Anglican Communion should be prioritised, members agree

16 February 2023

Slavery, health, education, and funding also discussed at plenary meeting in Accra

Neil Turner

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the West Africa Primate, the Most Revd Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith, lead an Anglican delegation to visit the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo,on Tuesday

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the West Africa Primate, the Most Revd Cyril Kobina Ben-Smith, lead an Anglican delegation to visit the President of ...

Safeguarding

THE “safety of all persons in the Provinces of the Anglican Communion” should be “a priority of focus, resource allocation and actions”, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) agreed during its meeting in Accra this week. At a plenary session, members asked the global Anglican Communion Safe Church Commission to continue to provide safeguarding resources and training to Provinces.

The ACC also redefined the term “vulnerable adult”, as used in its official guidance to member Churches. It now adds extra categories of vulnerability which are less to do with inherent disability, but take account of circumstances, such as a natural disaster or war.

The resolution also encourages member Churches and agencies to use and implement the International Anglican Safe Church Commission Charter and Guidelines; and asks for the development of resources on the theology of safeguarding.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, was one of those who spoke in favour of the resolution. “This is everyone in this room’s responsibility,” he said. To the men in the room, he said: “It is us, as men, who are the perpetrators of so much sexual violence, of abuse of power. We need to be the change we want to see and model that in our communities.”

Slavery

ON WEDNESDAY, members of the ACC were due to leave Accra to visit Cape Coast Castle, once used to house chattel slaves before their transportation across the Atlantic. The church leaders were expected to tour the dungeons and attend a service of Reflection and Reconciliation at Christ Church Cathedral, Cape Coast. A tree was due to be planted at the home of the diocesan Bishop, to mark to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s visit, and to support the new Anglican Communion Forest initiative.

Among those visiting the castle were the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Revd Howard Gregory, a descendant of slaves; and the Primate of West Africa, Dr Cyril Ben-Smith. Archbishop Gregory and Dr Ben-Smith recently attended the launch of an exhibition at Lambeth Palace Library on the Church Commissioners’ historic links to chattel slavery.

Anglican Alliance report

THE Anglican Alliance brings together developmental, relief, and advocacy work in the Anglican Communion. The Facilitator for the Caribbean, Clifton Dillon Nedd, told the ACC on Tuesday that Covid had exposed the deep inequalities in the world.

He praised the work done by the Ghanaian Church, both in promoting prevention measures and in developing a compassionate response. The Alliance had convened rapid consultations on vaccine confidence and efficacy, and had kept in touch across the communities, so that no one felt alone, he said.

“As we emerge from the pandemic into the ongoing crisis of issues such as climate change, displacement, and hunger, we recognise the crucial role of churches in reimagining God’s world,” he said. He spoke of “a new normal — not linked to the old, but something newer and more beautiful”. 

Anglican Communion Health Network (ACHN)

THE ACHN’s co-ordinator, Dr Ben Bennert-Walker, suggested that healing was as much about transformation as about reducing the incidence of disease. “Our aim is to provide a co-ordinated Anglican voice on health issues, to bring together church leaders, practitioners, advocates,” he said.

“We have seen considerable progress. . . We’re now looking for co-conveners on malaria and mental health.”

Neil TurnerThe wives of past and present bishops from Ghana and Cameroon with Caroline Welby after discussing the Women on the Frontline programme on Monday

The network had taken part in many international conversations, and was now seeking more members from across the Provinces to join the steering group to create “a coalition of the willing . . . clergy and lay people with a passion for health. Who is God calling?” he asked.

“If you have a passion for a particular area of health, please come and see how you can be a part of our collective voice — a dialogue on health care and mission which will ready us for the next crisis. Our healing mission is to share eternal hope in as many ways as possible.” 

Colleges and Universities of the Anglican Communion (CUAC)

THE CUAC network’s secretary-general, Canon James Callaway, wanted to test members’ awareness of the Anglican universities and colleges: how many had attended one; how many knew they had one in their own province?

He described their supportive environment as providing “opportunities of ‘becoming’. . . There are many possibilities to be had from a good liberal education.” Students would “discover you have neighbours and their needs, and that your responsibilities in life are not for your own betterment but in the support you give to these. Our universities do this.” He spoke of the transformative work of the Bard Prison Colleges.

The Vice-Chancellor of St Paul’s University, Kenya, Professor James Kombo, spoke of the issues and challenges that he faced daily. Anglican universities were “there, but not sure whether they are there or not — a very dangerous position to be in, because we own them, we send professors there and people from our churches. . . It’s important we follow their decisions, relate very clearly and effectively to them.”

He challenged the Provinces to “know them” and to reflect on what distinguished them from the rest, and what it was that inspired. “We have to know. If not, it’s back to the drawing-board,” he suggested.

He also raised the issue of chaplaincy in universities and colleges. There seemed to be no clear guidelines on the way in which these should operate; chaplaincy and formation should follow the Anglican Church. “Chaplains look after the heart and mind of a young person. It is crucial care,” he said.

Universities were about community service as well as teaching, he said. He urged outreach to engage communities, and noted that St Paul’s had the privilege of being the only university in Kenya with a financial surplus in the preceding year. He was aware of places closing, and others experiencing “very hard situations”.

Funding

THE ACC would need to look for a more sustainable funding method, in the light of falling contributions from the Provinces in the wake of the pandemic, the vice-chair, Maggie Swinson, told the gathering on its second day of meeting on Monday.

The number of Provinces contributing to its work had dropped from 31 in 2018 to 18 in 2022, and, while it was well understood that some were better resourced than others, funding had fallen by 17 per cent — offset by decreased expenditure during the pandemic, and the use of the furlough scheme at the Anglican Communion Office (ACO). Forty per cent of the expenditure goes to support the ACO.

“We need to be less dependent on contributions as our main source of income,” Ms Swinson said. Although the ACC had been able to draw on reserves, a deficit budget had been set for 2024, amid continuing uncertainty about the income to come from member Churches. “We are committed to asking the next Standing Committee to look at a more sustainable model.”

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