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ACC will consider ways in which ‘impairments’ over sexuality can be addressed

03 February 2023

Neil Turner/Lambeth Conference

Bishop Anthony Poggo addresses a plenary session at the Lambeth Conference in August

Bishop Anthony Poggo addresses a plenary session at the Lambeth Conference in August

THE next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) will consider ways in which the “impairments” of the Anglican Communion over sexuality and gender can be addressed “consistently and coherently” in future.

The 18th plenary meeting of the ACC is due to take place in Accra, Ghana, from 12 to 19 February — the week after proposals for same-sex blessings are brought to the General Synod in London. The ACC, whose president is the Archbishop of Canterbury, is one of four “instruments” of the Anglican Communion.

During the meeting, the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) will present members with a paper exploring issues of structure and decision-making in the Communion. Published this week, it says that, thus far, “a range of improvisational differentiation” between how each of the 42 provinces view and approach both sexuality and the ordination of women has resulted in “a series of ad hoc decisions and strategies”.

“IASCUFO believes that the Anglican Communion should try to say again what it believes and to seek a faithful, visible expression for life together in the Church.”

It proposes that the ACC works to explore “good differentiation” which “would not seek to presume the inevitability of such differentiation, nor enshrine it for the long term, nor take sides in our painful divides. Rather, the task would be to recognise the reality and depth of our divisions and attempt to describe them in as theologically responsible a manner as possible.

“This will require a doctrine of the Church founded in the Christ-formed unity of ‘one body through the cross’ that may make sense of the hard work of reconciliation to which we are called, not only among Anglicans but with all Christians. So far from seeking to complete or heal our Communion, our interest will be to view the Anglican vocation through a broadly ecumenical lens.”

The 110 ACC members from 39 of the Communion’s 42 provinces who are expected to gather for the meeting will be asked to “affirm the importance of seeking to walk together to the highest degree possible, and learning from our ecumenical conversations how to accommodate disagreement patiently and respectfully”.

It will be the first time the new secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Anthony Poggo, will attend an ACC plenary. He told a press conference on Wednesday: “When we find ourselves continuing to disagree, we should allow one another space that may permit continuing but respectful conversation, without papering over our differences. This gracious giving of room to one another may be called good differentiation, building on the idea of good disagreement.”

Three provinces — Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda — have chosen not to be represented, in line with their policy of not participating in meetings of the instruments of the Anglican Communion over continuing disagreements surrounding sexuality (News, 7 July 2022).

“We have done what we can to keep them in the loop with invitations,” Bishop Poggo said. “We did long to have them join the meeting. . . These Provinces are valued members of the Anglican Communion family.”

On the IASCUFO paper, he said: “We are open to seek all avenues for good and fruitful conversations regardless of our views and various issues in the Communion. I did ask them to consider this work going forward, and this is the initial process of having this conversation, first with the ACC then the other instruments. . . It is important to begin to think of what good differentiation might look like.”

The theme of the eight-day meeting — the first to be hosted in the Province of West Africa – is the “Five Marks of Mission: today and tomorrow” — Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform, and Treasure.

It will begin with a presidential address from the Archbishop Welby and service at the Church of Christ the King, Legon, and will include presentations from Anglican Communion networks and commissions, roundtable discussions, worship, prayer, and Bible study. Subjects include evangelism and discipleship; theological education; science; safeguarding; gender justice; health; ecumenical relationships; interfaith; law; and liturgy.

At the end of the meeting in Ghana, the current chair, Archbishop Paul Kwong, will step down, as will the Vice Chair, Canon Maggie Swinson, and five other members of the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee. Elections for a new Chair and Vice Chair, and replacement Standing Committee members, will take place during the plenary meeting.

While in Ghana, ACC members will visit the Cape Coast Castle, a former staging post for slaves being transported from West Africa to the Americas. An act of reconciliation will take place during a service in the neighbouring Christ Church Cathedral.

Canon Swinson said: “There will be a number of us for whom this is going to be a personally challenging experience. My mother was from Jamaica and my family were enslaved people. . . There will be several of us present at the ACC meeting, for whom our ancestors may well have set sail from that shore into enslavement and so for me I will be very interested to see just quite how that feels.”

Archbishop Welby will preside at the closing service at St George’s Garrison Anglican Church in Ghana, during which Archbishop Kwong will preach. Archbishop Kwong told the press conference that the hope was for the ACC meeting to “stimulate further reflection and action” on the Five Marks of Mission.

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