[Episcopal News Service -- Auckland, New Zealand] One of the headlines for the Anglican Consultative Council’s 12-day meeting that concluded here on Nov. 7 (local time) ought to be, in the words of one of its members, “the Anglican Communion actually works.”
“It’s alive and well, it’s exciting, it’s mission-focused … I want to honor the fact that this time we are really together,” said Suzanne Lawson, Anglican Church of Canada, during a reflection session just before the end of the meeting.
The Rev. Maria Christina Borges Alvarez of Cuba told the council that the message she will take back home is about “the great commitment the Anglican Communion has in terms of gender justice, the elimination of violence — environment justice as well.”
The council passed resolutions related to each of those issues during its Oct. 27-Nov. 7 meeting held primarily at Holy Trinity Cathedral here.
And while the Very Rev. Herman Browne, Church of the Province of West Africa, said he thought the ACC “is becoming more and more a forum where real diversities can be heard and valued,” the Ven. Canon Moses Chin, Church of the Province of South East Asia, remarked on “how long it takes to agree on anything.”
Anglican Communion Office staff member Stephen Lyon led the reflection session, calling first on lay members, then clergy and then moved “down in the pecking order,” asking “are there – stupid question – are there any bishops who want to say anything?” Loud laughter and applause met his question.
Archbishop Ikechi Nwachukwu Nwosu of the Province of Aba, Church in Nigeria, said that knowing the challenges his diocese and province faces he is “worried about the project of maintaining the ACC and sustaining it for the future.”
Diocese of Southern Malawi Bishop James Tengatenga, ACC chair, concluded the session by saying “there was a degree of depth and honesty that I haven’t seen for long time, that wasn’t put on.”
[Episcopal News Service plans a report on the reflections of Episcopal Church ACC members.]
At a press briefing between the end of the meeting and the ACC’s closing Eucharist, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said that the council’s work on concerns about gender-based violence, the environmental crisis and Christian witness in a pluralistic world “have been key for our work.”
Those issues “are actually questions about what kind of humanity we’re seeking to promote and serve, which is a deeply Christian question,” he said.
People are wondering about these issues and wondering what the church has to say about them and “we believe as a church we have unparalleled resources for enriching people’s humanity that way,” Williams said.
“I am very grateful that we’ve gotten to this point. We’ve stuck together, we’ve found lots to do with each other and lots to say to each other,” he said.
In one of its last official acts, ACC-15 passed a resolution meant to assuage impressions left after one of the few examples during the meeting of what one member called a “tug of war for and against.”
Resolution 15.39 notes the adoption of 15.21 on the communion’s Continuing Indaba project the previous day and goes on to say that the council “understands Indaba to be a process of honest conversation that works to build community, energize mission and provide a context in which conflict can be resolved.”
During the debate on Nov. 6 concerning the first resolution Kenyan Bishop Samson Mwalunda suggested adding that Continuing Indaba should be a process to undergird all pan-Anglican conferences.
The council debated adding language to 15.21 saying that the process ought to be used “with a view to encouraging resolution of disputed issues.” Nwosu supported that addition, which ultimately failed.
He later told Episcopal News Service that while he agrees with everything about the indaba project, “I just wanted a little bit of that direction to be added.”
On Nov. 7, Southern Africa Archbishop Thabo Makgoba was allowed to bring Resolution 15.39 to the council even though the deadline for new resolutions had passed.
The resolution is meant to affirm that “Indaba does not shy away from resolving problems” and acknowledges “its importance in holding us together through the gift of the Holy Spirit because we believe in communion” and as Anglicans receive part of their identity through communion, Makgoba said.
He acknowledged that indaba processes have been used in different places with mixed outcomes. In Zimbabwe “it has not yielded positive results” but, has “alleviated tensions and conflict” elsewhere, he said.
In the end, Makgoba said, “we didn’t want the motion yesterday to end in a tug of war for and against.”
Church of England Bishop Stephen Cottrell (Diocese of Chelmsford) supported the new resolution “as a last word of intent that we do want to be a church that deals with each other, which is energized for mission and does seek to resolve its conflicts, hard though it is.”
Scottish Episcopal Church Primus David Chillingworth, convener of the project’s reference group, told the council that “it was never our intention to suggest that Continuing Indaba was not about helping in the resolution of problems.”
“Otherwise it would be simply talk without any destination,” he continued. “The concern was that it should not be seen primarily as a problem-solving tool because we believe that what is important is that we establish the relationships within which conflict can be resolved.”
Chillingworth said Resolution 15.39 would “make it clear to people across the communion that Continuing Indaba is what we have established as part of the process by which our deeper problems can be resolved.”
There was one resolution Nov. 7 on which there was no debate. Resolution 15.40, which gives thanks to God for the faithfulness and ministry of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, expresses deep appreciation for his leadership as president of ACC-13, 14 and 15 and wished God’s blessing on him, Jane Williams, Rhiannon and Pip their children as he retires. It was passed by ACC members standing and applauding, after which Williams came to the podium to note that he had abstained in the voting.
The ACC is one of the four instruments of communion, the others being the archbishop of Canterbury (who serves as president of the ACC), the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, and the Primates Meeting.
Formed in 1969, the ACC includes clergy and lay people, as well as bishops, among its delegates. The membership includes from one to three persons from each of the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces, depending on the numerical size of each province. Where there are three members, there is a bishop, a priest and a lay person. Where fewer members are appointed, preference is given to lay membership. The ACC’s constitution is here.
The council meets every three years or four years and the Auckland meeting is the council’s 15th since it was created.
The Episcopal Church is represented by Josephine Hicks of North Carolina; the Rev. Gay Jennings of Ohio; and Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is attending the meeting in her role as a member of the Anglican Communion Standing Committee, which met here prior to the start of the ACC meeting. Douglas is also a member of the Standing Committee.
A complete list of the ACC15 participants is here.
All ENS coverage of ACC15 is here.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.