A Letter from Lusaka: Episcopal Church’s ACC members write to the church

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] The Episcopal Church‘s three members on the Anglican Consultative Council have written the following letter to the church at the conclusion of ACC-16 in Lusaka, Zambia.


April 19, 2016

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ in The Episcopal Church:

The 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council concluded today at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, Zambia, and tonight and tomorrow, we are saying farewell to our fellow ACC members from across the Anglican Communion and making our way home.

ACC16 was filled with joy, grace and love as close to seventy Anglican sisters and brothers in Christ, laypeople, priests and bishops, came together in prayer, Bible study, and worship.  Our time together over the last thirteen days has visibly demonstrated, once again, our unity in diversity as the provinces of the Anglican Communion. Meeting fellow Anglicans from around the world in discussions, around the altar, in tea breaks, and at meals, we learned from each other what intentional discipleship across our differences means as the Body of Christ in the world today.  We are thankful to God and to The Episcopal Church for this privilege of representing our church on the Anglican Consultative Council.

Because this ACC meeting was held in the shadow of the January Primates Gathering and Meeting that sought to restrict our participation as members from The Episcopal Church, we want to assure you that we participated fully in this meeting and that we were warmly welcomed and included by other ACC members. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby did report to the ACC on the Primates Gathering and Meeting [see here ] on the first day of the meeting. Beyond that report, ACC members seemed to have little energy for answering the primates’ call for consequences, for discussing disagreements over human sexuality, or for taking up the call of Anglican Communion Secretary-General Josiah Idowu-Fearon to pursue the Anglican Covenant. Yesterday, in fact, a resolution that sought to pursue further consequences against The Episcopal Church was withdrawn just before it was scheduled for debate.

Instead our fellow ACC members and we were enlivened by our shared concerns about intentional discipleship, gender-based violence, climate change, religiously motivated violence, food security and other issues that affect all of us across the Anglican Communion. Morning prayer, bible study on the book of Ruth, and daily Eucharist shaped our days, and our opening Eucharist on April 10 with 5000 Anglicans from across the Province of Central Africa served as a joyful reminder that our identity as Anglicans is not primarily to be found in governing structures or documents but in our unity as the body of Christ gathered around one table. Our hosts in the Province of Central Africa had been planning for this meeting for two years and extended to us and to all of the ACC members and guests extraordinary hospitality, including organizing visits to local congregations on April 17 where we sang, danced and prayed for hours and were treated as honored guests.

On April 15, the three of us had the opportunity to meet informally with Archbishop Justin, Caroline his wife and members of his staff at Lambeth Palace. Our conversation was easy, open and honest, and we came away from the conversation with the conviction that while the Archbishop does not agree with the actions of our General Convention regarding marriage equality, he is firmly committed to our unity as the Anglican Communion and the autonomy of Anglican provinces. He expressed fervent hope that The Episcopal Church will continue to be committed to and involved in the life of the Anglican Communion. We are grateful to Archbishop Justin for taking the time to meet with us, for his candor, and for assuring us of his respect for us and for the Episcopal Church.

This was the first ACC meeting that both Archbishop Justin or Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Josiah Idowu-Fearon had attended—as both are relatively new in their posts. We found the process and program of the meeting, especially the opening days, to have been largely made up of reports by the staff of the Anglican Communion Office. We would have preferred more interactive time with our fellow ACC members as experienced at previous ACC meetings.

The work of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Anglican Communion Office is overseen by a Standing Committee, with a Chair and Vice-Chair, elected by the ACC members at each meeting.  ACC16 elected a strong slate of two lay people, a priest, and two bishops to the Standing Committee who are broadly inclusive of gender, age and geography. Canon Margaret Swinson, a laywoman from the Church of England, was elected our Vice-Chair and Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, Chair. We do note that the election of an archbishop as Chair of the ACC means that all four Instruments of Communion are now headed by a primate, perhaps illustrating a drift towards increased primatial authority in the Anglican Communion. In addition, despite previous ACC resolutions endorsing gender parity on Anglican leadership bodies, this meeting included 50 men and only 20 women members. The ACC as a whole, however, remains committed to the full participation of all of God’s people, especially women, youth and lay people in the life and work of the Anglican Communion. We thus are heartened by the ACC’s overwhelming support for exploring the possibility of an Anglican Congress by 2025 (Resolution D9) and for expanding youth representation on the ACC (Resolution D4).

We leave Lusaka with enormous gratitude for the Anglican Consultative Council, for our fellow ACC members from around the world, and for the generosity of our hosts here in Zambia. In our time together as sister and brothers in Christ we have once again witnessed the breadth and diversity of our global family of churches known as the Anglican Communion. We thank God for the many and different ways that Anglicans around the world are participating in God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation and for our unity as disciples of Jesus. As members of ACC we are firmly committed to the Episcopal Church’s full participation in the Anglican Communion.

Thank you for your prayers and your support while we have represented The Episcopal Church at ACC16. Please join us in continuing to pray for all the members of ACC as they travel home to share our unity as Anglicans participating in the mission of God.

Faithfully

Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine
Ian T. Douglas
Gay Clark Jennings

Episcopal Church members of the 16th Anglican Consultative Council,
Lusaka, Zambia

Comments

  1. George Underwood says:

    Dear Episcopal Church, Please be honest and do not dress up your intent with flowery religious language. Your intent is to persuade the Anglican Communion to disregard their historical position that Christian marriage is between a man and a woman, and your intent is to isolate those Anglicans who feel unable to concede on this issue. That is your intent, so please at least be honest on this. Thank you

  2. Prof Asoka Ekanayaka says:

    But how do you reconcile the participation of TEC in ACC 16 ( chaired by Justin Welby ) with the historic Primates decision at the January meeting ( also chaired by Justin Welby ) which affirmed that for a period of 3 years ” The Episcopal Church no longer represent us on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, should not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee and that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion,they will not take part in decision making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity” ? Surely the several bishops who conscientiously boycotted this meeting were right to feel that they had been deceived. At ACC 16 who cared about the hurt inflicted on these just and saintly men ? In their absence notwithstanding fine words and outward appearences ACC 16 will go down as a costly sham, which sought to further legitimise the bishops of TEC who sanctify sin considering it right and proper to bless homosexual unions in conformity with the moral fashions of the world in arrogant defiance of scripture and contrary to the traditional teachings of the Church. God is not impressed by fine speeches, solomn prayers,and the superficial bonhomie and pretence of unity among his people where in reality “‘This people honours me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” ( Matt 15: 8-9 )

    • I disagree, Professor

    • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

      Prof, the primates had no authority to impose “consequences,” so the ACC had no obligation to fulfill that wish.

      Further, I am a lesbian married in my Episcopal parish. I do wish you would get to know us before slandering us so. And I do wish that as a professor, you would examine more closely these beliefs.

      I also wish that some of the “saintly men” would stop supporting human rights abuses of LGBTQI people in their home countries. Regardless of what anyone things about marriage, there is no way to justify the persecution with the Gospel of the Loving and inclusive Jesus Christ.

  3. The Rev. John Crist says:

    I strongly disagree with George Underwood! It is very definitely NOT my “intent to isolate those Anglicans” with whom I disagree about the theology of marriage. I think there are more pressing issues we need to address: extreme poverty, food and water insecurity, and climate change. Let’s focus on those issues and agree to disagree about the theology of marriage.

    • Thank you Rev John Crist

    • Prof Asoka Ekanayaka says:

      Pastor John : The supreme authority of scripture does not allow us to ” agree to disagree ” over lifestyles that can deny people eternal life : ” . . Do not be deceived, neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, not adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality . . . will inherit the kingdom of God” ( 1 Cor 6: 9-10 ). And as for “addressing poverty, food and water security and climate change” they are laudable endeavours no doubt. But that is not what makes one a Christian. Christianity is nothing unless it is biblical. We dare not manufacture a Christianity of our own imagination to be a spiritual lubricant that oils our particular political ideology gender bias or moral perspective. The Church is not to be exploited as a platform for our own cherished social crusade.

      • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

        Prof, you should read more about what Scripture actually says about committed gay relationships. Scholars reading the original Hebrew and Greek, in the context of the culture of the time, have come to far different conclusions. English translations are not the word of God. And Jesus came for us all, telling us to love ALL of our neighbors, black/white, gay/straight, male/female, etc. And He said “don’t judge.” He said it very clearly. He had harsh words for the Pharisees, using the Law to exclude and demean people. It is not the Law that makes one righteous, it’s doing the very, very difficult work of loving ALL your neighbors.

  4. Betsy Bahrenburg says:

    Thank you, Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine, Ian T. Douglas and Gay Clark Jennings for seeking the good and seeing the good.

  5. David Veal says:

    Secular laws and practices in the United States that give special privileges and immunities to married persons have forced the Church to repair our limited historical understanding of the essential nature of marriage and expand it beyond the blessing of the act of procreation. This has been a painfully wrenching experience for most of us and few of us are absolutely sure that the path we are taking is exactly and entirely right. But we have been forced by the exigencies to prayerfully and reverently, out of compassion and grace, to step out boldly and re-study and repair our theology of marriage. We have not demanded that other churches of the Anglican Communion follow us in this venture, but we have anticipated that they would continue to walk with us in fellowship, charity, understanding, patience and sympathy… the way brothers and sisters do in a family. But, the Primates indicated that, because of the work we are doing in the area of the theology of marriage, it is no longer appropriate for us to represent the family in ecumenical meetings. Now, out of this, how does brother Underwood derive his conclusion regarding us that, “… your intent is to isolate those Anglicans who feel unable to concede on this issue..”?

  6. Jeremy Bates says:

    It’s one thing to decide that you will stay home and boycott ACC. But to try to blame this decision on TEC is another level of silliness entirely.
    It’s very simple. The four Anglican primates who disagree with TEC have isolated themselves.

    • Fr. Joel says:

      Those four primatrs make up a major part of the Anglican Communion far larger than TEC ever was before it’s continnuing decline began with the election of an openly gay bishop.

  7. David Wallace says:

    Well said, Prof Asoka! It is heartbreaking for me to see a lot of my old Episcopal friends, both lay and clergy, who are now putting present cultural changes and political correctness regarding LBGT matters before the clear multiple teachings against such matters in the Bible. Christ makes it clear that all who know or should know better who teach and support what is not supported in the Bible must one day face the truth and its consequences. See Mathew 18:6: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and be drowned in the bottom of the lake. ” And it is repeated in both Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2. I hope and pray that those who are supporting the TEC positions will consider their own individual peril and responsibility to others they might be affecting adversely. God loves us and will forgive us if we repent and give our life to him. But, we must now before it is too late!

    • Cynthia Katsarelis says:

      It’s also heartbreaking to see another conservative portray gay inclusion as a secular response to culture rather than a living out of following Jesus.

      Seriously, if we are going to get along, a place to start would be respect for the fact that we are all coming from Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, and still arriving at different conclusions. I respect that conservatives think that Scripture is horrifically anti-gay, but plenty of us read Scripture and get a more loving and inclusive message, especially from the Gospels of Jesus.

      The mischaracterization means we can barely even have a conversation.

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