Recognizing the key role that faith plays in society, Member of Parliament Hilary Benn presented a message of hope June 22 to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the principal consultative body of the Anglican Communion.
"As I travel around the world and visit communities, I am always struck that it is faith that inspires people to do something to help their fellow human beings," said Benn, the Labour Party's minister for international development, on the third day of ACC business in Nottingham.
"In Sub-Sahara Africa," he cited, "churches provide 50 percent of all schooling and all health care." Upset that "6000 children die every day because they don't have clean water to drink," Benn said change is possible.
"We are more interconnected that we have ever been," he stated. "We see the lives of our fellow human beings. We can no longer claim that we didn't know what was going on. We have the means as a human race to change this -- it's possible to provide clean water. Building schools and training teachers is not an impossible task. Change is possible."
Mentioning the G8 conference about to occur in Gleneagles, Scotland, Benn spoke of his belief for hope. "Certainly in Britain and elsewhere, we live in an age to question the political process," he said. "Politics is the process by which we debate. If we don't have hope in that process to change things, we are lost."
Benn added: "Our challenge is to use these opportunities to make change."
ACC Constitution Changes
Earlier in the day, the council approved two measures to alter its constitution, adding the 37 Anglican primates as ex officio members and changing the membership of the ACC Standing Committee.
The first resolution recommends that at least three of the seven Standing Committee members would be lay. Other members are the president, chairperson, vice-chairperson, and five primates.
Much debate -- both pro and con -- surrounded the second vote, bringing the membership of the ACC from 78 to 115, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, 39 lay people, 37 primates, and 30 clergy/bishops.
This also marks a change in clerical representation. Formerly, bishops were grouped with primates while clergy was a separate category. Now with the introduction of all the primates, bishops and clergy share a category.
Bishops currently serving on the ACC would remain during the transition until their terms expire.
Reports on Two Networks
Following a two-hour closed session for ACC members only, the International Anglican Women's Network (IAWN) and the International Anglican Youth Network (IAYN) presented reports and updates.
IAWN women from throughout the Communion described their worldwide efforts on poverty, violence, health, education, women's rights, gender equality, infant mortality, and AIDS.
ACC approved a resolution which "affirms the developing work of the [IAWN] network and encourages each primate to maintain regular communication with the woman or team appointed as a link with the region in which his province is located."
The Youth Network was thanked "for its ongoing work to support the witness of young people across the Communion."
A report on GAP
The Global Anglicanism Project (GAP), an international research undertaking, presented its findings on the pilot phase of "The Vitality and Promise of Being Anglican."
Funded and administered by the Episcopal Church Foundation, GAP was formed in June 2002 and is currently operating in Brazil, New Zealand, North India and Tanzania.
Focusing on what it means to be an Anglican at the grassroots level, GAP presented seven points of discovery: Anglican churches are growing where their spirituality and worship is rooted in local cultures; Anglican churches initiate life-transforming social ministries; lay and clergy leaders often minister sacrificially in challenging circumstances and with limited resources; Anglican churches work to reconcile the legacies of colonialism with the heritage of local cultures; theological education and formation for ministry are pursued amid substantial global and local disparities in financial and educational resources; Anglicans show a particular ability to pursue inter-religious engagement and evangelism, emphases that are often viewed as mutually exclusive; conflict in the Anglican Communion, which includes conflict within dioceses and congregations, threatens the capacity of Anglicans to fulfill the demands and promise of the gospel.
For more information: www.episcopalfoundation.org
Greetings from the Lutherans
Walter Jagucki, bishop of the Lutheran Churches of Great Britain, brought greetings from the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation. Noting that "we look to each other for mutual comfort and joy," the greetings noted, "the strongest ties between us are the commitment to forms of church communion that Anglicans and Lutheran churches have entered into in Europe and North America."