Decrying the forced displacement of thousands in Zimbabwe, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) today urged African governments to help in the devastating situation and called upon the United Kingdom to stop its repatriation of refugees.
"It's been in the news and is still in the news today," Bishop James Tengatenga from Southern Malawi stated. "As a church we cannot ignore what is going on."
ACC also reviewed plans for the next Lambeth Conference, thanked the Episcopal Church USA and the Anglican Church of Canada for their June 21 presentations, and heard a message to "ride out the storm" from Durham's Bishop Tom Wright.
June 28 was the final business day for the ACC-13 meeting, which opened June 19 at the University of Nottingham in England. ACC is one of the four instruments of unity in the Anglican Communion and the only consultative body for the 77 million Anglicans in 164 countries.
Help for Zimbabwe
"For those of us in Africa so close to the situation, we are quite concerned about what is happening in Zimbabwe," Bishop David Beetge from Southern Africa said. "The depth of suffering in Zimbabwe is great. We must never forget that their suffering is our suffering."
ACC asked the Zimbabwe government to "reverse its policies of destruction
and begin to engage in development that eradicates poverty; calls upon the leadership of the African Union to persuade the government of Zimbabwe to consider the humanitarian aspects of the situation in that country, and to act to remedy the suffering of the
people of Zimbabwe."
ACC also offered its support to the Church of England "in its approaches to the government of the United Kingdom to reconsider its policy of repatriation of refugees
For complete text: http://www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/digest/index.cfm
Details of the 2008 Lambeth Conference were unveiled by the design committee. The Lambeth Conference, held every 10 years, is a gathering of bishops in the worldwide Anglican Communion.
The Lambeth Conference will be held at Canterbury Cathedral in mid-July 2008 for two weeks, which will include three weekends. Exact dates will be announced later, planners said.
An earlier proposal called for the Lambeth Conference to be held in Cape Town along with a gathering for clergy and laity. "Last year, it became apparent that it was not possible to guarantee funding for the event." Fung Yi Wong of Hong Kong said. "So the event was cancelled. The design group was not in a position to sign contracts when it wasn't clear that there was enough funds for the gathering."
The design team includes the Rev. Ian Douglas of the Episcopal Church.
Conference attendance is determined by invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is expected that the invitation will be issued at the end of 2007, said design team member Tengatenga.
Discussion was devoted to the content of the upcoming Lambeth Commission with education, empowering, and reconciliation among suggested topics.
Explaining that at past Lambeth Conferences, time blocks were devoted to topics, the Archbishop of Canterbury said, "I have a sense that this structure may not necessarily serve us best at the moment and the phase of life we are moving to." Assuring that important issues will not be avoided, "it may be that the shape of the conference has to take more account of the training needs of those who come. Empower and equip must be at the center."
Suggesting a number of workshops as model for the meeting, the archbishop added, "An issues-oriented Lambeth conference will not help us in the equipping of our people."
He added: "I would like to see it moving away from the somewhat setting from large groups, long reports from those groups which, let's be honest, tend to gather dust. That depends on bishops around the world telling us what their priorities are."
Responding to a question from the Very Rev. Michael Andrew James Burrows from Ireland about who from ACC will be invited and what their role would be, the Archbishop of Canterbury responded, "That, I think, is a question that is still on the table."
Sue Parks, coordinator for the Lambeth Conference, said, "In an attempt to make the process wider, we plan to send the Archbishop of Canterbury's call to the conference and other documents out to all provinces to respond in the way best appropriate for that particular province. The same request will be made to networks and commissions and documents will be made available on the web site."
She invited comments and suggestions firstname.lastname@example.org
‘Ride out the storm'
Durham's Bishop Wright concluded the ACC meeting with a message to "ride out the storm."
Using as a backdrop of the story of Paul in Acts of the Apostles, he said, "This is part of the point of Acts as a whole: that whatever troubles the church may get itself into, whatever divisions and persecutions and disputes there may be, we must end up, whether in Rome in the first century or in [Scotland] this next weekend, saying to the powers of the world that Jesus is Lord and that they are not."
He added: "We can see where we are today in the Anglican Communion, why we have arrived at this point, and perhaps even where we must go from here."
"We are eager to bring this message to bear," he said, "at the G8 summit next week, in the working for peace in the Middle East, in sustaining health and appropriate human relationships, in supporting our brothers and sisters who live in daily fear and suffering because of their faith in several countries and in many other ways. We are not a complacent church. We are struggling to be a faithful church."
He concluded, "Hold on; keep up your courage; don't lose your nerve; ride out the storm so that you can stand before the powers, announce gods kingdom and proclaim Jesus as Lord with all boldness and unhindered."
Teny Simonian from the World Council of Churches presented an ecumenical greeting on behalf of Dr. Samuel Kobia, General Secretary.
"I have been with you since the beginning (of the ACC meeting)," she said. "My General Secretary wanted me to come and learn. One of the issues of ecumenical understanding is that we know of one another, but we don't know one another."
"Your work will help you continue your Christian vocation as a living community," Kobia said in his letter to ACC. "We shall continue working together according to the credo of Jesus Christ, so that all may be one."
He continued, "The strong relationship between the World Council of Churches and Anglican Communion through our member churches will be beneficial for both of us."
In his letter he added, "Like Anglican Communion, the World Council of Churches is facing sensitive issues. Many of these issues relate to fundamental issues of anthropology and ethics. We have begun a methodology of listening to one another, especially in the area of human sexuality."
He concluded, "Only through prayer and spirituality may we respond to the devastating problems in the world and the changing ecumenical scene."
In addition to a lengthy resolution thanking staff, participants, commission members, etc., ACC thanked the Archbishop of Canterbury for his leadership with a gift and a standing ovation.
"We have seen possibilities of shipwreck, but on the bridge we have a very experienced captain," said Bishop John Paterson of Auckland, who serves as ACC chair. "We are very indebted to you. Being in communion with Canterbury is the deepest mark of being in communion."
The Archbishop responded: "It's been a privilege to share these days with you. To share the prayer, the openings and the honesty of the bible studies, the wrestling and difficulty of debate for the growth together in the love of God and in love of one another."
Paterson was also thanked by the archbishop as "the one person who has steered us confidently with that particular unruffled authority."
Approving a resolution with amendment made by the Archbishop Canterbury, the ACC "notes with appreciation the response of the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada to the request of the Dromantine statement; expresses its thanks for the presentations made on Tuesday, 21 June; and requests the observers from those Provinces to those thanks back to their provinces; reminds all parties to have regard for the administrations in paragraphs 156 and 157 of the Windsor Report."
Next ACC meeting
The next ACC meeting will be held in 2009 at a location which will be announced later.