Agreeing that global poverty and environmental abuse must be reversed -- and voting unanimously to continue a cross-cultural "process of mutual listening" to understandings of human sexuality -- the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) adjourned its 10-day triennial meeting with many voices united in Christian mission.
Looking ahead to the July 6-8 G8 summit of the world's wealthiest nations, ACC members voted to ask the council's president, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, to remind G8 state leaders "of their responsibility towards the eradication of poverty in the world" where millions cope daily with the ravages of hunger and disease, especially HIV/AIDS and malaria.
"The wealthy nations of the world will be considering what particular crumbs from their table might fall somewhere in the direction of the needy of the world," Williams said in a June 26 sermon that included comments on the G8 gathering set to convene in Scotland. "In a world where such a meeting is even necessary, we need witnesses to solidarity.
"We need to remember that those who starve and struggle in terrible violence and deprivation are us, not them – part of one human community, loved equally with the passion of God," Williams said.
The former Archbishop of Wales, Williams has served since 2003 as 104th Archbishop of Canterbury in a 1,409-year succession dating from St. Augustine. The Archbishop of Canterbury is spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans.
Global concerns were central in ACC resolutions, one of which calls for a review of investments in Israel amid tensions with Palestine, recognizing the suffering on both sides. The council also voted to recommend reunification in Korea where negotiations continue to avert nuclear war, and to recognize the need for relief work in the Congo where years of civil war have left "a great social crisis."
In another resolution, the ACC voted to ask the government of Zimbabwe to end polices of destroying the homes of hundreds of thousands of people there, and endorsed the Church of England's efforts asking the United Kingdom to reconsider its current practices of repatriating refugees to Zimbabwe.
Environmental advocacy recognizing that "global climatic change is real, and that we are contributing to the despoiling of creation," was also adopted unanimously. [Full resolution texts will soon be posted at http://www.anglicancommunion.org/; related ENS stories are also online at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/ ]
Council members were encouraged to carry out the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to cut poverty levels in half in the next two decades – to "make poverty history" -- a theme underscored by Member of Parliament Hilary Benn in his June 22 speech to the ACC.
Daily studies in the New Testament Book of the Acts of the Apostles united ACC members in analysis of early church experiences: the multilingual Feast of Pentecost, the martyrdom of St. Stephen, and the quest for unity of Jews and Gentiles amid diverse cultural practices, including circumcision as understood in the church's first centuries.
Returning to themes from Acts, Durham's Bishop Tom Wright closed the June 28 session calling the church to "a work of ‘wholistic' mission and evangelism…. We must keep up our courage," he said.
"I count each one of you a great gift," the Archbishop of Canterbury told the members at the meeting's close, before a liturgy in which prayers affirmed Christians' roles as "salt of the earth and light to the world."
Gathered under the theme "Living Communion," ACC members assembled at England's University of Nottingham for their work as the Anglican Communion's principal consultative body and one of its four "instruments of unity."
The meeting, which was the ACC's 13th such triennial assembly, included a measure to adopt the designation "instruments of unity" over the formerly cited "instruments of communion." The other instruments are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference of Bishops, and the Primates' Meeting.
ACC members – who number more than 70 -- are elected or appointed by the 38 interdependent, yet autonomous, provinces that span 164 nations and form the Anglican Communion.
Members from both the U.S.-based Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada attended the ACC meeting as observers after both provinces voluntarily withdrew their participation in keeping with a request from last February's meeting of the Anglican Primates -- or principal archbishops -- to allow space for consideration of sexuality issues.
At the invitation of the ACC, the U.S. and Canadian churches offered June 21 presentations describing how it has been possible, amid diverse views within both provinces, for the U.S. church in 2003 to elect bishop living in a committed same-gender union, and for the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster to move ahead with providing liturgical blessings for these unions. [Detailed ENS reports are posted online at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/.]
Response to Windsor Report
Emphasizing the scriptural basis for its consideration of same-sex affection and related dialogue during the past 40 years, the Episcopal Church offered a formal response to the Anglican Communion's 2004 Windsor Report (paragraph 135) in the form of a theological paper, published as a 130-page booklet given to each ACC member.
Titled "To Set Our Hope on Christ," the paper offers a "positive case" that responds directly to the invitation set forth in the Windsor Report's paragraph 135: "We particularly request a contribution from the Episcopal Church (USA) which explains, from within the sources of authority that we as Anglicans have received in scripture, the apostolic tradition and reasoned reflection, how a person living in a same gender union may be considered eligible to lead the flock of Christ."
Other provinces – some opposing and some favoring the U.S. and Canadian actions – offered their perspectives in subsequent business sessions. Strongest opposition was voiced by representatives of South East Asia, Kenya and South America's Southern Cone, who said that some clergy and laity have been criticized publicly after a gay bishop was elected in 2003 in the United States. Additional provinces, including Uganda, registered their disagreement in written position papers.
About two-thirds of the presentations stated that while church provinces are not of one mind on sexuality issues, dialogue on the subject continues with commitment.
It was noted in informal conversation that Anglican patterns of concurrence and disagreement on sexuality are generally aligned with the views of two British missionary organizations -- the United Society of the Propagation of the Gospel and the more conservative Church Mission Society – which, dating from the 18th century, conducted overseas evangelism, at times in wider contexts of colonization.
Various provinces cited the 1998 Lambeth Conference's resolution 1.10 that declared homosexuality "incompatible with scripture." While resolutions from the every-10-years Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops are widely regarded by the provinces, the initiatives are understood to be advisory and non-binding under inter-Anglican polity.
Other visitors to the ACC meeting included as many as 20 U.S. and British Anglicans – some who oppose and others who favor blessings for same-gender relationships and the ordination of clergy living openly in such unions.
"Although certain actions by the Episcopal Church have deeply distressed a number of you, we have not come to argue," Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold said to open the Episcopal Church's June 21 presentation, joined by six panelists, including a bishop who withheld his consent to the 2003 election of the bishop of New Hampshire.
"I want to be clear that the Episcopal Church has not reached a common mind," Griswold said, emphasizing that "it is our desire to be faithful to scripture. It is my hope that in the tradition of classical Anglicanism we will be united in Christ's love and called to serve the world in Christ's name."
In a resolution at the meeting's close, the council recognized "with appreciation" the responses offered by the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
Earlier in the meeting, the ACC voted to endorse the Primates' request that "in order to recognise the integrity of all parties, the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council, for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference" and "interprets reference to the Anglican Consultative Council to include its Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Finance and Administration Committee."
The provision does not bar U.S. Episcopalians and Canadian Anglicans from continuing to serve on ACC networks. The full ACC membership is not expected to meet again until 2009, and the next Lambeth Conference is set for summer 2008.
An additional ACC resolution on "the process of mutual listening" includes "listening to the experience of homosexual persons" and calls upon the Anglican Communion's secretary general to "collate relevant research...; to make such material available for study, discussion and reflection to each member Church of the Communion; and...to report progress on it to the Archbishop of Canterbury, to the next Lambeth Conference and the next meeting of this Council, and to copy such reports to the Provinces."
(Full text of these resolutions posted online at www.anglicancommunion.org).
In a resolution at the meeting's close, the council recognized "with appreciation" the responses offered by the Episcopal Church and the Church of Canada.
Reports from networks, U.N. Observer
In other business, the ACC received detailed reports on Anglican ecumenical and interfaith dialogues, the initiatives of its several networks, and programs conducted through the office of Anglican Observer at the United Nations, Samoan Archdeacon Taimalelagi Fagamalama Tuatagaloa-Matalavavea.
The council adopted an annual budget of some $3 million (1.6 million British pounds sterling), and voted with a clear majority to include the Anglican Primates as ex-officio members of the ACC.
Presiding at business sessions was ACC Chairman John Paterson, bishop of Auckland, New Zealand. Anglican Communion Secretary General Kenneth Kearon assisted in the proceedings.
Local hospitality was extended by the Rev. Canon Andrew Deuchar, rector of the medieval churches of St. Peter's and St. Mary's in Nottingham, where delegates attended Eucharist in each of the medieval structures. ACC members where hosted for a Sunday reception by the Lord Mayor of Nottingham, also attended by the current Sheriff of Nottingham, whose office figures prominently in the region's popular legend of Robin Hood.
Present at all sessions was the Archbishop of Canterbury, who, preaching at last Sunday's Eucharist, said that "those of us who care about our Anglican Communion worldwide – its unity, its life, and its peace – care for it not in order to keep an ecclesiastical institution more or less upright… We care about it because we are part of the Body of Christ, and the world needs the Body of Christ."