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ACC, Primates Joint Standing Committee adjourns, initiates report to Archbishop of Canterbury

Communion-wide response to House of Bishops necessary, committee members say

[Episcopal News Service, New Orleans] By the time the Joint Standing Committee (JSC) of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates of the Anglican Communion adjourned its September 20-24 meeting in New Orleans, the House of Bishops was still formalizing its response to the Anglican Primates' February 19 communiqué, issued in Dar es Salaam. Committee members noted the importance of meeting face-to-face with the Episcopal Church's bishops and acknowledged the need for a Communion-wide response to the result of their deliberations.

Committee members confirmed September 25, before departing for the airport, that they had begun to prepare a confidential "consensus document" for Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams based on "indications" of how they thought the bishops might respond.

The bishops said September 24 that they wanted to respond in as clear and concise a manner as possible to the Primates' communiqué. The final statement adopted by the House of Bishops is being sent immediately via email to the JSC and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is traveling in Armenia and Syria, a spokesperson for the Anglican Communion said.

The Rev. Canon Gregory Cameron, deputy secretary general for the Anglican Communion, said the JSC "reflected very long and seriously on the listening and conversations we've had" and there was "a sense of how to interpret" General Convention's resolution B033, "but until the bishops speak" they would not be able to formulate a response.

B033 in part called for the exercise of restraint when consecrating bishops "whose manner of life" presents a challenge to the wider communion.

"The Archbishop of Canterbury has asked for our advice -- it will be rendered, but not in the form we had planned," Cameron said, noting the importance of building a Communion-wide response to the House of Bishops. "The Archbishop of Canterbury will now consult the Primates and ACC members at large."

Cameron also acknowledged that "there is a wider opinion in the House of Bishops to that of the entire Communion."

"The presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Joint Standing Committee members added immeasurable depth and richness to our meeting," said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who was elected to the Primates Standing Committee in February. "We are most grateful for their willingness to travel far, spend several days, and share their faith and personal perspectives with us.

"The Anglican Communion is based on relationships, and the relational ties that bind us have been strengthened in our meeting together."

Southern Malawi Bishop James Tengatenga said the JSC had sensed "an indication" of how the House of Bishops might respond to the requests of the Primates' communiqué, "and that indication is all the Joint Standing Committee can respond to right now."

"It's now back in the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury," he said. "We were here to listen and we will advise the Archbishop of Canterbury on what we have heard. It's a work in progress."

"The mandate of the JSC at this gathering is solely to assist the Archbishop of Canterbury in his response to the House of Bishops statement," the ACO spokesperson said, adding that the committee members had been guests of the Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church.

Jefferts Schori September 24 briefed the committee members on the deliberations of the House of Bishops.

Jolly Babirukamu, a laywoman and ACC member from Uganda, said she was attending the House of Bishops and JSC meetings as an individual and at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and was not representing the Anglican Province of Uganda. "I keep hoping that God will take care of his church and praying that the bishops will respond adequately to the Primates' requests," she said.

Canon Elizabeth Paver from the Church of England said it had been a pleasure to join the bishops and meet face to face. "Being here in conversation is what this was all about," she said. "There is no secrecy in what we've been doing; the timing just hasn't allowed for a response at this time."

Bishop John Paterson, ACC chair, said the House of Bishops was very "impressive and very broadly diverse. They are gracious, generous, concerned about the Communion."

The JSC, Paterson said, now has "a new and better appreciation of the situation that the Episcopal Church faces and the way it faces it."

In other business, Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Barry Morgan of Wales were appointed to the Inter-Anglican Finance Committee.

The JSC also asked the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (IASCER) to discuss and respond to a recent statement from the Vatican that indicated the Roman Catholic Church is the only true church and that Protestant, Anglican, and other non-Catholic denominations "suffer from defects."

The committee, Paterson said, had also formulated a response to the Anglican Church of Canada, but declined to comment on what that response said.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams joined the JSC for the two days it met with the House of Bishops. The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion was present throughout the meetings.

Some committee members addressed the House of Bishops about the state of the Communion and their hopes for their work and response to the Primates' requests.

Williams told reporters September 21 that he had been "encouraged" by the House of Bishops meeting and expected the Joint Standing Committee to read and digest what the bishops have to say, and "let me know their thoughts on it early next week."

Committee members also witnessed the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana's rebuilding and recovery initiatives September 22 and attended worship in local churches September 23.

The JSC meeting was initiated following a request from the House of Bishops at its March 20 meeting in Navasota, Texas, when they expressed "an urgent need for us to meet face to face with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the members of the Primates' Standing Committee."

Committee members present at the House of Bishops meeting follows:

Primates Standing Committee
Archbishop Rowan Williams - England

Archbishop Philip Aspinall - Australia
Bishop Mouneer Anis - Jerusalem and the Middle East
Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori - The Episcopal Church
Archbishop Barry Morgan - Wales
ACC Standing Committee
Bishop John Paterson - Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia

Vice Chair:
Professor George Koshy - South India

Philippa Amable - West Africa
Jolly Babirukamu - Uganda
Robert Fordham - Australia
Bishop Kumara Illangasinghe - Ceylon
Canon Elizabeth Paver - England
Bishop James Tengatenga - Central Africa
Nomfundo Walaza - Southern Africa

For the Anglican Communion Office Staff:
The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon (Secretary General)
The Rev. Canon Gregory Cameron (Deputy Secretary General)
The Rev. Canon Jim Rosenthal (Communications)
Deirdre Martin (Executive Assistant)

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