[Episcopal News Service — Auckland, New Zealand] On the fourth day of its Oct. 27-Nov. 7 meeting here, the Anglican Consultative Council passed a number of resolutions on the environment and health as well as issues concerning refugees and migrants and gender-based violence.
The ACC began to consider a 123-page report from the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order, which covers the Anglican Covenant, future evolution of the instruments of communion as well as ecumenical dialogues. That discussion will continue, along with possible resolutions, on Oct. 31, Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, with the covenant discussion set for Oct. 31.
The members also heard from Sally Keeble, director of the Anglican Alliance, who explained the work of the relief, development and advocacy group begun at the ACC’s request during its last meeting in Jamaica in 2009.
Keeble told the council that the alliance is not intended to be a programmatic agency, but rather one that provides capacity building, networking and advocacy across the communion. And, she said, “an absolute founding principle” is that the organization’s priorities in combating poverty “should come from those people who are closest to it.”
Thus, the alliance held four regional consultations during 2011 to start having conversations about its direction. Those regions are Asia, Africa, Latin America and Caribbean, and the Pacific, she said, adding that conversations have begun about holding a similar meeting somewhere in North America soon.
The development priorities that emerged from those conversations include issues of economic empowerment, peace and reconciliation, governance, climate change, food security, and migrants and refugees, as well as empowerment of youth, women and communities. All of those priorities are to be underpinned by theological reflection, Keeble said.
An audio stream of Keeble’s presentation is available here.
Council members, who were seated according to region and spent time discussing Keeble’s presentation, reported a growing awareness of the need to have more regional conversations on these issues, as well as the need to improve communications channels so that that sort of information can be more easily shared.
For instance, Joanildo Burity, the ACC member from Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil, raised the issues of translation on many levels, including how to help people begin to ground such relief, development and advocacy work in the Gospel. In addition, he said, some of the terms such as “food security” do not always have widespread or commonly accepted meanings. And, in some cases, church people, academic and government officials do not always speak the same language, he said.
ACC chair and Diocese of Southern Malawi Bishop James Tengatenga told the members his table discussed the fact that the alliance could bring “a bigger voice” from the entire communion to bear on regional issues. “That is very, very much welcomed,” he said.
He reiterated Keeble’s insistence that “it’s really important for the alliance not to be a funding agency.”
During a later press conference, Keeble said that the fact that the Anglican Alliance is not a funder has meant “that we can get away from discussions about donor and donee relations and we can talk about what the needs of the community are, and we can build on from there.”
Keeble called that change “energizing,” especially “given the history of the relations between the developing world and the developed world.”
For example, during a recent workshop on economic empowerment “people were talking about what they could do, not what they couldn’t do, and they were talking about building up micro-financing schemes in their community and the issue about any capital investment came much further down the line” and, when it did, participants first looked locally for such funding.
The acknowledgement that changes in the world’s economy means there are financial resources in the developing world “opens up a completely different way of working and it opens up much more constructive opportunities for talking about the way in which you confront poverty and injustice,” she said.
While the alliance is concerned with both development and advocacy, the third of what Keeble says are its “pillars” is relief work and she called it “the most complex area of our work.”
“That’s partly just because of the sheer scale of it and the fact that there’s so many countries in the communion that face just the most horrific disasters both natural and conflict-related,” she said, adding that the alliance office receives near weekly requests for help with disasters that haven’t made the headlines.
“It would have been very simple to have said we just deal with disasters in poor countries but what came out of the consultations, and rightly so, is that actually you have to respond to needs wherever it arises,” she said. “You can’t say that a hurricane victim in New York is less of a hurricane victim on a Pacific island or a Caribbean island. And what we’ve had to think about is how we’re going to respond.”
Sometimes that response is “support through prayer” or help with immediate access to cash, Keeble said, and sometimes it is to help the churches in disaster-prone areas build their capacity to respond to disasters more effectively.
Work on resolutions begins
The council began to consider resolutions proposed by the communion’s official networks that help to coordinate the communion’s work of mission and social justice.
Among the resolutions the members passed were:
- Resolution 15.1, from the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, which commends the Lima Statement and Action Plan, asks provinces to “celebrate, support and encourage ongoing and new ministries in sustainable food/agriculture, fresh-water conservation and renewable energy,” consider including a season of creation in their liturgical year and encourage environmental action at all levels of the communion. The ACC is scheduled to continue discussing environmental issues Nov. 1 and 2, and additional resolutions may emerge.
- Resolution 15.2, from the Anglican Health Network, which “affirms the health and healing activities” of the provinces “as a fundamental and continuing feature of Anglican participation in God’s mission.” The resolution encourages the provinces to have representatives of their health and healing ministries involved in the network’s 2013 conference.
- Resolution 15.4, from the Anglican Refugee and Migrant Network, which thanks the Province of Hong Kong for supporting the re-establishment of the network; commends the “essential work” being done throughout the communion to support migrant peoples; calls for dioceses and provinces to participate in global mapping of migration movement; requests that Anglicans gather “concrete case studies” of advocacy for such peoples, share information and resources and support international ratification of International Labour Organization convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers and report to ACC16.
- Resolution 15.5, from the Inter-Anglican Family Network, asking provinces to promote birth registration in their communities and support families in overcoming obstacles to registration, in part by partnering with governmental and non-governmental agencies. More information about the issues concerning birth registration is here.
- Resolution 15.7, from the Inter-Anglican Family Network, the International Anglican Women’s Network and the Francophone Network, concerning gender-based violence. It endorses the Primates Meeting 2011 letter concerning gender-based violence (available here), “rejoices” in the work already being done in the communion to combat gender-based violence, recommends that the communion’s theological schools train all clergy and other ministers concerning gender-based violence, endorses the White Ribbon campaign, commends the archbishop of Canterbury and the churches in Burundi, Rwanda and Congo for gathering faith leaders and agencies to discern “what might be said and done together in responding to sexual violence as a weapon of war and terror” and endorses Anglican involvement in the We Will Speak Out coalition of churches and Christian agencies against sexual violence, and encourages churches to “provide an environment where boys and girls are equally valued and equally able to participate in learning and activities that foster positive and respectful relationships irrespective of gender, ability and ethnicity.” The ACC will continue to discuss gender-based violence later on Oct. 30 and again on Oct. 31.
- Resolution 15.9, from the Anglican Communion Safe Church Coalition, which affirms the work done thus far in the communion to create safe spaces in churches, call on all member churches to adopt and implement the “Charter for the Safety of People with in the Churches of the Anglican Communion” and report to the next ACC meeting on implementation progress; and
- A related resolution to recognize the Anglican Communion Safe Church Coalition as an official network of the communion and commend its work to the provinces.
The ACC is one of the four instruments of communion, the others being the archbishop of Canterbury (who serves as president of the ACC), the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops, and the Primates Meeting.
Formed in 1969, the ACC includes clergy and lay people, as well as bishops, among its delegates. The membership includes from one to three persons from each of the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces, depending on the numerical size of each province. Where there are three members, there is a bishop, a priest and a lay person. Where fewer members are appointed, preference is given to lay membership. The ACC’s constitution is here.
The council meets every three years or four years and the Auckland meeting is the council’s 15th since it was created.
The Episcopal Church is represented by Josephine Hicks of North Carolina; the Rev. Gay Jennings of Ohio; and Bishop Ian Douglas of Connecticut.
Jefferts Schori is attending the meeting in her role as a member of the Anglican Communion Standing Committee, which met here prior to the start of the ACC meeting. Douglas is also a member of the Standing Committee.
A complete list of the ACC15 participants is here.
All ENS coverage of ACC15 is here.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.