[Episcopal News Service — Auckland, New Zealand] The Anglican Consultative Council began a two-part discussion Nov. 2 (local time) here about the past, present and possible futures of the instruments of communion.
The previous meeting of the ACC in Jamaica in 2009 asked, via 14.09(g), the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) to study the role and responsibilities of the archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference of bishops, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting; the ecclesiological rationale of each, and the relationships between them, and to report to this meeting.
Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn Assistant Bishop Stephen Pickard told the council that the 68-page report “Towards a Symphony of Instruments: An historical and theological consideration of the Instruments of Communion of the Anglican Communion” is the result of what is anticipated to be an at least two-step process. It began with history and theology, he said, because “it would be difficult, if not impossible” to find ways of enhancing the instruments without first understanding their history.
“The overall purpose is to explore the effectiveness of instruments of communion and ask how we may enhance deeper harmony among the instruments. How do they work together?” he said. “How might they be creatively part of the process of evolution of the Anglican Communion?”
“We do not yet see clearly what they shall become,” added Pickard, who is the vice chair of IASCUFO.
The report, he said, suggests that the instruments be seen as “gifts of and for communion.”
“The instruments of communion can lose their focus,” Pickard said. “Their primary concern is the mission of God. Their horizon should be God’s work in the world. All deliberations, arguments [and] desire for corporate discernment, ought to be directed to God’s work in the world.”
A summary of the key issues in the report also suggests that the communion “needs to recover a stronger relationship between the instruments of communion,” not be a renewal but “a deeper harmony.”
The detailed report notes in a number of places that there exists no body in the communion with the “legislative authority to determine matters of faith and doctrine for the whole communion” and that no such body can “in a communion of churches where the accent is upon local autonomy and interconnecting links through which a wider fellowship of churches is built.”
This is the case despite, in the words of paragraph 5.3.4, “recent controversies in the communion have led many to call for sanctions, for authority with bite and the capability to enforce decisions.”
The current instruments “cannot administer discipline that is legally binding, but can only exercise the force of moral suasion,” the report says, calling that suasion “a discipline of persuasion and mutual accountability.”
“Some will say ‘that’s not much’ and will want something far stronger, but that will require a different kind of Anglican Communion,” paragraph 5.3.5 concludes.
In paragraph 5.4.4, the report notes the presence of laity in the ACC and suggests that if the ACC were to work with the Primates Meeting to set strategic goals for the communion “such a move might go hand in hand with a deeper engagement and participation of the laity in global Anglicanism.”
The provinces need to develop “an Anglican theology of communion … from within the fractures and wound of the life of the body of Christ,” the report suggests.
“Because the body of Christ is an unfinished reality and its pilgrimage is undertaken amidst the struggles of being human together – with all its conflicts, friction, fractures and regrets – the instruments of communion will be signs of the as yet unrealized communion that we hope and pray for,” the study says, noting that “it is deeply attractive” to try to resolve disputes “either too quickly or via solutions that are essentially political and/or ecclesiastical but lack a critical theological element.”
The wound in Anglicanism needs something more than a “puncture repair kit,” paragraph 6.6.8 says, adding that “healing and repair can only come through deep listening and forbearance … there are no quick-fix solutions to the need for careful and respectful listening.”
The instruments “are uniquely placed to intentionally and prophetically recall the communion to its true purpose in God’s kingdom” by being “less reactive and more proactive in their work.”
“However this requires a new level of cooperation with each other and with the purposes of God,” the report concludes. “Through such a cooperative engagement with God and with each other the church will be enabled to move towards a greater symphony of the instruments of communion.”
On Nov. 3, the ACC members will have another discussion of the report.
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.