[Episcopal News Service – Lusaka, Zambia] The Anglican Consultative Council April 15 elected Hong Kong Archbishop Paul Kwong to be its next chair.
Kwong, the second and current archbishop and primate of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, said at a brief news conference after his election, that he was “deeply honored and humbled” to be elected. He called the job a “huge responsibility to serve the ACC and the communion, together with the delegates” and also with the Instruments of Communion.
“The most important issue is to hold the communion together,” Kwong said, adding that people with different opinions on the issues facing the communion must find ways to come together for what he called the communion’s objective of existence, which is for mission.
“We have to make the communion be relevant to the world, to the people that we are called by God to serve,” he said.
Kwong said he comes from a Chinese culture in Hong Kong that he said was very inclusive and non-judgmental. “We walk together with those who are right and also we walk together with those who are wrong,” he said. “So, I think coming from this kind of culture and coming from this kind of perspective and attitude, I would probably make some contribution to the life of the communion at the moment.”
Kwong received 40 votes and Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil (Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil lay ACC member Joanildo Burity received 25.
At the end of this meeting, Kwong will succeed former Southern Malawi Bishop James Tengatenga who was elected to the seat at ACC-14 in 2009 in Kingston, Jamaica. The ACC chair also chairs the communion’s Standing Committee.
This marks the second time the ACC has elected a primate as its chair. Auckland Bishop John Paterson was a primate of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia when he was elected during ACC-12 in 2002. However, he retired as a primate in 2004, before ACC-13 convened in 2005. The chair’s term begins at the end of the meeting at which he or she is elected and runs for the next two meetings.
Since the council’s founding in 1969, the chair has moved from lay members, to clergy, to bishops and now to a primate.
Kwong said that while some people might be concerned with having a primate as ACC chair, others may see it as an advantage. The ACC chair does not simply run meetings, he said, but also works to connect people across the communion. An ACC chair who is a primate has access the Primates Meeting, the Lambeth Conference of Bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury (all of which with the ACC make up the four Instruments of Communion), and can help all four work together.
“They are not independent from each other; in fact these four instruments are connected with each other for the purpose of holding the community, building up the community, making the communion relevant to the world,” he said.
A majority of the leaders of the communion’s 38 provinces – known as primates – during their January gathering called for three years of “consequences” for the Episcopal Church in response to the 78th General Convention’s decision to change canonical language that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman (Resolution A036) and authorize two new marriage rites with language allowing them to be used by same-sex or opposite-sex couples (Resolution A054).
The first ACC meeting had no chair; the first three chairs, for meetings 2-6, were lay people, including Marion M. Kelleran, an Episcopalian, who chaired ACC-3 and ACC-4 (see below). Two clergy members then chaired the ACC through meetings 5-10. The ACC has been chaired by bishops since ACC-11 in 1999.
Only three lay people have served as ACC vice chair. Kelleran was the first at ACC-2 and the chair did not return to the lay order until ACC-13 in 2005 when George Koshy of the Church of South India began a two-meeting term. He was followed by Canon Elizabeth Paver from the Church of England, whose term is over at the end of this ACC-16 meeting.
The ACC is the one of the Instruments of Communion that 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 calls for the “desirability of achieving (so far as practicable) appropriate regional diversity and a balance of representation between clergy and laity and between the genders.
“I think that we need to respect the need for a balance of power and checks and balances,” said Rosalie Ballentine, an attorney and General Convention deputy from the Diocese of the Virgin Islands, who is the Episcopal Church’s lay ACC member. “The ACC is the one instrument with laypeople on it. Lay people need to have a voice in the leadership of the communion and not be subject to the four-part governance of primates. Shared decision-making is part of our identity as Anglicans.”
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, the Episcopal Church’s ACC clergy member and president of the House of Deputies, has sat at the same table with Kwong throughout the ACC meeting and called him a “skilled and wise leader.”
“But the balance of bishop, clergy and lay authority is a hallmark of the Episcopal Church’s identity and a key way we discern our role in God’s mission, and so I am particularly attuned to a loss of that balance in the structures of the Anglican Communion,” she said.
Kwong, who has been a primate representative on the Standing Committee, is the second and current archbishop and primate of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui and the bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong Island. He was elected as bishop of Hong Kong Island in late 2005 and began as archbishop in 2007. He was a primate member of the Standing Committee between 2011 and 2015 and has been a member of the ACC since ACC-15 in New Zealand in 2012.
He earned the Master of Divinity degree from Church Divinity School of the Pacific, the Episcopal seminary in Berkeley, California, where he serves on the board of trustees. He also holds a Ph.D. of the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
The election was the first action the ACC has taken since it began meeting on April 8. All resolutions will be considered on April 18, the last full day of the meeting. At ACC-15 in Auckland, members began considering resolutions on the fourth day of the meeting.
The nominations for vice chair and Standing Committee members close on April 16 with the elections coming April 18.
ACC leadership has Episcopal Church roots
When the ACC met for the first time in Limuru, Kenya, in 1971, Marion Kelleran, was one of the founding members. At the second meeting in 1973 she served as vice chair, and three years later at ACC-3 she became the council’s first, and thus far only, female president. She continued in that role at the ACC’s fourth meeting in 1979. She served the Standing Committee from 1973 to 1979.
In between ACC-3 and ACC-4, she was the only woman in the leadership of the 1978 Lambeth Conference of bishops.
Kelleran, a pastoral theologian, was recognized as an innovative educator and missionary, as well as a leader of international Anglicanism. She taught at Virginia Theological Seminary, retiring in 1973. Kelleran served on the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council. She also advocated for women’s ordination to the priesthood and the episcopacy in the Episcopal Church.
At her death in 1985 in Alexandria, Virginia, a colleague and neighbor, Cynthia Wedel, said Kelleran “was fascinated that this church – with its northern European heritage – was still able to reach out and attract people from all over the world; people who now are strong leaders themselves shaping the church. She was both a missionary and a devoted Anglican.”
In addition, Pamela Chinnis, the first female president of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, was also an ACC member, having participated in the fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth meetings. She was also a member of the communion’s Standing Committee from 1987 to 1993 and she attended the 1988 Lambeth Conference.
Read more about it
The House of Deputies News page is also posting stories about the meeting.
Tweeting is happening with #ACCLusaka.
– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.