Anglican Consultative Council Digest

May 7, 2009

Much happens each day during the Anglican Consultative Council's (ACC) 14th meeting. In addition to Episcopal Life Media's regular coverage, here's some of what else went on May 7, the sixth day of the May 2-12 gathering.

Listening Process 'worth trying,' Groves says
The Rev. Canon Phil Groves, who facilitates the communion's Listening Process, told reporters during a briefing that the point of the process is not intended to put a gay person in the middle of a room "while everyone else sits around and investigates them."

That model would be "pretty appalling," he said.

Instead, Groves said the intent is for Anglicans to engage in conversations about the issues they face and, through that process, learn more about how they can work together.

That mutual listening process "faces people with hard questions and doesn't presume that we at the communion office have any of the answers, which we don't," Groves said. "Those have to be discovered within the communion rather than imposed in any way from a pre-formed packaged from above."

"I'm not going to stand here and say, 'this is the answer to all our problems' because I think that's too big a claim," he said.

Groves invoked St. Paul's method of dealing with division in the church at Corinth. "It isn't that he sends the issues off to a commission, but asks them to be part of the journey to find out what the truth is," he said.

"I'm not saying this will work; I'm saying it's worth trying," Groves said, calling the Listening Process "a way that explores how we can be the church more fully in the way that the New Testament gives some indication."

Groves was questioned about whether the decision to use what he called "Anglican indaba processes," referring to a Zulu method of decision-making by consensus that was used during the 2008 Lambeth Conference of bishops, made sense in non-African or multi-cultural settings. He told reporters that since the beginning, the church has incorporated "societal models" into its organization and "western cultural models" have predominated. "We have nothing else," he said.

An indaba process might also help those who are unfamiliar with it see the Gospel in a new way, Groves suggested. "We are always enlightened by seeing the Gospel through another culture," he said. "It helps us; it breaks our pre-set ways of seeing."

Groves briefed the ACC May 6 about the Listening Process. ENS coverage of that session is available here.

Questioning continues about propriety of property litigation
John Rees, the ACC's legal advisor, was asked by reporters during the briefing for his opinion of property litigation concerning people who want to retain church property after they choose to disaffiliate with their Anglican or Episcopal province or diocese.

On May 6, Welsh Diocese of St. Asaph Bishop Gregory Cameron, who is the outgoing deputy secretary general of the Anglican Communion, had told reporters that Christians "can't be anything other than aghast when Christians choose to play out their differences through the law courts."

Rees said that it is "always deeply dismaying when Christians feel that they've got to resort to the courts in order to resolve issues they feel they can't resolve in other ways."

He added that he knows that "key leaders in the communion have worked enormously hard in order to resolve these issues without them going to court."

Turning to the courts is a solution of "last resort," Rees said. However, he said, there are at times "overriding legal issues" and "there do occasionally come points at which trustees have got to act in order to protect their trusts."

ACC begins exploring ecumenical relations
The council began a multi-session exploration of the Anglican Communion's ecumenical work by hearing a summary of the report of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (IASCER).

The 256-page "The Vision Before Us" report is what Welsh Diocese of St. Asaph Bishop Gregory Cameron called "a chocolate box of ecumenical relations … a chocolate box of goodies."

Cameron, who is the outgoing deputy secretary general of the Anglican Communion and staffed the commission, told the members that IASCER's work results not only in reports and resolutions. "You really do get a picture of the immense amount of witness to the work of God which is going on in the world," he said.

The report includes discussions of the ecumenical dimensions of current policies on baptism, Eucharist, and holy orders; various ecumenical dialogues and theological reflections on ecumenism. It also sets out a statement of Anglican principles of ecumenical engagement.

The ACC members then divided into one of four so-called "streams" to learn more about Orthodox and Roman Catholic dialogues, Protestant dialogues, united churches (such as those in India and Pakistan) and churches in full communion, and a stream titled "practical local ecumenism." Those sessions will continue on the afternoon of May 8.

Also on May 8, the members will learn about Anglican interfaith relations by way of a report called "Generous Love: the truth of the Gospel and the call to dialogue" from the Network for Inter Faith Concerns across the Anglican Communion (NIFCON).

The council will act on ecumenical resolutions on May 9.

ACC sends condolence letter to family of South India representative
Members of the ACC added personal notes during their morning session to an official letter of condolence to the family of J.M. Richard, the lay representative for the Church of South India (United). He left the meeting May 6 for home after his 17-year-old son was killed in motorcycle accident. Anglican Communion Secretary General Kenneth Kearon told the council that the letter would be sent to the family by express delivery service.

The Rev. Moses Jayakumar, South India's clerical representative, accompanied Richard on his trip home.

Council elections set to take place
The council over the next few days will elect a new chair, vice chair and four members of the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the Primates (JSC). On May 8, the members will choose a successor to ACC chair Bishop John Paterson of Auckland, New Zealand. They will elect a new vice chair to succeed George Koshy of the Church of South India (United) on May 9. The new JSC members will be chosen May 11.

ACC members take a break
After spending the morning discussing Anglican Communion ecumenical relations, the council took the afternoon off. They were free to choose from among five island tours, or to spend time on their own.

The members' decision-making work resumes on May 8 when they will vote on the latest version of the proposed Anglican covenant and the recommendations given to it by the Windsor Continuation Group.

ACC background
The 40-year-old ACC is the communion's most representative decision-making body and includes bishops, clergy and laity. While it has no jurisdiction over the provinces of the communion, it makes policy, approves the Anglican Communion Office's budget and encourages the communion's members to engage together in mission and ministry. The Anglican Communion is made up of around 77 million members in 44 regional and national churches around the globe in 164 countries.

Previous ENS coverage of the ACC meeting is available here.

Video clips from the meeting can be found here.