Anglican Consultative Council reaffirms two-state solution for Israel, Palestine

Members de-cry 'physical form of apartheid' in Palestine
May 8, 2009

The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) on May 9 unanimously re-affirmed its desire for a "robust peace process" in the Israel-Palestine conflict and a two-state solution.

The members passed a resolution that calls Israel's West Bank policies "a physical form of apartheid."

Anglican Church of Southern Africa Archbishop Thabo Makogba told the council that he supported the resolution "having lived under apartheid and knowing the pain of apartheid."

He described having seen "the brutality" in the West Bank and Gaza that "segregates God's people."

"If we vote for this resolution, we will be doing our Christians duty of ensuring that peace abounds in Jerusalem," he said.

Diocese of New York Bishop Suffragan Catherine Roskam told the council that "the average American thinks that the conflict in the Middle East is even … I think it falls to Christian minds and to this communion to point out that it is not 50-50." She said Israel uses tanks, automatic weapons and bulldozers against people who fight back with stones.

"It should not cause us to be surprised when as a last resort people strap explosives to themselves and use themselves as human bombs," she said. "I decry all violence, but unless we are willing to speak for justice … these tensions will continue to increase."

Jerusalem and the Middle East President Bishop Mouneer Anis, who said that Palestinians "are living in a very big prison," told the council that peace in the Middle East is crucial to the peace of the whole world.

The ACC was initially presented with two versions of the resolution. The first, offered by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, was nearly twice as long as the one-page final version and contained considerably stronger language. It referred to "portioning of the West Bank into bantustan-like areas" and the "judaization" of Jerusalem by the government of Israel.

Clare Amos, coordinator of the communion's Network for Inter Faith Concerns (NIFCON), offered an alternative resolution, which the ACC chose to accept. It was amended on the floor to bring a series of statements directed at Israel from the first resolution, including a call for an end to the West Bank and Gaza occupation, a freeze on all Israeli settlement building, removal of the separation wall where it violates Palestinian land, an end to the destruction of Palestinian homes, and the closing of checkpoints in the Palestinian territories.

The APJN resolution was criticized by a number of speakers, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who said he could not vote for it, in part because of its rhetoric. He said, however, that it was "quite clear that we cannot rise from this meeting with good conscience without having said something about the manifest injustice and the immense level that exists in the Holy Land."

"I don't want to see various possibilities [for dialogue and progress towards peace], slender as they are, simply because we would like to make a satisfyingly strong statement," he cautioned.

The text of resolution will be posted under the news section of the ACC's website here.

'The Bible in the Life of the Church' begins to take shape
A proposed effort to bring Anglicans together to explore the various methods of biblical interpretation received the ACC's endorsement. "The Bible in the Life of the Church" is meant to be conducted collaboratively with the communion's Listening Process and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order.

Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Brisbane, primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, told the council that in debates about the proper use of Scripture "we see the others as not understanding Scripture properly, as not taking Scripture seriously, as applying Scripture in ways it shouldn't be applied, or all three of those." The project that the council endorsed, he said, has been developed "in order to build understanding, trust and respect" among those who take different approaches to the Bible in the life of the church.

"The Windsor Report actually asked for this to happen," Aspinall reminded the council.

Paragraph 61 of the 2004 Windsor Report called for "the whole Anglican Communion to re-evaluate the ways in which we have read, heard, studied and digested Scripture." Aspinall said that request is "one of the most neglected elements of the Windsor Report."

NIFCON project on interfaith dialogue gets ACC's support
ACC members commended for study the document "Generous Love: the truth of the Gospel and the Call to Dialogue", from the communion's Network for Inter Faith Concerns (NIFCON). The council also endorsed the network's plan to offer training resources for engagement with people of other faiths and "to assist the Anglican Communion in responding more effectively to the situation of Christian minorities living in difficult contexts."

During their consideration of the project, the members used their laptop computers to investigate the online resources here. It was the only time when members were allowed to use their computers, or mobile phones, during plenary sessions.

Council endorses evangelism and church growth initiative
After the Rev. John Kafwanka of the Anglican Communion Office's Mission and Evangelism desk briefed them on the communion's evangelism and church growth initiative, the council agreed to endorse the project. The aim of the effort is to develop a worldwide vision and strategy of church planting and mission, as called for by the 2008 Lambeth Conference. Kafwanka said "a working theology of evangelism and church growth" would be developed as part of the initiative.

While the plan is to help the communion's provinces share resources, information and best practices, both Humphrey Peters of the Church of Pakistan (United) and Bishop John Gladstone, moderator of the Church of South India (United) warned that they are attempting to evangelize in what both called a "hostile situation" and that it would be dangerous for them to share specific information.

Roskam called for a strategy for evangelism in what she called "post-Christian" societies in which atheism is the fastest-growing category of religious affiliation. "They're rejecting the Christianity they think they know," she said. Joanildo Burity, lay representative of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, said the same situation exits in his province.

Elizabeth Paver joins James Tengatenga as ACC officers
Elizabeth Paver, lay representative for the Church of England, was elected May 9 to succeed George Koshy of the Church of South India as the ACC's vice chair. Paver is attending her third ACC meeting and thus would have left the council at the close of the Kingston meeting. She twice chaired the Church of England's General Synod and has been president of her diocesan synod for the last 10 years.

On May 8, the council elected Diocese of Southern Malawi Bishop James Tengatenga as its new chair to succeed Auckland Bishop John Paterson. Tengatenga, who is the Province of Central Africa's episcopal representative on the council, will serve until the conclusion of the 2015 ACC meeting.

Tengatenga, 51, was born in Kwekwe, Zimbabwe and spent time at the Seminary of the Southwest at Austin, Texas. He and his wife, Jocelyn, were married in 1984 at St. David's Episcopal Church in Austin. In 1998, he was consecrated bishop of Southern Malawi.

Council stands with rural black and quilombo communities in Brazil
The ACC has expressed solidarity with the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil in what a resolution called "its prophetic stand" on behalf of rural black and quilombo communities who "are experiencing a delicate and tense moment" due to imminent judgment by the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court about their land rights. Quilombo communities are autonomous societies organized by descendants of African who were brought to Brazil as slaves.

ACC members worship all over Jamaica
A week after the opening service of the ACC-14 gathering which saw thousands of Jamaicans fill Kingston's National Arena to worship in a Caribbean-flavored Eucharist, council members will spend May 10 celebrating the Eucharist in decided smaller settings.

The roughly 85 members of the council plan to travel to 31 Jamaican congregations in the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands (http://http://www.anglicandioceseja.org/). Members planning to worship at congregations more distant from Kingston left on May 9.

The Episcopal Church's representatives will visit four parishes. Diocese of New York Bishop Suffragan Catherine Roskam will preside and preach at Kingston Parish Church, while clerical representative the Rev. Ian Douglas will do the same at St. Jude's in Stony Hill. The former rector of the latter parish, the Rev. Richard Johnson, was fatally stabbed in the rectory in November of 2006. Josephine Hicks, the delegation's lay representative, will worship at St. Margaret's Anglican Church in Linguanea, a northeast Kingston neighborhood.

Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, who attends the ACC meeting as a member of the Joint Standing Committee of the ACC and the Primates, will preach and preside at St. John's Anglican Church in Black River, one of the oldest towns on the island.

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.