Joint Standing Committee underscores Communion's priorities

March 9, 2004

The meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and Primates Joint Standing Committee, held in Canterbury, England, drew to a close March 5 with the clear message that the global workings of the Anglican Communion must continue.

The committee, which meets annually, is the interim body that oversees the day-to-day operations of the Anglican Communion Office in London and the programs and ministries of the "four instruments of unity": the Lambeth Conference; the Anglican Consultative Council; the Primates' Meeting; and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who was elected in May 2003 to represent the Americas on the Primates' Standing Committee, said, "The week spent with partners from around the Anglican Communion was very encouraging. Though strains within the Communion were alluded to, the real energy was focused on the multi-faceted mission we share as a global community. Once again, it was brought home to me that being with one another and worshipping together makes it possible for us to appreciate the different contexts in which we seek to live our lives in Christ. I came away deeply grateful for the webs of relationship that bind us together in a ministry of reconciliation, not for our own sake but for the sake of the world."

On the morning of March 2, Griswold celebrated the Eucharist at Canterbury Cathedral as he commemorated the 19th anniversary of his consecration to the episcopate.

Statement upholds unity

Bishop John Paterson, chair of the ACC and primate of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, said that the atmosphere in Canterbury had been "open, honest and reconciling," adding that "the heart of the Communion is solid." He said, "It thrills me that all the provinces are paying their share to keep the Anglican Communion Office's operation going."

A statement issued by the Joint Standing Committee on March 4 mentioned the "seriousness of the situation confronting the Anglican Communion," but also cited encouragement, especially as financial contributions from all the member churches are in line with budget expectations, and that the networks and commissions of the Anglican Communion are operating effectively.

"Although we face serious financial difficulties, we are conscious of the sacrificial giving of many people and Churches in the Anglican Communion," the statement said, adding that the Communion is fully committed to endeavors in theological education, inter faith work and continuing ecumenical dialogues.

The committee also called on "those entrusted with leadership within the family to carry out their own mission in a spirit of reconciliation, honesty and openness."

In a letter sent to the Anglican Communion Office on February 20, the Venerable Oluranti Odubogun, General Secretary of the Anglican Church in Nigeria, revealed that the Nigerian primate, the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, would not be attending the Joint Standing Committee meeting "primarily because he is unable to seat with ECUSA at any meeting of the Global Communion."

Lambeth Commission supported

According to Paterson, the committee fully supports the process of the Lambeth Commission, which met for the first time in February, and hopes that all will allow the Commission's work to take its course.

The Lambeth Commission received its mandate from the Archbishop of Canterbury following the meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion in Lambeth Palace, London, in October 2003. It has been asked to look at ways of maintaining the highest degree of communion possible in light of developments in ECUSA and the Diocese of New Westminster, Canada.

Gathering in South Africa

In addition to planning some new developments in the field of telecommunication, the work of the committee has included the process of finding a new secretary general for the Anglican Communion and continuing the ongoing plans for the 2005 Anglican Consultative Council and the 2008 Anglican Gathering in South Africa.

The committee statement thanked God for "the sacrificial work being done in our collective name by so many in so many places and for some many reasons and needs" and urged the faithful throughout the Communion "to own the work being done and assist in all ways imaginable to see it strengthened in the coming years."

Praise for Anglican Observer

In his report to the committee, the Rev. Canon John L. Peterson, Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Office, spoke about how the ministry of the Anglican Observer at the United Nations, which holds an office at the Episcopal Church Center, has continued to flourish despite some of the financial challenges it has encountered over the years.

"Besides financial concerns, the Anglican Observer's Advisory Council has also been keenly aware that the Observer's staff is tremendously over-stretched in New York," Peterson said. "Therefore, when the Advisory Council met last November in retreat, a new Volunteer Programme was established for the Office." At the Epiphany Service during the Advisory Council's meeting in January, Griswold commissioned the first four volunteers, who will assist the Observer in attending meetings and helping with the different needs arising in her office.

A Solemn Eucharist and Blessing of the new Anglican Communion Office was held on March 5 with the Most Revd Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury presiding. Photographs can be found at the Anglican Communion website

Standing Committee members

The Primates' Standing Committee members include Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and regional elected members: Archbishop Bernard Malango of Central Africa; Archbishop Peter Kwong of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui; Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold of the Episcopal Church in the USA; Archbishop Barry Morgan of Wales; and Bishop Zechariah James Terom, Moderator and Bishop of Chotanagpur, who was unable to attend for personal reasons.

The elected members of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council are: Presiding Bishop John Paterson, Primate of Aotearoa, New Zealand, and Polynesia, ACC chairman; Bishop James Tengatenga of South Malawi; Archbishop Peter Akinola, Primate of the Church in Nigeria; the Very Rev. John Henry Moses, Dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, London; Bishop Riah Hanna Abu El-Assal of Jerusalem; the Rev. Robert Thompson of the Church in the Province of the West Indies; Jolly Babirukamu of the Church in the Province of Uganda; Fung-yi Wong of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, and Professor George Koshy of the Church of South India, ACC vice-chair. The chair of the Inter-Anglican Finance Committee is Archbishop Robert Eames of Ireland.