The three-member Episcopal Church team attending the 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka, Zambia, has written the following letter to the church.
April 19, 2016
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ in The Episcopal Church:
The 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council concluded today at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, Zambia, and tonight and tomorrow, we are saying farewell to our fellow ACC members from across the Anglican Communion and making our way home.
ACC16 was filled with joy, grace and love as close to seventy Anglican sisters and brothers in Christ, laypeople, priests and bishops, came together in prayer, Bible study, and worship. Our time together over the last thirteen days has visibly demonstrated, once again, our unity in diversity as the provinces of the Anglican Communion. Meeting fellow Anglicans from around the world in discussions, around the altar, in tea breaks, and at meals, we learned from each other what intentional discipleship across our differences means as the Body of Christ in the world today. We are thankful to God and to The Episcopal Church for this privilege of representing our church on the Anglican Consultative Council.
Because this ACC meeting was held in the shadow of the January Primates Gathering and Meeting that sought to restrict our participation as members from The Episcopal Church, we want to assure you that we participated fully in this meeting and that we were warmly welcomed and included by other ACC members. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby did report to the ACC on the Primates Gathering and Meeting [see here] on the first day of the meeting. Beyond that report, ACC members seemed to have little energy for answering the primates’ call for consequences, for discussing disagreements over human sexuality, or for taking up the call of Anglican Communion Secretary-General Josiah Idowu-Fearon to pursue the Anglican Covenant. Yesterday, in fact, a resolution that sought to pursue further consequences against The Episcopal Church was withdrawn just before it was scheduled for debate.
Instead our fellow ACC members and we were enlivened by our shared concerns about intentional discipleship, gender-based violence, climate change, religiously motivated violence, food security and other issues that affect all of us across the Anglican Communion. Morning prayer, bible study on the book of Ruth, and daily Eucharist shaped our days, and our opening Eucharist on April 10 with 5000 Anglicans from across the Province of Central Africa served as a joyful reminder that our identity as Anglicans is not primarily to be found in governing structures or documents but in our unity as the body of Christ gathered around one table. Our hosts in the Province of Central Africa had been planning for this meeting for two years and extended to us and to all of the ACC members and guests extraordinary hospitality, including organizing visits to local congregations on April 17 where we sang, danced and prayed for hours and were treated as honored guests.
On April 15, the three of us had the opportunity to meet informally with Archbishop Justin, Caroline his wife and members of his staff at Lambeth Palace. Our conversation was easy, open and honest, and we came away from the conversation with the conviction that while the Archbishop does not agree with the actions of our General Convention regarding marriage equality, he is firmly committed to our unity as the Anglican Communion and the autonomy of Anglican provinces. He expressed fervent hope that The Episcopal Church will continue to be committed to and involved in the life of the Anglican Communion. We are grateful to Archbishop Justin for taking the time to meet with us, for his candor, and for assuring us of his respect for us and for the Episcopal Church.
This was the first ACC meeting that both Archbishop Justin or Secretary General of the Anglican Communion Josiah Idowu-Fearon had attended—as both are relatively new in their posts. We found the process and program of the meeting, especially the opening days, to have been largely made up of reports by the staff of the Anglican Communion Office. We would have preferred more interactive time with our fellow ACC members as experienced at previous ACC meetings.
The work of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Anglican Communion Office is overseen by a Standing Committee, with a Chair and Vice-Chair, elected by the ACC members at each meeting. ACC16 elected a strong slate of two lay people, a priest, and two bishops to the Standing Committee who are broadly inclusive of gender, age and geography. Canon Margaret Swinson, a laywoman from the Church of England, was elected our Vice-Chair and Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, Chair. We do note that the election of an archbishop as Chair of the ACC means that all four Instruments of Communion are now headed by a primate, perhaps illustrating a drift towards increased primatial authority in the Anglican Communion. In addition, despite previous ACC resolutions endorsing gender parity on Anglican leadership bodies, this meeting included 50 men and only 20 women members. The ACC as a whole, however, remains committed to the full participation of all of God’s people, especially women, youth and lay people in the life and work of the Anglican Communion. We thus are heartened by the ACC’s overwhelming support for exploring the possibility of an Anglican Congress by 2025 (Resolution D9) and for expanding youth representation on the ACC (Resolution D4).
We leave Lusaka with enormous gratitude for the Anglican Consultative Council, for our fellow ACC members from around the world, and for the generosity of our hosts here in Zambia. In our time together as sister and brothers in Christ we have once again witnessed the breadth and diversity of our global family of churches known as the Anglican Communion. We thank God for the many and different ways that Anglicans around the world are participating in God’s mission of restoration and reconciliation and for our unity as disciples of Jesus. As members of ACC we are firmly committed to the Episcopal Church’s full participation in the Anglican Communion.
Thank you for your prayers and your support while we have represented The Episcopal Church at ACC16. Please join us in continuing to pray for all the members of ACC as they travel home to share our unity as Anglicans participating in the mission of God.
Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine
Ian T. Douglas
Gay Clark Jennings
Episcopal Church members of the 16th Anglican Consultative Council, Lusaka, Zambia
Note: Spanish of this letter will be available shortly.