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ACC ends with cautious optimism: planned covenant may still undergo revision.

Kingston, Jamaica

The 14th Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) has not "given evidence of any belief" that Anglicans worldwide "have no future together," said Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, even as he warned that it would be "inevitable" that the Anglican Communion could turn into a "much more dispersed association" or federation if not all member churches sign on to the proposed covenant.

While it "hasn't necessarily dealt with the problems of the Anglican Communion once and for all," the meeting, held May 1 to 12, enabled delegates to "build solid relationships with the local church and with one another," the archbishop said. A majority of delegates echoed this assessment, saying they emerged "more hopeful" about prospects for the Anglican Communion, which has been deeply divided over the issue of human sexuality.

The ACC decided not to send the Ridley-Cambridge draft of the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant to member churches for consideration, pending consultation and possible revision of a controversial section dealing with dispute resolution and the definition of which entities can sign on to the covenant. (See related story on this page).

The ACC, however, affirmed the recommendations of the Windsor Continuation Group (WCG), asking provinces to maintain the moratoria on the blessing of same-sex unions, the ordination of persons living in same-sex unions and cross-provincial interventions, but also "relational consequences" for those who breach them. (See related story, page 10)

Archbishop Williams said that, in explaining the decisions reached by the ACC on issues, particularly on the covenant, the following can be said in defence: "We did it because we heard that, through all these procedures, Christian people will be able to recognize each other a bit more fully, a bit more generously and a bit more hopefully."

He urged Anglicans to "begin the discernment, begin that intelligent engagement as soon as you can," of the covenant.

Apart from the thorny issue of human sexuality, the ACC spent considerable time discussing matters like mission, evangelism and theological education. It passed a total of 40 resolutions on topics ranging from the environment to peace-making. They engaged in "mission encounters" with local parishes and saw the "joys and challenges" in their ministries.

"We go home with hope," said Suzanne Lawson, lay delegate of the Anglican Church of Canada, who reported on behalf of her discemment group. "Almost all of us came worried, burdened, afraid, and were told to come back with an answer about sex. Today, we're going home with a sense that this is what the communion is about. Relationships built here will last, they are of value, they are great pearls that we have in our hands and hearts and take back."

In his address, Archbishop Williams said, "We have not given evidence of any belief that we have no future together. The question is, of course, what that future will look like."

Anglicans are "a bit reluctant" to engage the proposed covenant in depth, because it "does underline for us that the possibility of division is there; the possibility at least of certain kinds of division," he noted. People have spoken of the future of the communion as a federation, "an association within which some groups are more strongly bound to one another and some groups less strongly bound," he added. "That will be more inevitable if not all provinces sign on to the covenant. And I hasten to add that's not what I hope. It is what I think we have to reflect on as a real possibility."

The archbishop issued a plea that, no matter what happens, "Anglicans must think about how the Instruments of Communion--the ACC, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference of bishops, and the primates' meeting--"can continue as organs of life-giving exchange," even if other alliances emerge, he said.

But even as he put forward the possibility of a federation, the archbishop said the meeting proved that the bleak prognosis about the communion could be wrong. "If someone diagnosed as terminally ill has prayed and planned and given new evidence of energy and life from their deathbed to begin new things, we might just possibly question the diagnosis of a terminal outlook," he said.

On what the meeting achieved, he said, "Our willingness in certain areas to act as one and to discover more deeply how we pray as one is, by God's grace and gift, for no other reason, an achievement." The Bible "has a great deal to say about the day of small things and the work of God in small things, and in apparently routine things," he said.

Apart from the decisions on the covenant, he cited the progress around forming an Anglican alliance for relief and development, and plans for evangelism and church growth.

But he acknowledged that "there remains in a few areas an intensely felt standoff between groups in our communion" who continue to be deeply divided over human sexuality.

On what could account for the change in the mood of this meeting and the recent primates' meeting, the archbishop said, "Some of it is probably the healing effect of time. The issues are not quite as raw as they were." He said that after the "very stressful experience" of the primates' meeting in Dar es Salaam, the primates themselves realized "that they did have to work and pray a bit more constructively together and approach each more gently."

The structure of this ACC meeting, where delegates were divided into "discernment groups," reflectirig the African concept of indaba (Zulu word for "purposeful listening") used in the 2008 Lambeth Conference, was helpful, he said. "It underlines that we are not simply processing people into plenary or leaving the relationship building entirely to Bible study groups." It was where "tough issues can be confronted without having to take votes," he added.

For the first time in the ACC's history, Anglican networks were given more time and space.

The ACC is composed of lay, clergy and bishop delegates from 44 regional and national churches in over 160 countries.



RELATED ARTICLE: Anglican parishes sponsored residential school students, house of bishops told.

Niagara Falls, Ont.

Anglican parishes across Canada may not be aware that, in the 1920s, some of them sponsored students at the Indian residential schools through a monthly cash donation that went towards the purchase of clothing and supplies, members of the Canadian house of bishops were told at their spring meeting.

This little-known fact was recently discovered by the General Synod Archives, which is playing a major role in gathering and sharing documents related to Anglican-run Indian residential schools across Canada. Documents have shown that members of the Women's Auxiliary or other groups, many of them from southern parishes, gave about $30 a month for a student whom they only knew by name.

Henriette Thompson, director of the partnerships department at the Anglican Church of Canada's General Synod, urged bishops to encourage parishes in their dioceses to determine if student sponsorships were part of their history and to use that as an opportunity to learn more about the legacy of the residential schools as well as to bring about healing and reconciliation. "Realizing that a part of your very local history is tied to a national process is an amazing opportunity that can be used as a catalyst for healing and reconciliation," she said.

Suggestions were made by General Synod staff involved in the healing and reconciliation work that parishes consider praying for the former student that they had sponsored and even initiate a parish event where the former student is invited to attend.

Ms. Thompson also briefed the bishops about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and said that churches and other groups are hoping that the new members will be named by this summer. She said that the report of the TRC commissioners who resigned is due in June. "It's something that we're quite eagerly awaiting," she said.


Ms. Thompson said that residential schools survivor societies have urged churches to make awareness-raising about the residential schools a priority.

The diocesan bishop of Keewatin, David Ashdown, meanwhile, urged bishops to include former residential school staff in the telling of stories about what took place in the boarding schools. "Part of the story is the untold story of staff. We all know that there was abuse; no one is denying that. But there were a number of staff who tried to do something about it, and a number of them got fired by the very church that's now ignoring their existence," he said.

Bishop Ashdown, who once worked on a residential school staff, said that "there were staff who, on a very meager income, spent their money trying to provide for students' needs. Some physically risked their lives."

He lamented that those staff, who are now in their late SOs and 60s, "are considered pariahs and are told, 'you can come and sit at the hearing but you won't be allowed to speak."

He added, "They are absolutely shattered ... their stories are being shunted aside, as well as those students who found their experience to be a positive one."

Bishop Ashdown said "the whole story needs to be told" or the church runs the risk of "replacing one injustice for another."

Ms. Thompson acknowledged Bishop Ashdown's remarks and said that there is no attempt to exclude anybody and that work is being done to address the pastoral needs of former residential school staff.

Archbisop Terence Finlay, the primate's special envoy for residential schools, noted that the former bishop of Qu'Appelle, Eric Bays, is writing a book that captures the stories of former residential school staff.

In her briefing, Ms. Thompson reported that the Anglican fund for healing and reconciliation funded 37 projects totaling $416,159 in 2008.

This year, it has received 68 applications totaling $908, 353. Since the total amount being requested is more than the fund's annual budget of $600,000 not all projects will be eligible for funding.

See additional house of bishops stories at



Listening process

A proposal was welcomed for a "continuing indaba project," the next stage of the so-called listening process on the issue of human sexuality in the Anglican Communion.

The project will involve five diverse "pilot conversations," which will focus on mission issues and will not avoid hard questions related to sexuality, the authority of Scripture, faithfulness to tradition and the respect for the dignity of all.

Indaba is a Zulu word for "the process of decision-making by consensus, common in many African cultures.

The ACC also endorsed The Bible in the Life of the Church an Anglican Communion-wide project, that will examine how Anglicans worldwide read and interpret Scripture.


Primates' meeting

A resolution was approved asking the primates of the Anglican Communion to include "aft equal number" of non-primatial members of the joint standing committee as non-voting participants in the primates' meeting. Four primatial members of the standing committee are full members of the ACC.

Communion has 'low reserves'

Member provinces were asked to increase their financial contributions to the Anglican Communion by 10 per cent over a three-year period to cover the cost of inflation.

Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, expressed concern that "we're now Operating on low reserves" of 104,000 ($183,000 Cdn).

He said that extra expenses had to be absorbed r things that hadn't been planned for from 2005 to 2009.

Sixth mark of Mission

A request by the Anglican Church of Canada and the 2009 Mutual Responsibility and Mission Consultation in Costa Rica to add a sixth mark of mission relating to peace, conflict transformation and reconciliation, was endorsed by the Anglican Consultative Council.
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Author:Sison, Marites N.
Publication:Anglican Journal
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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