AUCKLAND: Reflections on the first three days of ACC-15
By Canon Phil Ashey in Auckland
October 31, 2012
I would like to offer some brief observations about the first three days of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting (ACC-15) here in Auckland, Sunday Oct 28-Tues Oct 30.
1. It is a meeting with a light agenda
In contrast to the drama and debt over the proposed Anglican Covenant and governance issues at ACC-14 in 2009 (Jamaica), this meeting of the ACC seems to have a very light agenda.
Yes, discussion on the Anglican Covenant will take place tomorrow (in a few hours here in NZ). It is part of the work of the International Anglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) to report back on the status of the Anglican Covenant.
But what can be done with the Covenant at this point? With the Covenant tabled by the Church of England, a leadership vacuum with ++Rowan Williams impending retirement and an as-yet-to-be-chosen successor whose views on the Covenant are not known, what can be done?
Tell the new Archbishop of Canterbury that the process will go ahead without Global South Anglicans like Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda, and with the Church of England in a ‘second-tier” membership? Or start the whole process over again, to everyone’s dismay?
The agenda is heavy on information: a public exhibition of Anglican Communion Network initiatives, an overview of the work of the ACC, funding needs for the Anglican Communion office, a report from the Anglican Alliance and its lack of funds to pursue its initiatives, and a plenary session Tuesday evening on gender based family violence by local community social services. There were a variety of resolutions, but none that were objectionable or contentious.
It raises the question: Was this agenda designed to minimize the contentiousness of previous ACC meetings, and to provide a peaceful and happy exit for ++Rowan Williams?
2. It is a meeting seeking to redefine Anglican identity around the needs of the world rather than the sufficiency of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of all
In the Opening Service in the cathedral on Sunday October 28, Archbishop Rowan Williams preached from John 17:27: “And you also must testify, for you were with me in the beginning.”
Rather than see this as referring to the disciples or the church, ++Rowan Williams suggested that the passage means that all of us– believers and non-believers– were with God from the beginning, before time began, and therefore “There is no clear line where the church ends and the world begins.”
Moreover, he said, if we know that we (the church) have been with God from the very beginning, we will understand that our job is to make known God’s “causeless and unreasonable love for the world,” and that our mission and sure foundation is to open peoples eyes–including those who reject Jesus Christ and his way– “To this mysterious sense of being there from the beginning with God.”
While there is much to commend in this message on the extravagant love of God, the world’s desperate need to know this love and our need to share his love with the world, the message was confusing. Was the Archbishop of Canterbury suggesting that everyone will be saved by the mysterious love of God which embraces all from the beginning?
Would this not be offensive to those who reject Jesus Christ and his way, to be co-opted against their will? And how does this square with our identity as Anglican followers of Jesus Christ, who in the same Gospel of John makes it clear that he alone is the way, the truth and the life and that salvation is through Him alone? (John 14:6)
Currently, the work of the Anglican Communion appears to be driven by a new global, non-Biblical ethic that focuses on the needs of communities rather than the person and power of Jesus Christ.
As I have written recently, the work of the Anglican Alliance on economic empowerment continues to focus on the secular development of skills for “inclusion”, “consultation and governance,” “protection of vulnerable people,” and “principles of financial planning”– all from their report today, all very worthy efforts and all utterly lacking in any Biblical and universal truths rooted in the person and power of Jesus Christ.
Likewise, tonight’s presentation on gender based family violence by three community social service leaders provided an excellent survey in psycho-social roots of violence, recent breakthroughs in understanding how the brain contributes to violent behavior, and therapies for dealing with fear and abuse.
But there was no mention of Jesus Christ, no testimonies of life change through Him, and nothing to suggest any spiritual basis for this work other than the presentation on a Maori native spiritual framework for such work.
The Rev. Canon Phil Ashey is Chief Operating & Development Officer for the American Anglican Council. He is based in Atlanta, Ga
From his remarks here, about the content of discussions going on at ACC15, Phil. Ashby, perhaps predictably, (he is a member of the TEC-stand-off team at the oxymoronically-named ‘American Anglican Council’ – which is a law unto itself) complains at what he sees as the lack of biblical commentary, and constant evocations of the Holy Name, running through the meetings. He so obviously is not present at the daily Eucharist and other worship activities that are part and parcel of the facilities provided for the delegates by the host Province of ACANZP.
I would suppose that Mr. Ashby is at ACC15 as an ‘accredited journalist’. He surely cannot have been an invited Anglican participant in the proceedings. Perhaps that is one reason for his negative feed-back, which was provided here to (commissioned by ?) another oxymoronically named web-site – virtueonline – which is notable for its negative and abrasive commentary on the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, and almost everything purporting to be Anglican, except GAFCON, ACNA, and other subversive organisations that have moved away from the eirenic Anglican polity of ‘Unity in Diversity’. I would not take his comments too seriously, though. He has a rather blunt axe to grind – together with ‘VoL’.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand