TEC Report on ACC16

A Letter from Lusaka: Episcopal Church’s ACC members write to the church

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[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs] The Episcopal Church‘s three members on the Anglican Consultative Council have written the following letter to the church at the conclusion ACC-16 in Lusaka, Zambia.


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 Yesterday, in fact, a resolution that sought to pursue further consequences against The Episcopal Church was withdrawn just before it was scheduled for debate.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.

Faithfully

Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine
Ian T. Douglas
Gay Clark Jennings

Episcopal Church members of the 16th Anglican Consultative Council,
Lusaka, Zambia

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This Report from the ACC16 Meeting in Lusaka by members of the 3-person team from TEC (The Episcopal Church in the US) gives evidence of the ethos of the familial nature of the Meeting. Despite the contested ‘consequences’ that were promulgated by the recent Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury – requesting the absence of TEC delegates – this was ignored (under procedural advice from the Chair of the ACC) and the three Episcopal delegates enjoyed the generous welcome and hospitality offered.

In their statement to their Church back home in the U.S., the representatives of TEC mentioned this important factor about their situation:

“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.”

This withdrawal of an attempt to pursue ‘further consequences’ against the TEC presence at the Meeting shows a welcoming degree of solidarity with TEC’s intention to retain full membership of the Anglican Communion.

Furthermore, the attempt by The Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, to revive discussion of the so-called ‘Anglican Covenant’ gained no traction and was left in abeyance.

It seems that the Anglican Consultative Council, the only ‘Instrument of Unity’ within the Communion that includes members of the Laity, is of a mind not to pursue issues that divide, but rather the issues that ought unite the Churches of the Anglican Communion in mission in and to a needy world.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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The ‘Clayton’ Consequences ?

‘The Consequences Stand’

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

By Mark Michael

LUSAKA, Zambia — Though the Anglican Communion continues to face deep divisions, the Anglican Consultative Council closed its meeting today with a deep resolve to walk together.

“Our conversations were enriching, not embattling,” said the Rt. Rev. Jane Alexander, an ACC delegate from Canada.

“I genuinely felt there was an outstanding graciousness and generosity shown on all sides,” said the Most Rev. Richard Clarke, Archbishop of the Church of Ireland. “It was a real victory for the spirit of Anglicanism.”

The conference, meeting under the theme “Intentional Discipleship in a World of Difference,” drew together nearly 80 delegates from 34 of the Communion’s 37 provinces for 12 days at the historic Cathedral of the Holy Cross. Delegates approved a series of resolutions setting new priorities for the Anglican Communion in discipleship training, deepening youth participation, and working to combat climate change.

The meeting in Lusaka convened under the cloud of disagreement about the Primates’ Meeting in January. The primates outlined consequences for the Episcopal Church’s decision to allow marital blessings for same-sex couples.

Some predicted that delegates from more liberal provinces would openly challenge this recommendation, especially by electing Episcopalians as members of the ACC’s standing committee, in defiance of the primates’ urging that Episcopalians “not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee.”

On April 8, the opening day of the conference, Archbishop Justin Welby reported to ACC delegates on the Primates’ Meeting, urging them to work cooperatively with them in the interests of church unity. After Archbishop Welby’s report, the most Rev. Daniel Deng Bul of South Sudan spoke at length, urging delegates to indicate their support for the primates’ decision “to keep the church together.”

After further discussion in small groups, Canon Elizabeth Paver, the ACC’s vice chairwoman, asked delegates to indicate their “affirmation of our willingness as a body to walk together with the primates on these difficult issues” by applauding. Many delegates professed themselves about whether this gesture was a direct affirmation of the primates’ decision or a general consent to the notion of cooperation.

A few days later, though, the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, who was attending his fourth ACC meeting as a representative of the Episcopal Church, said he would not stand for election as ACC chairman.

In an open letter to ACC delegates, Douglas said his decision was based on a desire to “best facilitate our walking together in unity as the Anglican Communion.” The two other Episcopal Church delegates, the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings and Canon Rosalie Ballentine, also decided not to stand for election as members of the ACC’s standing committee.

The primates’ decision did not return again to the ACC’s attention until the penultimate day of the meeting, when delegates considered a motion proposed by Archbishop Deng Bul that asked them to “receive the report” of the Primates’ Meeting, while also “affirm[ing] the commitment of the Primates of the Anglican Communion to walk together; and commit[ing] to continue to seek appropriate ways for the provinces of the Anglican Communion to walk together with each other and with the Primates and other Instruments of Communion.”

Delegates approved the motion without protest or amendment as part of the consent agenda. In a subsequent press conference, Archbishop Welby directly said the ACC’s decision to receive the report included an affirmation of the consequences for the Episcopal Church outlined by the primates. “The ACC received my report, which included those consequences,” the archbishop said. “The consequences stand.”

The Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the Anglican Communion’s secretary general, said he was pleased and surprised by how easy it had been to secure approval from the ACC for this decision.

“The surprising thing for me is the continuity between what the primates came up with and ACC,” he said. “I know there were people expecting the ACC to lock horns, and it didn’t happen. … It means I can with boldness go, and wherever I go in the Communion, I can say, yes, we are together.”

Intentional discipleship, following Christ together in the midst of a challenging world was the broader focus on the gathering. The tone of the meeting shifted dramatically on the second day, as delegates gathered in intentionally mixed small groups and discussed the challenges faced by Anglicans in their respective regions. Strikingly similar challenges in dealing with refugees and internally displaced persons, gun violence, climate change, persecution, gender equality, and helping youth grow in faith in increasingly secular societies came from many different parts of the Anglican world.

After this discussion, the conference’s focus shifted toward several of these pressing issues, especially youth engagement, climate change, and religiously based violence. Archbishop Welby highlighted the latter two issues as major “global and generational challenges” in both his address to a Young Green Anglicans gathering before the conference began and in his presidential address on April 15.

Facing these two challenges, Welby said, will be an integral part of intentional discipleship in the coming era, because both “can only be confronted with a theological and ideological approach and with a story, with a narrative, that is sufficiently powerful to overcome the natural selfishness of one generation, or the selfishness of countries which are more secure.”

Intentional Discipleship and Disciple-Making: An Anglican Guide for Christian Life and Formation, a theological resource prepared by the Communion’s Mission Office, was cited repeatedly by presenters throughout the conference, and discussed at length by ACC delegates. Delegates commended the document and committed the Communion to beginning a season of focus on intentional discipleship. They urged parishes, dioceses, and provinces to make the issue a priority in their life and work, and to develop locally appropriate resources to encourage that work.

Action on climate change was the focus of a plenary session presented by members of the Young Green Anglicans Movement in Central and Southern Africa, as well as several senior church leaders who have been working in this field. Speakers called for urgent action in the face of the climate crisis, and offered concrete suggestions about projects that were working well in their local contexts.

In response, ACC delegates adopted a resolution about climate change proposed by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, which Archbishop Welby agreed to serve as chairman and patron. The resolution, the most complex and detailed one approved by the body, outlined a series of recommended initiatives, including developing eco-friendly investment policies, stressing energy efficiency in church operations, and advocating on behalf of those affected by natural disasters related to climate change. Delegates also adopted resolutions allowing for electronic Communion-wide meetings to reduce the church’s carbon footprint.

Delegates learned a great deal about church life in the Province of Central Africa, especially through a day conference presented by parish ministries from the Diocese of Lusaka. The key focus of the day conference was a call to the wider church to engage creatively with emerging culture. Youth panelists called on Communion members to try new strategies in worship and communication to connect with the spiritual longings of young people, and to take their voices seriously in determining priorities. In response, delegates voted to revive the Anglican Communion Youth Network, and to substantially increase youth representation at future ACC meetings.

Many delegates said their most profound experiences of the ACC gathering came in times of shared Bible study and worship. For Archbishop Welby, the Festival Eucharist held on the Cathedral grounds, which formally opened the proceedings and gathered 5,000 Anglicans from across the Province of Central Africa, was the high note: “We had the Word, the Sacrament, and this hugely joyful celebration that summed up what the church is about.”

In a session for feedback, many delegates praised on the beauty and power of the choral singing they had experienced. Wilfrid Baker of the Church of Ireland said, “It showed me that there is an enthusiasm and a joyfulness about the worship that we have, to a large extent, lost in the North.”

Canon Paver said she was considering whether “our own services need to be longer” to match the celebrations of two to three hours common in Zambian Anglicanism.

Many delegates said the experience had reaffirmed their trust in Archbishop Welby’s leadership, especially his ability to calm tensions, help delegates look outward, and find creative ways of working together to face common challenges.

“The unifying factor centers on our Archbishop Welby,” delegate Charles Leong of South East Asia said. “I think he is a man to bring this Communion together as a big family. The main thing was that we should look beyond our differences and focus on the love of Christ and the common good of our Communion.”

Several delegates said their experience had deepened their hope for the future of the Communion, and changed their opinions about the role the ACC can play in the life of the wider church.

“I said before I came here that I was a skeptic about large international church conferences, which I saw as a massive waste of time and money,” Baker said. “However, this one has changed my thinking. I have come to realize that I am not just a member of the Church of Ireland, not just a member of my parish community, but I am part of this Communion with so many interesting people, and I have learned about all their challenges, and what we can learn from them.”

Delegates responded with sustained applause.

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The last paragraph of this communique, which mentions a  statement from a Church of Ireland member, is perhaps the most eloquent summary of the experience of most present at ACC16. Most of us do wonder what international Church conferences actually achieve that is of practical use to all of its members. The participants are often fired with a new enthusiasm but quite often this seems to have little real effect on the broad membership of our Anglican Communion Churches.

However, with his accustomed managerial elan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, ++Justin Welby – perhaps because of his prior experience in African countries as an oil executive – seems able to continue engaging creatively with his fellow Primates , whether from the Gafcon sodality or the rest of the Anglican Communion. One of the photographs issuing from ACC16 showed him in deep conversation with the TEC member, Bishop Ian Douglas – who withdrew his candidacy for the next election as chair of the ACC – a gracious action which probably helped prevent any stand-off over the issue of whether, or not, TEC would officially contest the recent Primates’ Meeting request for The Episcopal Church in the U.S. to resile from any governance role within the Communion structures.

Another, separate, feature of the ABC’s African tour on this occasion was his visitation to President Robert Mugabe, of Zimbabwe; who questioned the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Anglican attitude towards S/S Marriage. In affirming the sanctity of Marriage between persons of the opposite sex, the Archbishop, however, defended the statement of the recent Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury condemning the criminalisation of LGBTQI people in African and other countries. It would appear that Mr. Mugabe could not agree with him on that issue! 

Most interesting was the fact that most of the practical business of ACC16 was scheduled for the last full day of the Meeting. This might just have ensured that the ACC structure remains as solid as ever, despite thoughts by some people that this might be the last meeting of the only Instrument of Unity that includes the faithful laity, as well as clergy and bishops of our churches.

An important activity that took place at ACC16 was the corporate worship at the Opening Eucharist – surely a good sign of the Person and Being of Christ at the heart of this Communion-wide gathering. Christ is risen, Alleluia!

See also: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2016/04/19/acc-16-concludes-in-lusaka-on-note-of-unity-amid-diversity/

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

 

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ACC declines prospect of ‘Consequences’.

Anglican Consultative Council declines to go along with ‘consequences’

Decision was small part of day that saw action on many issues facing communion, world

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, left, and Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, Episcopal Church Anglican Consultative Council bishop member, converse April 18 as ACC members read over the 45 resolutions they were due to consider. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, left, and Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, Episcopal Church bishop member of the ACC, converse April 18 as ACC members read over the 45 resolutions they were due to consider. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

[Episcopal News Service – Lusaka, Zambia] An April 18 Anglican Consultative Council marathon resolution-passing session saw ACC members take stands on climate change, gender justice, safe church environments, youth involvement in the communion, solidarity with persecuted people, and interfaith and ecumenical relations, among other issues.

And the council declined to endorse or take any action similar to the primates’ call in January for three years of so-called “consequences” for the Episcopal Church. The primates’ call was in response to the 78th General Convention’s decision to change canonical language that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman (Resolution A036) and authorize two new marriage rites with language allowing them to be used by same-sex or opposite-sex couples (Resolution A054).

The primates had said that they were “requiring” that for those three years the Episcopal Church not serve on ecumenical and interfaith bodies, not be appointed or elected to an internal standing committee, and “that while participating in the internal bodies of the Anglican Communion, they will not take part in decision-making on any issues pertaining to doctrine or polity.”

The ACC did pass a resolution (dubbed C34) that received the Archbishop of Canterbury’sformal report to it on the primates’ gathering and affirmed the primates’ commitment to walk together. The resolution also committed the council “to continue to seek appropriate ways for the provinces of the Anglican Communion to walk together with each other and with the primates and other Instruments of Communion.”

The resolution was passed early in the session with no debate because it was placed on the consent calendar, a new approach for the ACC that allowed for a single up-or-down vote on all of the included resolutions. Another resolution, labeled C35, began the day on the consent calendar and, as the afternoon session began, was withdrawn from consideration. It was a one-sentence statement by which the ACC would have said it “welcomes” the primates’ communique.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby told the ACC that he would be “very glad” if C35 was withdrawn because C34 “covers the issues we need to cover.”

Welby went on to say that when he had met the previous day in Harare with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, the notorious African leader had asked him about the communion’s stance on same-sex marriage. The archbishop said he told Mugabe that while Anglicans have “widely differing views … the majority opinion is that marriage is a lifelong union between a man and woman. And that the unanimous opinion of the primates’ meeting was that the criminalization of LGBTIQ people is entirely wrong.”

Welby reminded the ACC that his report to them told how the primates dealt with a number of other issues of “absolute supreme importance” and that the ACC, as well, is “deeply committed” to issues such as evangelism, to opposing religiously based violence, to the care of refugees and to the work of climate change response.

In the future, Welby said, “When I talk to people I am going to be honest. Let’s never pretend that things are other than they are. We are not entirely united on the issues around human sexuality. We have profound and important divisions among us. It’s clear what has been the majority opinion among us. It’s also very clear that, when it comes to criminalization, that we are deeply committed to combatting that in every place where we find it and not supporting those who support it.”

Unlike recent ACC meetings when members began considering resolutions early in the gathering, ACC-16 saw 45 resolutions all presented on the last full day of the April 8-19 meeting at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka.

The April 18 sessions constituted the only formal business conducted at the ACC-16 meeting, other than April 15’s election of Hong Kong Archbishop and Primate Paul Kwong as the council’s next chair. On April 18 the members also elected Church of England lay member Margaret Swinson as vice chair and five representatives to the communion’s Standing Committee.

Summaries of all resolutions passed April 18 are here.

Read more about it

ACC background is here.

Ongoing ENS coverage of the ACC is here.

The House of Deputies News page is also posting stories about the meeting.

Tweeting is happening with #ACCLusaka.

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.

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This is a very fulsome account of the decisions made at ACC16 by The Episcopal News Service (ENS) Reporter, Mary Francis Schjonberg, specifically relating to the ACC decision to decline to accept the so-called ‘consequences’ placed on TEC regarding The Episcopal Church in North America’s participation in governance issues in the Anglican Communion.

This decision had already been predicated in advance of the meeting by its Chair, Bishop Tengatenga and, later, by the Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Idowu-Fearon, and now the ACC16 meeting has confirmed it.

In the second part of this report, we learn that the Archbishop of Canterbury, ++Justin Welby, had just met with President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, relating to him the fact that the recent Anglican Primates’ Meeting had deplored the criminalisation of LGBTQI people  According to the report, President Mugabe did not entirely agree with the Archbishop’s assertion. While the ABC has been accused of ‘double-mindedness’ on this issue, it cannot be denied that he was not afraid to face one of the principal African Leaders of homophobic polity – challenging him directly on the Communion’s official dissociation from such a policy.

While some conservatives within the Communion may have hoped that the ACC would go along with the outstanding recommendation of the Primates’ Meeting – in its determination to outlaw TEC from the official meetings of the ‘Instruments of Unity’  within the Communion (of which the ACC is the only one to include Lay representation) – this obviously did not happen. TEC retains membership of the ACC.

However, the decision of TEC’s leading contender for possible  Chairmanship of the ACC – Bishop Ian Douglas – to not seek the post probably had an influence on the resolution of the stand-off situation, helping to ease any hurtful tension that could have been a problem for the future of the ACC.

The person elected to chair the next ACC was Hong Kong Archbishop and Primate ++Paul Kwong. The elected vice-chair  was Margaret Swenson, a Lay member of the Church of England. 

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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A New Style of Anglicanism in Aotearoa/NZ ?

 Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans NZ – style and substance

Some 360 participants turned out for the first of two Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (NZ)conferences, held at La Vida, Christchurch (and the second begins tomorrow at St Chad’s Meadowbank). I estimate that 330 of the 360 were from the Diocese of Christchurch and 30 were from Dunedin, Nelson and Wellington Dioceses. By my count 30 Christchurch clergy were there, including vicars or priests-in-charge of 19 parishes, with 7 clergy from other dioceses. That is probably the largest Anglican conference held in NZ in a long decade. (I do not know how many are registered for the Auckland conference).

The event was well organised and superbly led from the stage by Amy Hayward (MC and worship leader) and Jay Behan (Chair of FCANZ).

We had a Bible Study led by David Short,  of St John’s Vancouver, three addresses by Vaughan Roberts, of St Ebbe’s Oxford (and Canon of Christ Church Cathedral in the Diocese of Oxford) (True Sex, True Love and True Unity), each speaker was interviewed, and there was a workshop space in the programme with five workshops on offer.

For readers here tremulous about the possibility that the day was long on hellfire and brimstone and short on gentleness and grace, let me assure you that it was the latter and not the former.

For readers here anxious that somewhere in our church there is space for clear, convictional, conservative/traditional teaching on sex, based on the principle that sexual intercourse is approved by God within a marriage between a man and a woman and not outside of such marriage, then yesterday was that space, particularly in Vaughan Roberts’ first address.

For readers here troubled by how such convictional teaching sounds when it comes from the proverbial happily married mother or father of multiple children, let me tell you if you do not know or remind you if you have forgotten, that Vaughan Roberts is a same sex attracted single man who lives celibately. I salute him for his personal courage and I salute the FCA organisers for inviting him to speak to us. There was an authenticity and integrity to what he had to say which would not be present if (say) I had been the teacher for the day.

For readers here anxious about how the future of our church will unfold then the conference was a clear reminder that there are matters to be anxious about, all of which turn on whether General Synod comes to a decision or decisions which we can live with. The conference was a frank and robust reminder that synodical government can make decisions which cannot be lived with by the whole of an Anglican church. This was so especially when we heard from David Short (whose church, then St John’s Shaunessy Vancouver, tried to stay within the Diocese of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada when that Diocese first agreed to and then implemented blessings of same sex relationships, and found that, in the end, and to great personal cost to David as well as to his congregation, this was not possible).

So, an interesting day, an informative day, and a day which may turn out to be instrumental in clarifying ‘the’ way forward some Anglicans will go in, depending, of course, on what General Synod makes of ‘A Way Forward’.

 

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“So, an interesting day, an informative day, and a day which may turn out to be instrumental in clarifying ‘the’ way forward some Anglicans will go in, depending, of course, on what General Synod makes of ‘A Way Forward’. ” – Dr.Peter Carrell, Christchurch –

And may it not be the death-knell of ACANZP’s  traditional  ‘Unity in Diversity’ !!!

Mr Jay Behan’s F.o.C.A. (Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans – N.Z.) is following in the footsteps of dissident Anglicans in Australia (mostly Sydney), North America and the United kingdom; whose alignment with the GAFCON Provinces conservative stance on issues of gender and sexuality have led them into the introduction of schismatic* entities such as *ACNA (Anglican Church in North America) and *AMiE (Anglican Mission in England’.

These schismatic bodies* – fostered by GAFCON – have raised up local Churches in the U.K. and North America, in direct local opposition to and in competition with their Anglican Communion counterparts – The Episcopal Church in the U.S.,  The Anglican Church of Canada, and The Church of England.

My question, that should concern all Anglicans in New Zealand, is: “What does this irruption of FoCA in our country mean for the future stability of dioceses and parishes in ACANZP (The Anglican Church of Aotearoa/New Zealand and Polynesia) ?”

I suspect, not very much. However, bearing in mind the influence of GAFCON/FoCA on Anglican Churches in other countries, we must be on our guard against the prospect of intentional schism.

Participants in these meetings include those who intend to fight any attempts by our Church to open up the possibility of the acceptance of LGBTQI people as full participants in the ministry and outreach of the Church. They will also do their best to defeat any positive movement towards the Blessing of Same-Sex monogamous and faithful relationships. This sign of the desire to maintain a culture of sexism and homophobia could be seen a detrimental to the ethos of God’s love shown by Jesus Christ in the Gospel. If they do not get their own way with Motion 30, will F.o.C.A decide to start up their own Church in New Zealand?

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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DOGMA or Compassion – Pope Francis

POPE FRANCIS GETS REAL

Inheriting a changing Church. Image courtesy flickr user badgercatholic via Creative Commons
Inheriting a changing Church. Image courtesy flickr user badgercatholic via Creative Commons

What seems to be bothering conservatives most about Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) isn’t that he suggests a poorly lit, somewhat twisting, buried-in-the footnotes penitential path to the resumption of Communion by divorced and remarried Catholics. What really seems to be annoying conservatives is that the pope has the temerity to admit that the gulf between what Catholics do and what the church teaches has become insurmountable and must be acknowledged for the church to move forward, even imperfectly.

Even Ross Douthat begrudgingly has to admit that the letter on marriage and family is sufficiently ambiguous to forestall the schism that he half predicted, half wished for if Francis created a formal structure to readmit the divorced and remarried to communion. Instead, what Francis has done, he says, is trickier and harder for conservatives to oppose. He has created a new papal teaching codifying the long-running truce in the church between doctrine and practice:

A teaching in favor of the truce itself. That is, the post-1960s separation between doctrine and pastoral practice now has a papal imprintatur, rather than being a state of affairs that popes were merely tolerating for the sake of unity. Indeed, for Pope Francis that separation is clearly a hoped-for source of renewal, revival and revitalization, rather than something that renewal or revival might enable the church to gradually transcend.

But what really bothers Douthat and others is that the pope appears to have lost confidence in the teachings themselves. He calls the church’s leadership “a little like the Soviet nomenklatura, bound to ideological precepts that they’re not longer confident can really, truly work.” The result is that what the church “once stated authoritatively it now proffers tentatively, in tones laced with self-effacement, self-critique.”

Writing in The Week, Michael Brendan Doughertysimilarly bemoans a lack of certainty, of faith, in church teachings:

The Church can no longer even bring itself to condemn respectable sins such as civilly approved adultery. It can barely bring itself to address a man or woman as if they had a moral conscience that could be roused by words like “sin.” Instead, it merely proposes ideals; ideals cannot be wounded by your failure to realize them. … It admits that God’s commands are not just beyond our reach, but possibly destructive to follow.

And that is exactly what Francis had done: admitted that even settled matters of church doctrine are in fact aspirational and that to discard all Catholics who don’t make the mark is suicidal for a religion. He may be talking about divorce, but the implications are clear for issues like birth control.

The document, as Mary Hunt notes here in RD, is clearly imperfect and leaves much to be desired, ignoring root issues that have alienated so many Catholics from the church. But in his own way, Pope Francis has made a great leap forward for the Church. He has admitted that the center cannot hold. The gulf between what the community practices and what the church preaches is simply to great. The church can no longer bear the weight.

What Dougherty, and Douthat and the other critics of Francis as too “liberal” won’t—or can’t—admit is that much of this is beyond Francis’ control. They act as if enforcing the church’s doctrine is simply a matter of the hierarchy cracking down on all the gay divorcees sashaying up to the communion rail or the supposedly “good” Catholics who magically only have two children in a 20-year marriage.

But if that were the case, then the dioceses of such authoritarians as the late Cardinal Francis George or Cardinal Timothy Dolan would be full of orthodox Catholics crowding the pews. Instead every few years brings another round of shuttered churches, wayward Catholics having gone elsewhere or abandoned religion altogether.

The reality is, it takes a village to enforce doctrine and gone are the days when a church community would shun an unmarried single mother or a gay man, never mind when the larger community would shun an admitted atheist or the unchurched.

Francis is simply admitting that truth. The church must change and evolve, even if in tiny, tortured, steps.

It’s unlikely that Amoris Laetitia will be enough to effect even a small halt in the historic decline of the church. It’s a good 25 years to late and more than a dollar short in terms of the change Francis will, or can, make. But at least he has admitted that somehow, things have to change.

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There are, inevitably, different versions of the response to Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia, his most recent statement on how the Roman Catholic Church ought to be dealing with the problems of today’s falling congregations.  Although this may be seen by some moderates in the Church as both preserving traditional mores – and yet forward-looking – there are conservative Roman Catholics who feel that dogma has been shelved in favour of a more open attitude towards ‘sinners’.

In her article here, quoted on the ‘Religion Despatches’ U.S. web-site, religious journalist Patricia Miller leans towards interpreting the substance of A.L. as being a caution against a too literal understanding of traditional mores outlined in the dogmatic statements enunciated by the Church. In other words, she sees the ground shifting in ways calculated to attract ordinary people back into the family of the Church, who had been alienated by existing hard-line attitudes towards the breakdown of marriage, the high rate of divorce, and the ability of divorced and remarried people to receive the Church’s sacraments.

Also, although the Pope maintains the Church’s official stance on heterosexual marriage – affirming it as the ideal basis of family life – he has expressed the understanding that all people are to be treated with love and understanding, whatever their social situation may be. Love must be primary in the Church’s treatment of everyone.

The Pope’s outreach to all people through this particular pastoral enterprise must be seen in the light of the general movement away from the Church’s influence, because of its seeming lack of sympathy for the exigencies of modern life. Therefore, it will not please everyone in the Roman Catholic Church.

However, it is hoped by many that it will open up the way for a greater tolerance of the situation of people whose obedience to dogmatic pronouncements is less obvious than in times past. In  other words, Amoris Laetitia, may prove a new ‘Spring Time’ for the Roman Catholic Church in its openness to the world.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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ACC 16 – A halftime report – Bishop of Chelmsford

ACC 16 – A halftime report

Posted: 12 April 2016

If you were ever in doubt that the Anglican Communion matters – and many do entertain such concerns – come with me to the Cathedral Church of the Holy Cross in Lusaka for the opening service of ACC 16 – that is the 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, a body of bishops, priests and laypeople representing the 38 provinces of the worldwide Anglican Church.

Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, is part of the province of Central Africa which also comprises the countries of Botswana, Malawi and Zimbabwe. As we gathered for the Eucharist on Sunday many cars, charabancs and buses disgorged thousands of people, many of whom had been travelling for up to 12 hours from poverty stricken parts of their countries to worship God with brothers and sisters of the Anglican church and to hear the Archbishop of Canterbury address us. It was deeply humbling.

The worship, and the lunch and presentations that followed, lasted most of the day. Infused with exuberance and joy, I found myself clapping and dancing (well, swaying from side to side, I am English after all!) with the choir from Zimbabwe even after the day had formally finished. It is rare in the UK to want to stay in church after the service has ended. But I wanted to stay even though we’d been together for more than eight hours. Worship, and joyful praise of God, even in the midst of challenge, and facing the sort of poverty and oppression I cannot imagine, united us. And I learned again that it is praise and prayer that defines us, and therefore as a Communion it is not only unhelpful to look at each other and define each other in or out of communion because of our views on certain subjects, it is actually impossible.

I may say to my neighbour that I do not like you or do not approve of your way of following Christ, but my censure does not actually stop them following and nor cannot it prevent them. They are still following Christ, whether I like it or not. In other words, I can choose to follow Christ, but I cannot choose who will follow alongside me. That is God’s matter, not mine.  Therefore, much better to talk to and learn from my neighbour than put on blinkers and pretend they are not there.

And that is what is happening at ACC 16; we are walking and talking together, and even though a few provinces in the Communion have sadly chosen not to send representatives, we are walking with them as well, and they with us – none of us has the power to change this – even if we cannot talk with them at the moment. But Christians from Kenya and Canada, Tanzania and North America, and even just around my table for Bible study each morning, Antigua, Mauritius, South Africa, South India and Brazil, are here.  We are choosing to walk and talk; not because we agree on everything, but because we are followers of Jesus.

On the Emmaus Road Jesus walks with Cleopas and his companion even when they are going in the wrong direction. If Jesus could do this with them, listening to their questions, sharing himself, breaking bread, shouldn’t we do the same with each other, and especially with those with whom we travel as Anglican Christians?

And the main topic of conversation at this meeting of the ACC is not same-sex marriage, or cross boundary Episcopal incursions or lay presidency at the Eucharist, but discipleship: intentional discipleship in a world of difference. We are discovering that we have so much to learn from each other as we walk and talk together on this vital issue.

In the diocese of Chelmsford where I serve, our companion links with dioceses overseas in Kenya and Trinidad and Tobago have been hugely influential in shaping and challenging our mission agenda. Also, the creative presence of so many Christians from other parts of the Anglican communion in our churches, particularly in the East End of London, has brought renewal to the Church. What we are learning about most is the joy of worship and the importance and impact of missionary discipleship.

We are now into a few days of reports and discussion on issues as varied as gender-based violence and micro finance, but all under the banner of learning together how to be disciples of Jesus Christ; not despite our differences, but because Jesus has called us with our differences.

The halftime score at ACC 16? Kingdom of God 1 Scoffers and Doubters 0.

Stephen Cottrell – Bishop of Chelmsford

Picture: The Episcopal News Service reported that the five-hour Eucharist on April 10 which officially opened the Anglican Consultative Council’s 16th meeting at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka was “a colourful, rollicking and spirited-filled service”. Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas, centre, shared a laugh before the Eucharist with Diocese of Grafton Bishop Sarah MacNeil, the Anglican Church of Australia’s ACC bishop member, and Diocese of Chelmsford Bishop Stephen Cottrell, Church of England ACC bishop member. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service.

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Bishop Stephen Cottrell, a members of the ACC16 gathering in Lusaka, sets the tone for the eirenic atmosphere of this meeting of the anglican Consultative Council in Africa. Concerning the absence of some Gafcon Provinces from the meeting, on account of their refusal to meet with representatives of TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada. the Bishop has this to say:

“I may say to my neighbour that I do not like you or do not approve of your way of following Christ, but my censure does not actually stop them following and nor cannot it prevent them. They are still following Christ, whether I like it or not. In other words, I can choose to follow Christ, but I cannot choose who will follow alongside me. That is God’s matter, not mine.  Therefore, much better to talk to and learn from my neighbour than put on blinkers and pretend they are not there.”

I love that insistence on the reality that I cannot choose who is my neighbour ‘in Christ’. Indeed, we cannot choose whom Christ is calling to follow him. Today’s lesson at the Mass, from the Acts of the Apostles, speaks of the traditional Zionist Saul being called away from his ingrained understanding of who might be ‘God’s enemy’ – into following (by conversion from his own ideas of what constitutes ‘discipleship’ to the liberalising path of redemption ‘In Christ alone’.

I guess this is what disturbs me, and many others in ACANZP, about the sudden erruption of the oddly-named ‘Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans’, which seeks to self-proclaim its so-called Anglican ‘Orthodoxy’ – against the more generous understanding of the breadth of fellowship that includes the LGBTQI people in our midst who, too, are members of the Body of Christ, looking to Him alone to cover us with his perfection.

Whatever own own personal understanding of what might be meant by Christian discipleship, we may be surprised at whom we are called to journey with along the road.

Christ is risen, Alleluia! He is risen indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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GAFCON enters New Zealand – via FOCA

ANGLICAN FUTURE CONFERENCE 2016 CONTENDING FOR THE GOSPEL IN CONTENTIOUS TIMES http://www.fcanz.org REGISTRATIONS NOW OPEN: CHRISTCHURCH Saturday 16 April 2016 La Vida Centre – Riccarton AUCKLAND 18 – 20 April 2016 AUT University – City Campus

“Anglican Future Conference”. We desire to gather as brothers and sisters in Christ seeking the best way to honour God and love people. We are delighted to welcome Rev Vaughan Roberts (St Ebbe’s, Oxford, UK) as our headline speaker who will speak on “True Gospel, True Sex, True Love, and True Unity”. Other speakers include Rev Dr Sarah Harris exploring the topic of ?Faithful Hermeneutics: women and same-sex?, and Rev Dr Rhys Bezzant and Rev Dr Peter Adam reminding us of our Anglican Identity and Heritage. We will also begin each day in God’s word with Revs Dale & Paul Williamson as they teach us from the Gospel of Luke on Jesus’ mission, authority, and call. Through workshops, worship and times of fellowship we will explore together how best to contend for the gospel once for all entrusted to the saints. We look forward to you joining with us. CHRISTCHURCH (9am – 5pm) Saturday 16 April 2016 La Vida Centre – Riccarton $39+bf (lunch provided) AUCKLAND 1pm 18 April – 1pm 20 April 2016 AUT University – City Campus $135+bf (lunch provided – Tuesday) ANGLICAN FUTURE CONFERENCE 2016 not all speakers are at all venues – for full programme information head to http://www.fcanz.org

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Influenced by GAFCON and the U.K.-sourced ‘Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, FoCA, a group of people of earnest Conservative Evangelical persuasion seems determined to plant the roots of a similar type of group in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

A group of Overseas Speakers has been invited to address delegates to the advertised Meetings in Christchurch and Auckland, which look like duplicating a similar meeting that took place in Australia last year, hosted by FoCA (Aust.), which is an outreach from the GAFCON organisation which has fostered schismatic activity in the USA and Canada – leading to the formation of ACNA the so-called “Anglican Church in North America’, an ‘Anglican’ schismatic body that affects to replace the U.S. Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada.

The 3 highlighted entities (above) are all involved in an attempt to take-over the Anglican world with a limited  ‘sola-Scriptura’ understanding of sexual identity and gender issues, such as is currently practised by Anglican Churches in Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda, where known homosexuals are subject to harsh criminal punishment – a situation officially deplored by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the recent Primates’ Meeting in the U.K.

Whether this locally sponsored organisation of FoCA will elect to undermine the Anglican Church in New Zealand – as has been the practice in the U.K., Australia and other Provinces of the Anglican Communion – is yet to be seen. However, it is well-known that there were New Zealander clergy in attendance at the Australian Conference of FoCA, and no doubt they will be present at the New Zealand meetings. One might hope there won’t be too many of them! Religious Fundamentalism of any kind – whether Christian or Muslim – has no place here.

The timing of this meeting – before our General Synod debates the issue of Same-Sex Blessings in ACANZP later in May – would seem to have been related to the current controversy surrounding ‘Motion 30’ set to take place at the General Synod.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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