The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has stressed that the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) is not a province of the Anglican Communion.
ACNA was formed in 2009 by a churches and individuals that left the Anglican Church of Canada and the U.S.-based Episcopal Church because of deep differences over the issue of human sexuality.
Speaking to ACNS as he delivered his report to the Standing Committee, Idowu-Fearon said he wanted to correct any suggestion that ACNA was the 39th province of the Communion rather than Sudan, which was inaugurated in July.
“It is simply not true to say that ACNA is part of the Anglican Communion,” he said. “To be part of the Communion, a province needs to be in communion with the See of Canterbury and to be a member of the Instruments of the Communion. ACNA is not in communion with the See of Canterbury—and has not sought membership of the Instruments.”
Idowu-Fearon added that “There is a long-standing process by which a province is adopted as a province of the Communion… ACNA has not gone through this process.”
He described it as “a church in ecumenical relationship with many of our provinces,” adding that this is “also true of many churches, including the Methodist, Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches.”
Speaking to the Standing Committee, Idowu-Fearon described the creation of the new province of Sudan as a particular highlight of his first two years in post. He said the new province had started well but needed the support of the Communion. He said Christians were a minority in Sudan and would need to adopt a different approach compared to those in South Sudan, where they were a majority.
In his report, the secretary general spoke on a wide range of issues, including unity, growth and evangelism; the task group set up after the Primates’ gathering and meeting in 2016 and how his role had changed.
He said the distinctive feature of the Communion was the balance between what united and what divided. The Communion was united by its fellowship and identity in Jesus Christ but could be divided by different circumstances, different cultures and different priorities.
“It is part of my personal mission to encourage all to celebrate our unity and to seek to understand and overcome any differences,” he said. “My prayer is that this mission would be accepted and adopted by all leaders across the Communion. It is a sadness and concern that some appear to seek division and to form factions interested in expressing only their own view and to gaining power and influence to dominate other opinions.”
He said that arrogance in some parts of the Communion, where some Anglicans felt they alone were the church, was causing hardships. Such a rejection of others meant the refusal of help from other Anglicans. As a result, people were suffering.
The secretary general spoke of his extensive travels during his time in office and said he had been encouraged by the vigour and variety of Anglicanism. He said the next phase of his work would have a more external focus and would include promoting greater awareness of the nature of the Communion and its different cultural contexts.
With a month to go to the Primates’ meeting in Canterbury, the secretary general also spoke of the work done by the task group, which was set up after the last meeting in 2016 to help the Communion walk together despite differences. He said the group was “really working” and had tackled virtually everything asked of it.
“We are practicing risky, healthy, honesty with ourselves,” he said.
On funding, the secretary general questioned whether provinces who made no contribution to the Communion should continue to be able to vote. He said every province should aim to give something.
Idowu-Fearon also spoke about innovative ways of evangelism he had encountered in Dallas and Connecticut. He paid tribute to the new primate of Kenya for his determination to concentrate on developing the church in rural and urban areas and on reaching out to Muslim neighbours, rather than focusing on division. He stressed that interfaith relations, particularly with the Muslim community, remained close to his heart.