The last time the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) met, in 2005, Canadian and American delegates sat on the sidelines. They were there to “attend but not participate” after their churches were censured for their more-liberal stand on the contentious issue of homosexuality.
At that meeting, the ACC decided to endorse a request from the primates’ meeting that the two churches withdraw from the council at least until the 2008 Lambeth Conference because of the debate triggered by the consecration of a gay bishop in The Episcopal Church and the blessing of same-sex unions in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster.
At this year’s meeting, scheduled May 1 to 13 in Kingston, Jamaica, Canadian and American delegates are joining representatives from 36 other provinces of the Anglican Communion, but the issue that brought about their exclusion in 2005 remains very much on the radar. The meeting is expected to discuss the report of the Windsor Continuation Group (WCG), including the proposal for a new province made by conservative Anglicans who have left their churches in North America over the issue of sexuality. The WCG was created by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2008 to find a way forward for the Communion, which has been deeply divided over the place of gays and lesbians in the Anglican church.
In its report to the primates last February, the WCG, commenting on the proposal for a new province, had said there were “difficulties in recognizing the coalition among the provinces of the Communion” and “significant concerns were raised in the conversation about the possibility of parallel jurisdictions.”
While it is not a legislative body, the ACC can determine whether a new province can be created. “There are clear guidelines set out in the Anglican Consultative Council reports, notably ACC 10 in 1996 (resolution 12), detailing the steps necessary for the amendments of existing provincial constitutions and the creation of new provinces,” a spokesperson for the Archbishop of Canterbury bishop has said.
Other issues expected to be on the agenda are proposals for an Anglican Covenant, as well as reports from various Anglican bodies and networks dealing with issues like peace and justice, mission, and theological education.
Considered one of the four instruments of unity in the Anglican Communion, the council was established in 1969 after the 1968 Lambeth Conference decided that the church needed “more frequent and more representative contact” among churches. (The other instruments of unity include the Archbishop of Canterbury, the primates’ meeting and the Lambeth Conference, the decennial gathering of the world’s Anglican bishops.)
Each of the 38 Anglican provinces sends up to three members representing lay, clergy and bishops to the ACC, held every two to three years.
The Canadian church’s representatives are Suzanne Lawson, Bishop-elect Stephen Andrews of Algoma, and Bishop Sue Moxley of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the president of the ACC; its current chair is the bishop of Auckland, John Paterson.
The opening service is planned for Sunday, May 3, at Kingston’s National Arena; the following Sunday, delegates will participate in services at various parishes across the diocese of Jamaica. The meeting will end with a service at the Cathedral of St. Jago de la Vega, the oldest Anglican cathedral in the former British colony.