Canadian delegates to ACC hopeful about future of Anglican Communion

Published May 15, 2009

Young Jamaican-Anglican shows a copy of the Order of Service bearing a photograph of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. Photo was taken at the opening Eucharist of the Anglican Consultative Council meeitng in Kingsto, Jamaica.

Kingston, Jamaica
Canadian delegates to the 14th Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) echoed sentiments of hope and optimism expressed by other attendees, although tempered by the fact that despite a good meeting, issues related to human sexuality remain on the table for the Anglican Communion.

“I came to this meeting quite burdened, quite worried. I have come home with evidence, not just hope, that the Communion will last and that we will be a part of it,” said Suzanne Lawson, lay delegate of the Anglican Church of Canada. In a report on her discernment group, she quoted one of the delegates as saying “‘I’m not taking back a bunch of ACC resolutions, I’m taking you back, and you, and you.'” She added:” It may sound soft, but it’s hard fought and hard won.”

The diocesan bishop of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Sue Moxley, bishop delegate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said she came to the meeting “hopeful” because she saw how the 2008 Lambeth Conference of bishops “turned around” under the leadership of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the meeting managers. “I thought the same thing would happen. My expectations were met; this was light years better than the horrible experience we had at Nottingham,” she said. At that ACC meeting in 2005, the Canadian and American delegates sat on the sidelines after their churches were censured for liberal views on human sexuality.

Bishop-elect Stephen Andrews of the diocese of Algoma described the meeting as “a wonderful experience of just enlarging my vision of the nature of the church and the challenges that the church faces.”

He said that, while he is “hopeful,” he is also taking back “the serious challenge that’s before us, particularly in terms of the covenant, because I do think that the Communion is in a very precarious position.”

Both Bishop-elect Andrews and Bishop Moxley underscored the urgency of the work that lies before a still-to-be appointed body that will look at possible changes to the covenant, and the standing committee that will give a final stamp before it’s sent out to member churches for approval. Bishop Moxley said these bodies must meet soon, or “everybody will start to get cranky.”

By a slim margin, 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. It asked that a “small working group” be appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to “consider and consult with provinces” on Section 4 of the draft, “and its possible revision.”

Recalling his experience at the last ACC meeting, where he was a member of the presentation team that discussed how the Canadian Anglican church has been wrestling with the issue of same-sex blessings, Bishop-elect Andrews said, “We arrived amidst high security and great suspicion and Canadian delegates had sort of suffered the indignity of standing outside the meetings.” He said he was expecting that at this meeting “the Canadian delegates might be held in suspicion and that many people would have preconceived notions about who we are, where we came from.” While “they may have had that, it wasn’t evident to me in many of my interactions, particularly in my interactions with people from the Global South,” he said.

Ms. Lawson said she was “helped a bit” by Archbishop Williams’ remark that the Communion “may have slightly different shapes at different times about different things, but there are things that we clearly need and want to do together, and we’ll continue to meet together.”

She said that a line from the Book of Common Prayer’s collect for all conditions of men — “a happy issue out of all their afflictions” — kept coming to her at the meeting. The meeting “is not the answer, there’s a lot yet to do,” she said. But, she added, “just because you’ve built this relationship with the select group of people who were there, I think each of us in our own place, when we go back, will have a challenge to convince others that the bridge is worth a lot of giving up, a lot of compromising, a lot of putting up with other people’s thoughts.”

Bishop-elect Andrews said that two things stood out for him that were “hopeful” at the meeting. “There did seem to be agreement that we need to think about our life together in terms of mission, and we may define that differently, but it gives us a lot more to work together on and sort of clarify that…,” he said. “…We came to a clear understanding of the nature of our identity as an Anglican Communion and that came about in large part because of our interaction with the Jamaican church. It was a wonderful experience to be able to see the church on the ground, to identify what the challenges and the privileges of ministry are in the name of the Anglican church.” ACC delegates went in groups to 32 local parishes in and on the outskirts of Kingston for “mission encounters” on May 10.

Bishop Moxley said that the ACC meeting was good because there was a “willingness to listen to each other.” She added: “When you hear all the stories and people listen to what it’s like to live in Canada, and people listen to what it’s like to live somewhere else, you begin to see that what you decide in your place impacts somebody else in another side of the world.” She said that delegates were ready to listen “because what they really want is for the mission of God to be done, and they don’t want to get held up by getting into disputes all the time.”

Asked to comment on Archbishop Williams’ statement about the possibility of the Communion turning into a federation if not all provinces sign on to the covenant, Bishop Moxley said, “I don’t know. He (Archbishop Williams) probably has a better picture of the world scene than the rest of us, because he talks to everybody.”

One of the so-called Four Instruments of Communion, the ACC was formed following a 1968 Lambeth Conference resolution, “which discerned the need for more frequent and more representative contact” among the churches. The ACC is composed of lay, clergy and bishop delegates from member provinces of the Communion. The Anglican Communion is composed of 80 million Anglicans in 44 regional and national churches in over 160 countries.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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