In their joint address to General Synod on the subject of the April 2016 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in Lusaka, Zambia, Anglican Church of Canada delegates Bishop Jane Alexander and Suzanne Lawson drew particular attention to what they described as the ACC’s resounding commitment to a new evangelism and, more specifically, the concept of intentional discipleship.
“[The ACC] has called on every province, diocese and parish in the Communion to adopt a clear focus on intentional discipleship, and enter into a season of intentional discipleship which will run for the next nine or so years,” said Alexander.
Intentional discipleship as envisioned by the ACC involves a return to the church’s roots as a community of evangelizing disciples that creates disciples of its peers by its every day words and actions. “We’ve been asked to take it seriously,” said Alexander, “to teach and equip as if we mean it.”
The bishop also made special mention of Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s address at ACC on the subject of discipleship, telling General Synod that he called on members of the Council and the Anglican Communion at large not to simply practice “Churchianity” or “church-going,” but to actively create followers of Jesus Christ by allowing their love of Jesus Christ to change the way they act and live.
Alexander placed a particular emphasis on that idea, telling those gathered that discipleship was not judged by any one aspect of their lives, but rather on the whole of their being and environment.
“Jesus demands us as individuals, in our family relationships, in how we spend our money, in our attitudes towards employment, in how we spend our leisure time, in our exploitation of the environment, in our political choices, in the whole of our life, the totality of our living in God, [it’s all] a question of our discipleship, and it’s that totality in how we live, that environment, that creates…really good Christians,” she said.
Alexander walked General Synod members through the 10 networks of the Anglican Communion and how they address crucial issues including human trafficking, gender violence, climate change and poverty. Alexander urged members to get involved in these networks.
Lawson, for her part, spoke about the “Four Instruments of Communion,” and how they are not set up to be “hierarchical,” and more “like a family.” The Four Instruments of Communion include the ACC, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates’ Meeting and the Lambeth Conference of Bishops.
She also noted the warm reception that she, Alexander and Archdeacon Michael Thompson (who went in place of Archdeacon Harry Huskins) received at the meeting. There had been some anxiety, she said, leading up to the Lusaka meeting, which came in the heels of a Primates’ Meeting that urged “consequences” for The Episcopal Church because of its decision to allow same-sex marriages. The issue of the Canadian church’s upcoming vote on same-sex marriage never came up, said Lawson.
Lawson concluded the pair’s address by making note of how struck they both were by the spirit of unity and co-operation present in the ACC gathering. “What we saw together in Lusaka was the Holy Spirit gathered there; the Holy Spirit working through people with different languages, with different cultures, with different views, with different ways of being and following Christ, and we were moved,” she said. “We won’t ever always agree, but the Holy Spirit is helping us as long as we open ourselves to the ongoing process of knowing and learning, and above all listening.”