‘We Act as a Family’

Adapted from Gavin Drake’s report for Anglican Communion News Service

The Ven. Paul Feheley acknowledged that some provinces have said that they will not attend the 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council because of the Episcopal Church’s participation in the gathering or on the standing committee.

“We respect their right to make those decisions, [but] we regret it because we act as a family,” he said during a breakfast briefing with more than 30 journalists.  “And I’m sure it is the same in your family as it is in mine: when some of the members of the family aren’t present, you still have the conversations, you still continue to act and to be, but you are always a little bit less because some of the family members are not there.

“So we respect their decisions not to come but we regret it as well because we would like them to be part of the conversation.”

Feheley said same-sex marriage and relationships are not on the meeting’s agenda. “It is not an issue that is going to be dealt with in some depth,” he said.

But he expected some discussion around the issue in a session looking back to the Primates’ Meeting at Canterbury Cathedral in January and the subsequent communiqué.

Stephen Lyon, coordinator of ACC-16, stressed continuity.

ACC-16 will begin on Friday at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, Zambia, and continue until April 19.

“One of the things that we want to do is to look back at decisions we made [when the ACC last met in New Zealand in 2012] and see how those decisions have been worked out in different churches across the Anglican Communion,” he said. “And then we want to give space to those who are coming from different parts of the Communion to talk about the things that are important to them: What are their priorities? What are the themes of their work?”

Lyon said some of the themes would emerge during the meeting and that some had already emerged from conversations and consultations.

One theme is “our care for the environment,” he said. “Right across the Anglican Communion, which is right across the world, our environment is impinging on our lives in many ways. In many parts of Africa, it shows itself with the difficulty of actually raising cattle or growing crops because of the changes in weather patterns, and particularly in those areas that lack rain.

“In other places, for example the Pacific Islands, their concern is rising sea levels, because their whole livelihoods is being slowly swallowed up by the sea around them. What can we do? If God created this world, what can we do to care for it?”

Lyon said another concern is to “ensure we hear the voice of the youth.” About 90 percent of Zambia’s population is younger than 45, and the Anglican Communion has organized a youth conference this week to discuss the environment and discipleship.

Some of the delegates at the youth conference will take part in the ACC meeting to “bring their voice, their concerns, their questions, to the wider Church,” Lyon said. “We need to have the voice of the youth here.”

The ACC will also look at regions of the world where congregations are growing. “There is a bishop in Tanzania that has done I don’t know how many thousands of confirmations each year. His question is How do I build up those who I have confirmed into the Church in their faith?

“In other parts of the Anglican Communion, sad to say, congregations are declining. So what can we learn from those places in the Communion that are growing, that perhaps we are not taking on board in those places where congregations are declining?”

Lyon said that two other themes are migration and violence, both at home and in communities.

“We have a bishop from America who is leading the campaign of the church over there against gun violence.”

The Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, a member of the ACC’s standing committee, is Bishop of Connecticut, where 20 elementary students and six staff members of Sandy Hook Elementary School were killed in 2012 by a lone gunman.

As the press briefing drew to a close, Lyon said: “All the issues that we address at the ACC we will address because they are the concerns of those coming. We are very conscious of the fact that just because the ACC says something in a resolution, does not mean that anybody will necessarily take notice of it.

“The best thing that we can do is to share the things that work in our situation, share the things that have brought about positive change in different parts of the Communion, and recommend them as good practice and say that there are different ways of doing things and different ways of looking at things.

“We have, within the Anglican Communion, quite a number of leaders who are listened to very carefully within their own situations and they have a great deal to say to those who are living with similar challenges and similar problems but in different situations; this diverse world we live in, this world of differences.

“And so what we are trying to do is to bring people together so that they can talk about those differences and talk about the way that they are working in their particular context.”

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