ACC Hears Reports of Crises

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, during the opening service of ACC-16. • ACNS

By Mark Michael

LUSAKA, Zambia — The deep needs of local churches and opportunities for joint action across the Anglican Communion were topics of discussion by the Anglican Consultative Council. Evangelization, discipleship, the worldwide migration crisis, climate change, and violence were identified as urgent global issues.

The Rev. Philip Groves, director of the Anglican Communion’s Continuing Indaba project, led the exercise. Participants reflected in small groups on the Five Marks of Mission developed by the ACC, and to discuss needs and priorities that are emerging in their local contexts.

The Anglican Consultative Council, Groves reminded the delegates, identifies and funds the priorities for the Anglican Communion’s common work. The exercise, he said, was designed to help the Communion be responsive “to the huge amount of change in the three years since the last ACC.” After collating the responses, Groves offered a summary that will be used to alter the meeting’s agenda and form resolutions.

Archbishop Welby’s Statement

In the last month I have discovered that my biological father is not Gavin Welby but, in fact, the late Sir Anthony Montague Browne.

This comes as a complete surprise.

My mother (Jane Williams) and father (Gavin Welby) were both alcoholics. My mother has been in recovery since 1968, and has not touched alcohol for over 48 years. I am enormously proud of her.

My father (Gavin Welby) died as a result of the alcohol and smoking in 1977 when I was 21.

As a result of my parents’ addictions my early life was messy, although I had the blessing and gift of a wonderful education, and was cared for deeply by my grandmother, my mother once she was in recovery, and my father (Gavin Welby) as far as he was able.

I have had a life of great blessing and wonderful support, especially from Caroline and our children, as well as a great many wonderful friends and family.

My own experience is typical of many people. To find that one’s father is other than imagined is not unusual. To be the child of families with great difficulties in relationships, with substance abuse or other matters, is far too normal.

By the grace of God, found in Christian faith, through the NHS, through Alcoholics Anonymous and through her own very remarkable determination and effort, my mother has lived free of alcohol, has a very happy marriage, and has contributed greatly to society as a probation officer, member of the National Parole Board, Prison Visitor and with involvement in penal reform.

She has also played a wonderful part in my life and in the lives of my children and now grandchildren, as has my stepfather whose support and encouragement has been generous, unstinting and unfailing.

This revelation has, of course, been a surprise, but in my life and in our marriage Caroline and I have had far worse. I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes. Even more importantly my role as Archbishop makes me constantly aware of the real and genuine pain and suffering of many around the world, which should be the main focus of our prayers.

Although there are elements of sadness, and even tragedy in my father’s (Gavin Welby’s) case, this is a story of redemption and hope from a place of tumultuous difficulty and near despair in several lives. It is a testimony to the grace and power of Christ to liberate and redeem us, grace and power which is offered to every human being.

At the very outset of my inauguration service three years ago, Evangeline Kanagasooriam, a young member of the Canterbury Cathedral congregation, said: “We greet you in the name of Christ. Who are you, and why do you request entry?” To which I responded: “I am Justin, a servant of Jesus Christ, and I come as one seeking the grace of God to travel with you in His service together.” What has changed? Nothing!

Anglican churches across the world face challenges in evangelism, particularly in the face of growing secularism and urbanization. Discussion at several different tables noted the difficulty of proclaiming the gospel to “a culture of indifference,” which seems to be growing even in Africa and other parts of the Global South. The challenges of reaching people are compounded in some places by refugee crises and internal displacement. Anglicanism’s traditional forms of worship also make it difficult to reach young people in many places, and churches are struggling to find ways to both respect the liturgical and to encourage new worship.

Many delegates noted that proclaiming the gospel is deeply related to the other kinds of social transformation that Anglican churches hope to lead. “The only way to bring tribalism to an end is the gospel,” said one delegate. Some Anglican churches in the West, Groves said, are making strides in emphasizing evangelism and in “changing their structures to better communicate the gospel to a disinterested culture.” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s statement that he sees his role as the church’s Chief Evangelism Officer was held up as a model for the wider church.

Anglicans also face challenges in discipleship, helping people to follow Christ and grow in faith, which is the theme of the wider ACC conference. Challenges in helping youth stay committed to church life and to express their faith are universal, and one delegate said that even in Africa, where hundreds come to be confirmed, discipleship is hard.

Discipleship training is also important for the many Anglicans who hold positions of influence and power in their societies. Some Anglican churches continue to enjoy social privileges inherited from the imperial past, but church members do not always use their power to bring social transformation that springs from the gospel.

A South African delegate said, “When things are bad in our nation, people look to the Anglican church for leadership.”

“Our political leaders are corrupt. About 60 percent of them are Anglican,” another delegate said ruefully. “They come to worship on a Sunday and then they go out on Monday and do bad things.”

Nearly every table, Groves said, talked about the issues associated with the mass migration of people. “Refugees, migrants, internally displaced people, trafficked people. That is something affecting nearly every community across the world.”

Anglicans in some places, like Wales, are experiencing influxes of migrants for the first time in recent memory. In Malaysia and Southern Europe, the arrival of refugees fleeing combat zones has been overwhelming. Other places face depopulation because people move to areas of greater opportunity.

Nearly every group reported seeing effects of climate change in their communities. Drought and other forms of severe weather have been devastating in many places. Because of rising sea levels, Anglicans in the West Indies have been resettling people from Barbuda and Antigua, where some of the land is under water. Damage is borne disproportionately by the poor, especially indigenous peoples, the delegates said.

Increasing violence in society is a deep problem in many places. Some Anglicans live in countries that are at war, while other, more peaceful societies report increased violence connected with racism. Rising rates of gun crime were reported as especially challenging in the United States and in South Sudan.

Many societies also struggle with violence against women. One delegate suggested that murder should be renamed “femicide” to make clear that women are so disproportionately the victims of violent crimes in the delegate’s home country.

Delegates from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, where Christians have always been a small minority, report “increased cultures of violence and oppression, of fear and terrorism, or systematic violence by their governments.” Some Anglicans in these places are directly challenging their civic leaders about their insufficient protection of Christians and other minority communities. “The political situation is changing and the church has to lead a counter-cultural revolution,” a South Indian bishop said.

Delegates mentioned other challenges, including the widening gap between rich and poor, developing better resources for clergy training and theological education, greater interfaith and ecumenical relationships, and greater reconciliation. Groves reported that issues of human sexuality were reported as deep challenges by less than half the groups. The church’s response to LGBT people and to polygamy were areas of concern.

The Rt. Rev. Nigel Stock, Bishop at Lambeth, briefed the delegates about the news regarding Archbishop Welby’s parentage. Bishop Stock read Archbishop Welby’s statement about the revelation and expressed admiration for his courage, grace, and focus on Christ and the redemptive hope of the gospel.

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