By Mark Michael
In just a few hours, Anglican Consultative Council delegates passed a flurry of 44 resolutions, with an absence of acrimony and division.
Resolution C34, proposed by delegates from South Sudan, called upon the ACC to receive the report of the January Primates’ Meeting, including consequences for the Episcopal Church detailed by the primates’ communiqué. It affirmed “the commitment of the Primates of the Anglican Communion to walk together; and commits to continue to seek appropriate ways for the provinces of the Anglican Communion to walk together with each other and with the Primates and other Instruments of Communion.” As part of the consent agenda, the resolution was received without objection and passed without amendment.
A second resolution welcoming the full text of the primates’ communiqué was proposed by delegates from Ireland and Australia. It was initially set aside for further discussion, but was later withdrawn by the proposers. The Archbishop of Canterbury told the delegates that he was pleased with this action, saying that Resolution C34 “covers issues we need to cover,” establishing sufficient concurrence between the ACC and the Primates’ Meeting.
“The consequences stand,” Archbishop Justin Welby said in a news conference Monday afternoon.
The ACC agreed to “adopt a clear focus on intentional discipleship” for a season, building on the work of a teaching document prepared by the Communion’s Mission Department. It approved new actions in response to climate change and increasing youth participation in its life, and expanded Communion-wide safeguards to protect the vulnerable from abuse by church leaders.
Delegates also voted to uphold the January decision of the Anglican primates to “continue to walk together” in spite of differences about human sexuality. The body did not challenge the primates’ outlining of attendant consequences on the Episcopal Church’s participation in some governance and doctrinal activities of the Communion because of General Convention’s 2015 decision to allow the blessing of same-sex marriages.
The decision of the Lusaka conference planners to defer all action on resolutions to the penultimate day of the 12-day meeting contrasted strongly with past ACC meetings, when delegates began to comment and vote on resolutions as early as the meeting’s fourth day.
Before Monday’s resolution sessions, delegates had spent most of their time in intentionally mixed table groups. The Rev. Canon John Kafwanka, the Anglican Communion’s director of mission, said the structure was designed to enhance the participation of delegates whose first language is not English or who are not accustomed to debate-style engagement. The concerns of many delegates from the Global North that a single day would be insufficient to handle all resolutions proved unfounded.
“Intentional Discipleship in a World of Difference” was the theme for the Lusaka ACC Meeting, and was what the Rt. Rev. Stephen Cottrell called “a golden thread” present in many of the meeting’s addresses and activities. The largest single resource prepared for the meeting was Intentional Discipleship and Disciple-Making: An Anglican Guide for Christian Life and Formation, which delegates discussed at length last week.
Kafwanka, who led the process of preparing the resource, indicated that the discipleship theme had emerged as a key need after a series of conversations in churches throughout the Anglican world. “The resolution reflects what Anglicans are living out, challenged by and struggling with,” he said.
Canon Kafwanka said that other topics, including action against climate change, religiously motivated violence, and gender-based violence, are related to the practice of discipleship.
“I am very excited about the resolution,” Kafwanka said. “The churches of the Anglican Communion need to focus on that which is central to the life of Christians and to our being followers of Jesus. …We live out the love Christ has shown upon us. Through that we become disciple-makers.”
The resolution calls for parishes, dioceses and provinces across the Communion to make intentional discipleship a central priority in coming years, and to develop resources to deepen Anglicans’ commitment to following Christ.
The ACC rejected an earlier request to launch a Decade of Discipleship modeled on the Decade of Evangelism created by the 1988 Lambeth Conference.
A resolution about action on climate change was approved on the ACC’s consent agenda. The resolution, which was proposed by the Anglican Communion Environmental Network, calls on all Anglicans to recognize “the global urgency of the crisis of climate change and its impact on the wellbeing of all people, especially the most vulnerable in societies.”
It also calls Anglicans everywhere to a program of “pastoral, priestly, and prophetic action,” including times of prayer and fasting, reviewing church investment policies, prioritizing energy efficiency in church operations, and advocacy for legislation for action on climate change.
Related resolutions also called for the wider use of electronic meetings in the life of the Anglican Communion to reduce the church’s carbon footprint, and for shortening the ACC’s meeting time. One resolution stipulated that related cost savings be applied to the Anglican Alliance’s relief efforts among those who suffer most from climate change-related natural disasters.
Delegates also adopted two resolutions focused on expanding the voice of young people in the life of the Communion. Resolution D1 supported renewing the Anglican Youth Network to coordinate and develop work among young people worldwide. The youth network had been effectively eliminated several years ago because of funding shortages.
Another resolution called for an expanded role for youth in the ACC’s meetings. Currently two youth delegates participate, and they are selected from the region in which the ACC meets.
“Without the youth, I don’t think the Communion is complete,” said Harriet Nathan, a delegate from South Sudan.
The resolution, which passed by a strong majority, more than doubled the youth representation to five delegates, one from each of the Communion’s five regions.
Garth Blake, an ACC delegate from Australia and chairman of the Communion’s Standing Committee on Safe Church Networks, addressed ACC members on the need to establish more comprehensive networks for protecting children and vulnerable adults from abuse. Delegates approved a resolution establishing a Communion-wide Safe-Church Commission to develop universal protective guidelines.
They also required creation of a protocol in cases when particular ministers move from province to province in the exercise of their ministry. In a time when “the transferability of ministry is a common phenomenon,” Blake said, a universal protocol would eliminate the possibility of “clergy or lay people accused of abusing people in one province [moving] to others where they can continue to abuse.”
Archbishop Justin Welby also told the delegates that he had met the day before with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Harare. Mugabe, he said, had directly confronted him about Anglicanism’s teaching about same-sex marriage.
At Mugabe’s direction, the Zimbabwean Parliament passed a “sexual deviancy law” in 2006. One of the world’s harshest laws against homosexuality, it criminalizes hand-holding, hugging, and kissing by people of the same sex.
Archbishop Welby said he told Mugabe “that he would be aware that within the Anglican Communion there are widely differing views on this subject, but that the majority opinion is that marriage is a lifelong union of a man and a woman. And the unanimous opinion of this meeting was that the criminalization of LGBTIQ people is entirely wrong.”
“I don’t think it would be fair to say that he entirely agreed with me,” the archbishop deadpanned.
In addition to these major initiatives, ACC delegates also approved a series of resolutions proposed by the Communion’s ecumenical and doctrinal committees. It voted to move toward staggered terms for the ACC’s Communion-wide elected positions.
It acted on a resolution by the Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas to plan for an Anglican Congress, a periodic large-scale meeting that would afford a larger voice to women and youth in the activities of the Communion. Douglas said that the last Anglican Congress, held in Toronto in 1963, had launched “a vision for the contemporary Anglican Communion.”
Delegates expressed solidarity with those suffering under Pakistan’s religious blasphemy laws, especially Asia Bibi, a Roman Catholic in Pakistan who has been sentenced to death after being accused by her neighbors of making derogatory remarks about Muhammad in a dispute with neighbors in her rural village. They urged prayer for the Anglican Church in Burundi as it seeks to lead a peace and reconciliation commission amid that nation’s current bloody conflict.
Only one resolution, which proposed that the Communion’s Five Marks of Mission be made an official Instrument of Communion, failed to gain approval. Bishop Jane Alexander of Canada, who had proposed the motion, said it was part of “looking for new ways of considering the instruments.”