By Zachary Guiliano
The Anglican Consultative Council concluded on May 5 with its customary resolutions, but a series of announcements and late developments hinted at future conflicts to come, as well as reconciliation among some parties.
“Let us be honest with one another,” said Abp. Paul Kwong of Hong Kong in his sermon at the closing Eucharist. “We have had our arguments, our disagreements, our disappointments, just as much as we have had our achievements.”
All, he said, had taken place within the body of Christ. “However passionately we feel about the rightness of our cause and our beliefs, we return to listen to the Word, to break bread, to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ. … If we did not do these things we would be only politicians or human-rights activists.”
Earlier in the sermon, Abp. Kwong highlighted the charge given to Simon Peter in John 21, applying it to the task set before Anglicans in coming days: “Do you love me? Feed my lambs.”
“Do you love each other? Will you always love each other?” he said. “Because that is what it is going to take to be this new creation, to rise in glory with the crucified Lord, to feed his lambs, to tend his sheep. … We are Christ’s companions. He has cooked us breakfast, and now he tells us what to do. Which is where it becomes really hard, of course, because we forget, because we are busy, because we are preoccupied, because we have disagreements, sometimes deep disagreements of principle and passion.”
GAFCON to Meet before Lambeth
In the middle of the meeting, the conservative Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) announced that it will convene a gathering of bishops in Kigali, Rwanda, June 8-14, 2020. The Lambeth Conference is due to meet in Canterbury July 27-August 1.
“Last year in Jerusalem our delegates urged us not to attend Lambeth 2020 if godly order in the Communion had not been restored,” said a statement by the GAFCON Primates, meeting in Sydney. “They respectfully called upon the Archbishop of Canterbury to effect the necessary changes that fall within his power and responsibility. …
“On the one hand, we have no interest in attempting to rival Lambeth 2020. On the other hand, we do not want our bishops to be deprived of faithful fellowship while we wait for order in the Communion to be restored. Therefore, we have decided to call together a meeting of bishops of the Anglican Communion in June 2020. The conference will be primarily designed for those who will not be attending Lambeth, but all bishops of the Anglican Communion who describe to the Jerusalem Declaration and Lambeth Resolution I.10 are invited to join in this time of teaching, worship, and fellowship.”
Contention over Contributions
In his initial report to the Anglican Consultative Council, Abp. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the Communion’s Secretary General, highlighted the financial difficulties of the Anglican Communion Office. The Episcopal Church and the Church of England contribute 63 percent of the inter-Anglican budget, while a large number of provinces do not contribute anything and some of them have not done so for many years. “What do we do?” he asked.
Despite this situation, ACO intends to double its expenditure and income in the next six years, as part of a broader strategic plan that will include securing new funding, partly from provinces and partly from donors.
ACC members largely accepted the plan without debate, although some disagreement arose over a new funding formula proposed by David White, chief operating officer at ACO. It would be based on the number of active bishops in a province and their total remuneration, giving an indication of the numerical and financial strength of a province. The province’s contribution to the ACO would be 10 percent of this.
Representatives of the Episcopal Church objected strongly.
Rosalie Ballentine told White, “When we look at the proposed formula, just by throwing around some quick numbers, there are some of us whose contributions, voluntary or not but based on this proposal, would increase exponentially.”
While the remuneration of bishops varies greatly and details are not held centrally, the Church Pension Fund has released figures in the past concerning compensation in the Episcopal Church. In 2016 the median compensation of senior clergy was $105,000 per year (not counting benefits). With over 111 bishops in the Episcopal Church, the new formula could lead to an annual increase from the current annual contribution of around $317,000 to at least $1,165,500.
While it is a substantial increase, it would be less than one percent of the Episcopal Church’s expenditures charted in its budget for 2019-12, as adopted by last year’s General Convention, and less than 10 percent of the budget of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
It remains unclear how the formula would affect the Church of England, the Communion’s largest contributor, where there are fewer bishops and episcopal remuneration is generally lower.
White was ready to acknowledge the concerns of Episcopalians, saying that “the generosity of the Episcopal Church is not in question,” given its current budgetary contribution. There is only the question of how the formula “can be managed against that context,” he said. The calculation of the formula would be left to the province, “rather than from a desk in London.”
New ‘Listening’ for Abp. Welby
A sudden conflict threatened to derail the final afternoon of ACC proceedings, and was only averted by repeated interventions by Abp. Justin Welby.
The ACC stumbled over how to word a resolution calling for the Communion’s Standing Committee to gather information about the provinces’ efforts to listen to those “who have been marginalized due to their human sexuality.” The original version of the resolution, proposed by Oklahoma Bishop Ed Konieczny, contained a preamble reaffirming “the respect and dignity of persons as children of God who have been marginalized due to their human sexuality” and said that “they should be fully included in the life of the Anglican Communion.”
Disagreement centered on the language of inclusionas opposed to welcome. After more than two hours of frank debate, intense negotiations, and an apology from Abp. Welby for his mistakes, the result was a completely rewritten resolution that “notes with concern the pattern of invitations to the Lambeth Conference 2020,” alluding to Abp. Welby’s decision not to invite bishops from the Anglican Church in North America and other non-recognized provinces, nor to invite the spouses of bishops in same-sex marriages in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
The current ACC resolution also makes him responsible “for compiling all the work done [on sexuality] across the Anglican Communion since Lambeth 1998 and reporting to the Standing Committee [of the ACC] and ACC-18.”
Welby addressed the problems of division in his closing statement later that day: “It is easy to let one disagreement dominate, but the reality is, we only care enough to disagree because Jesus has made us one.”
“There are all kinds of things that we’ve gotten wrong this week — plenty that I’ve gotten wrong — but here we are at the end of the week and under the grace of God we are called to go out now and change the world, to go on changing the world, in the power of Jesus Christ, carrying out the mission of God, bringing in the kingdom, all of you with each other and loving one another because we are family. In a divided world, what more precious gift can we bring than one that respects diversity, loves one another and provides hope,” Welby said.
With reporting by Mary Frances Schjonberg of Episcopal News Service and Paul Handley of Church Times