Networks Share News of Growth and Challenges

Secretary General Anthony Poggo gives his report during the Anglican Consultative Council’s meeting on February 13. | All photos by Neil Turner for the Anglican Communion Office

By Mark Michael

The Rt. Rev. Anthony Poggo, who became the Anglican Communion’s secretary general five and a half months ago, shared news of the Anglican Communion Office in London on the 18th Anglican Consultative Council’s first full day of business on February 13. Representatives from several of the communion’s commissions and networks spoke about new evangelism and discipleship programs, and raised concerns about continuing financial challenges.

Since the last ACC Meeting in 2017, Poggo said, two new provinces have been added to the communion: the Province of Alexandria in North Africa and the Anglican Church in Mozambique and Angola. The Church of Ceylon is working to create a third diocese, which will allow it to gain provincial status, alongside the four other member provinces in South Asia.

Poggo reported the formation of three new commissions, and members of the ACC heard reports from leaders of each of them. The Science Commission, which was formally launched at the Lambeth Conference, has begun setting up a research hub in Kenya with funding from the John Templeton Foundation. The Evangelism and Discipleship Commission unites the work of the Church Planting and Intentional Discipleship Networks, while the Commission on Theological Education in the Anglican Communion will oversee continuing work in this area.

Financial Challenges

The two latter commissions reflect a structural shift advocated by an independent review in 2021 commissioned by the communion’s Standing Committee. The review urged a streamlining of the ACO’s work, with commissions composed of volunteers encouraged to share resources developed at the local or provincial level, instead of relying on paid staff in London to design programs and resources. In past years, the ACO had employed staff members whose work focused on evangelism, discipleship, and theological education.

While the 2021 review advocated the shift as an acknowledgment of the growing capacity of local churches and an opportunity for cultural diversity, it was also a cost-saving measure. Contributions from member provinces decreased 17 percent between 2019 and 2021 as a result of financial challenges caused by the pandemic.


Canon Maggie Swinson, the ACC Standing Committee’s vice chair and a member of the Inter Anglican Finance and Administration Committee, reported an overall increase in revenue in 2022, as the financial effects of the pandemic subsided, but the number of provinces providing funding for the ACO’s work had decreased from 31 to 22 in the past four years.

“We will be asking the next standing committee to take very seriously looking at how we can develop a more sustainable funding model, one which leaves us less reliant on member church donations, because we are still in a period of great unknown about how finances are going to be across the communion,” she said.

Swinson added that the standing committee had approved a deficit budget for 2023, since there was still great uncertainty about member church donations and because some costs from the ACC meeting would need to be absorbed by the ACO.

The secretary general added that more work was needed to ensure that staff salaries kept pace with rising inflation. He said the current reliance on a single warden for managing St. Andrew’s House, the center for the ACO’s work in London, may be insufficient when the time comes to use it as a gathering place for communion-wide meetings again.

New ACO Initiatives

Poggo reported that he was supporting Phase Three of the Lambeth Conference, which is being coordinated by the Rt. Rev. Jo Bailey Wells, the communion’s Bishop for Episcopal Ministry. Poggo has been arranging personal meetings with the primates of all 42 Anglican provinces, which have been “eye-opening and helpful times” for learning about the struggles and hopes of member churches. The next Primates’ Meeting, he added, is scheduled for the spring of 2024 in Rome.

He discussed his participation in a recent “pilgrimage for peace” in South Sudan, Poggo’s home country, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Pope Francis, and the Rt. Rev. Iain Greenshields, moderator of the Church of Scotland. “This was an incredibly powerful visit,” he said, “to see the strength of the global Church when it comes together united in Christ. … My prayer, and I believe our prayer, is that this visit will result in real peace in South Sudan, so that the suffering of the people is brought to an end.”

He noted that the communion’s health and youth networks had been recently revived, and a new network to support the ministry of bishops’ spouses was being developed, emerging out of ideas and needs that surfaced during the spouses’ conference at Lambeth last summer. Caroline Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s wife, described that conference as “a foretaste of heaven, where we are linked by a love for Christ, and therefore, a love for one another.”

The standing committee, Poggo said, has set up a working group, chaired by Archbishop Philip Richardson of New Zealand, to examine ways of strengthening its work and allowing it to support the other Instruments of Communion more effectively. The goal, Poggo said, is not to create a fifth Instrument of Communion, but to better define its role and membership.

Commissions Report on Progress


Richard Boateng, a member of the communion’s new Evangelism and Discipleship Commission from the Diocese of Kumasi in Ghana, reported on the fruitful collaboration between the church planting and discipleship networks.

“Our core duty is to promote a culture of change — a movement of sorts — where the faithful in our churches are equipped with the best practices in disciple-making. In practice, what we do is to resource, train, and equip local champions, people passionate about church growth, discipleship, and disciple-making. For us this is a way to rekindle the commitment of the faith, to start new churches, and to rekindle dying ones.”

Boateng said the Jesus Shaped Life curriculum developed by the Intentional Discipleship Network in 2019 has become a source of renewal across the communion. In the Diocese of Lusaka in Zambia, small groups of young people have used it to reach their unchurched peers, while the Anglican Church in Ghana has used it to launch new churches. The effort is undergirded by a network of prayer coordinated by the Rt. Rev. Martin Breytenbach, retired Bishop of the Diocese of St. Mark in South Africa.


The Ven. Arthur Copeman, an ACC member from the Diocese of Newcastle in Australia who served for several years on the Church Planting Network, said “church planting was a natural extension of intentional discipleship … the way we create communities where intentional discipleship can take place.” He also said he was heartened to discover that all members of the former Intentional Discipleship Network had been involved in planting a church.

Copeman praised new initiatives across the communion, including the development of reopened “resurrection churches” in the Diocese of Pennsylvania like St. John’s, Norristown, which has focused its efforts on connecting with unchurched Latinos. The young Tanzanian Diocese of Kondoa has set a goal of adding 2,000 Anglicans to its numbers each year through church planting, while Ghanian Anglicans are beginning to establish missions across the national boarders in Francophone countries without a previous Anglican presence.

Current estimates number 2 million Anglican churches worldwide, and Copeman said the commission has set the ambitious goal of planting 1 million new Anglican churches in coming years.

The Rev. Canon Stephen Spencer, who has served as director of theological education in the Anglican Communion since 2017, reported on the success of Being Anglican, a free print and video resource about Anglican history and theology that has been translated into four languages. The new commission has held online and in-person consultations about the challenges of theological education in Africa, and is in the process of releasing Renewing the Life of the Earth, a new eco-theology resource developed in collaboration with Anglican theologians around the world.


Archbishop Linda Nicholls, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and a member of the communion’s Science Commission, said the mandate for its work is rooted in our God-given “capacity to explore and understand how the world works, and to work in partnership to mitigate suffering and appropriately share its capacity for healthy loves, life-giving communities, and a healthy world.”

Nicholls celebrated the commission’s valuable partnership with ECLAS, Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science, an ecumenical resource that includes Anglicans among its senior leaders. The John Templeton Foundation has provided support to enable commission member Professor Andrew Biggs to begin a research hub in Kenya, and three meetings in different parts of the world will gather those designated as lead bishop for science in each province. The commission hopes for additional funding from Templeton in the coming year, which would enable establishing a second hub in the United Kingdom.


Kim Barker, a consultant who has supported the work of the Safe Church Commission, gave thanks for the development of “very robust and clear” protocols for safe church practice, which were endorsed by last summer’s Lambeth Conference.

However, she said, a recent survey of provincial safe church leads from across the communion found that three-fourths of provinces were just beginning to implement safe church policies. The only leaders who felt confident about their current safe church policies were all located in wealthy regions of the Global North, where safeguarding laws have been in place for decades and churches have developed their own procedures over many years.

Barker said the commission was shifting its focus to developing print and audio-visual training materials, which would be translated into multiple languages. Provincial safe church leaders also need support and mentorship as they develop and implement policies that consider local culture and legal systems.


The commission will also propose a redefinition of the term “vulnerable adult” in communion-wide resources to emphasize more directly the power imbalances that exist within the Church, regardless of age or disability status.

The Very Rev. Bob Key, the Anglican Communion’s liaison for Thy Kingdom Come, a “global wave of prayer” that takes places between Ascension and Pentecost, reported to ACC members that the effort has continued to grow, including participants from 185 countries in 2022. Key is the author of a 2023 Novena booklet, which he hopes will “help the church be excited about God,” and continue the movement’s focus on prayer for unchurched people and inviting the work of the Holy Spirit.


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