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African joy in the gospel: the Anglican Consultative Council in Zambia

It was a great joy to be in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, for the first week of the 16th meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council from April 8. I was invited as a consultant and as a member of the Anglican Inter Faith Network, formerly known as the Network for Inter Faith Concerns (NIFCON).

I will remember for a long time the opening Eucharist in the open air at the west end of Lusaka Cathedral on April 10. It was an extraordinary service with about 4,000 people: full of joy, celebration, and music from spectacular choirs. The Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Rev. Albert Chama, presided; the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. and Rt. Hon. Justin Welby, preached; and final greetings were given by the youthful looking President of Zambia, Edgar Lungu, a Pentecostal Christian. Kenneth Kaunda, the first President of Zambia, who was born in 1924, was also in the congregation. People took part from the four countries that make up the Province of Central Africa: Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

  1. The meeting

The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) is one of the four Instruments of Communion of the Anglican Communion. The other three are the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who serves as a unique “focus for unity.” The ACC is the only body that brings together lay and ordained representatives of the different Anglican provinces (national or regional churches). It is legally registered as an English company and charity and meets every three to four years.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the President of the ACC, and the Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, formerly Bishop of Southern Malawi, has been chair from 2009-16, assisted by the vice chair, Canon Elizabeth Paver, from Sheffield, England. Bishop Tengatenga not only chaired the meeting but also preached a moving farewell sermon at the final Eucharist on April 19. Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, presented a perceptive report on his first nine months in the post, and he and his staff ably served the whole meeting.

There were about 80 participants from around the Communion, and much of the time was spent in discussion around circular tables in the centre of the cathedral. Members from the provinces of Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda (associated with GAFCON) chose not to attend, but those from the Province of Kenya were present. The Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East was represented by the Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf rather than by its presiding bishop.

On April 12, Archbishop Idowu-Fearon published a statement in response to comments leading up to the meeting, concerning follow up from the Primates’ Meeting in January.

Ecumenical guests expressed pleasure at being full members of the meeting, rather than observers. They were introduced by John Gibaut (director for Unity, Faith, and Order at the Anglican Communion Office), and represented the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Zimbabwe Ecumenical Patriarchate, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Lutheran World Federation, Mar Thoma Syrian Church, and the Global Christian Forum. The representative of the World Methodist Council was unable to attend.

The theme of the meeting was “Intentional Discipleship in a World of Difference.” A report on a similar theme was published online and in hard copy for members of the ACC, and John Kafwanka, director of Mission at the Anglican Communion Office, presented the text Intentional Discipleship and Disciple-Making — An Anglican Guide for Christian Life and Formation as a book “for everyone … laity, clergy, bishops, theologians, and young people” throughout the Communion.

The resolutions of the meeting, passed by assent on the final day, are listed here.

  1. The new ACC standing committee

The Archbishop of Canterbury is ex officio president of the Standing Committee. During the meeting the Most Rev. Paul Kwong, Archbishop of Hong Kong, was elected as the new chair of ACC and therefore of the Standing Committee; Canon Margaret Swinson of Liverpool Cathedral was elected as vice chair.

Also elected to the committee were the Rt. Rev. Jane Alexander (Bishop of the Diocese of Edmonton in the Anglican Church of Canada), the Rev. Alistair Dinnie (Scottish Episcopal Church), Jeroham Melendez (Anglican Church of the Region of Central America), the Very Rev. Nigel Pope (Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Kolkata, in the Church of North India), and the Rt. Rev. Joel Waweru, Bishop of Nairobi in the Anglican Church of Kenya. Further details on each of them can be found here.

The Standing Committee also includes the five primates elected at the Primates’ Meeting in January to represent their regions: the Most Rev. Philip Freier (Australia), the Most Rev. Richard Clarke (Ireland), the Most Rev. Mouneer Hanna Anis (Jerusalem and the Middle East), the Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba (Southern Africa), and the Most Rev. John Holder (West Indies).

Two members of the previous Standing Committee continue in office: the Rt. Rev. Eraste Bigirimana (Bishop of Bujumbura in the Anglican Church of Burundi) and Louisa Lette-Mojela (Anglican Church of Southern Africa).

  1. The Archbishop of Canterbury

On the first day, Archbishop Welby gave a significant report on the Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury 2016, which among many other subjects (e.g., evangelism, persecution, and climate justice) discussed the doctrine of marriage and the ecclesiological “consequences” following on from decisions taken at the 78th General Convention of the Episcopal Church.

Prior to ACC-16 in Lusaka, there had been some speculation concerning the Primates’ Meeting and the bearing of these “consequences” on ACC-16. The secretary general’s statement, mentioned above, clarified some key points.

On the final day in Lusaka, Resolution 16.24 was passed. It states:

The Anglican Consultative Council

  1. receives the formal report of the Archbishop of Canterbury to ACC-16 on the Primates’ Gathering and Meeting of January 2016; and
  2. affirms the commitment of the Primates of the Anglican Communion to walk together; and
  3. 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.

In an interview before leaving Lusaka (“ACC Commits to Walking Together with the Primates”), Archbishop Welby commented further on this resolution, saying that “the consequences stand” and that he had already set up a task group following the Primates’ Meeting:

[B]ecause walking at a distance is not how it should be, a Task Group was appointed ‘to maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.’ That Task Group has been set up. I was asked to create it. And it has been set up with a very wide representation on it of women and men, lay and ordained, from every part of the Communion.

The Archbishop’s presidential address, “New Calls for New Times,” focused on religiously motivated violence and climate change:

Both these issues are generational, they can’t be solved in two, three, four years; they will take a generation or more. And both — and this is where most of the world forgets this — both characters can only be confronted with a theological and ideological approach and with a story, with a narrative, that is sufficiently powerful to overcome the natural selfishness of one generation, or the selfishness of countries which are more secure.

He then discussed the significance of theological resources in the global South:

At its heart, these challenges are theological and it requires a deepening of our theological resources. We can only confront them by bringing them face-to-face to the reality of a God we study, worship, engage with, theologically. That is, incidentally, why I support Bishop Graham Kings, who was with us earlier this week, as Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion. We need to develop our theological strength and visibility in every part of the Communion. Graham’s remit is to support, with others such as the ACO and ACC, the development of the visibility of the hugely deep and important theological resources in parts of the world that the historic centres of theology, mainly in the Global North, too easily forget.

During the second weekend of the meeting, Archbishop Welby travelled to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, and preached at an open-air service to 6,000 people, paying tribute to their faith, courage, and persistence in the face of difficult times. The service was presided over by Chad Gandiya, the Bishop of Harare, and Archbishop Welby also met with President Robert Mugabe.

I would be remiss not to note that during the meeting of the ACC The Telegraph published an article about Archbishop Welby’s father and he gave a personal statement responding to it: “I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes.”


I was greatly encouraged by my time in Lusaka at ACC-16. It was a delight to meet so many old friends from around the Communion, including a former student from St. Andrew’s College in Kabare, Kenya, who is now the provincial secretary of the Church of Tanzania: the Rev. Canon Capt. Johnson Chinyong’ole.

As always, it was also a delight to make new friends. A colleague at Durham University had said that, for the sake of the Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion project, I should eventually contact Professor Joanildo Burity in the Anglican Province of Brazil, who had been in Durham for four years. I was hoping to arrange a meeting in the U.K. or Brazil. God surprised us with the discovery of each other at ACC-16.

He attended the workshop I led on the book of theological resources in times of persecution, Out of the Depths: Hope in Times of Suffering, written by members of the Anglican Inter Faith Network. Also present was the Rt. Rev. Alwin Samuel, Bishop of Sialkot, Pakistan, who proposed the successful Resolution 16.9. It calls for the book to be published by the Anglican Communion Office (including in Urdu and Arabic) and commended for study. Bishop Samuel undertook to arrange the translation into Urdu.

A further resolution, 16.10, was heartening, concerning plans to raise the Inter Faith Network into an Inter-Anglican Commission.

In my next Interweavings article, I will reflect on my following week at the Cairo campus of the Alexandria School of Theology, where we held the first international conference of Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion.

I left Lusaka with fond memories of family celebrations, hospitality, delight in God, and in the African joy of the gospel, facing the challenges of evangelism, discipleship, unity, religiously motivated violence, and climate change.

May God bless the whole Anglican Communion in its service to his world.

Bishop Graham Kings is Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion. His other Covenant posts are here

The featured image comes via Anglican Archives.


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