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Toronto 1963 Redux?

Adapted from Anglican Communion News Service

The Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee has released a summary of its meeting in London that comprises the second, third, and fourth days of discussions.

Day 2

Anglican Consultative Council: Stephen Lyon discussed preliminary plans for the ACC’s 16th meeting, scheduled for May 2016 in Lusaka, Zambia. He said planners want to assure that every participant, regardless of background, gains a common understanding of ACC’s identity and purpose.

This prompted a discussion among committee members about the future of the Instruments of Communion in relation to other Anglican Communion gatherings that might be more relational, conversational, and perhaps missional in nature.

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori mentioned that at a recent meeting between Episcopal Church leaders and several senior bishops from across Africa [ACNS coverage], there was “significant energy” behind the idea of an Anglican gathering of some kind, above and beyond the Instruments of Communion.

“The Toronto Congress [of 1963] created the language of mutual responsibility and interdependence,” Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi said. “Now there’s a feeling that again we need that: a wider gathering of Christians — Anglicans and Episcopalians, lay and ordained — coming together to see and discuss and share and build relationships.”

He added: “The Instruments of Communion, they have a 10-year schedule or three-year schedule. In the present world of instant communications, that’s becoming a long time. What happens between those meetings? If communion is really communion then we want something new.”

The Rt. Rev. James Tengatenga, chairman of the Anglican Consultative Council, said ACC-16 could be a kairos moment for the Communion. “The idea of a ‘gathering’ has been hanging over our head for a long time,” he said. “Each generation has been crying for one and we’ve never quite birthed it.”

Bible in the Life of the Church: Stephen Lyon told the standing committee that the Bible in the Life of the Church’s project stage will conclude in 2016. Lyon said he hoped the project would leave the Communion “a toolkit to do the Bible better.”

“As Anglicans and Episcopalians we’ve no doubt that the Bible has a central part of our life,” he said, “but whether people coming to our churches would know that is another thing.”

Lyon proposed four resources to enhance the project:

  • A booklet showing where all the resources can be found
  • A book about different pathways for deeper engagement with Scripture
  • A longer book outlining the resources and guiding readers to more information
  • A transcript of email conversations on the Bible from leading thinkers around the Anglican Communion

Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi mentioned his concern that such material might not consider the needs of Anglicans in the Global South. Lyon asked for more communication from Global South provinces.

Knowledge and Information Management: Stephanie Taylor, manager of information and knowledge, told committee members about her work, which is a new realm for the Anglican Communion Office.

“Right from its very inception, information and communication has been at the heart of the mandate of the Anglican Consultative Council,” she said. “The functions of the ACC as outlined in Resolution 69 of the 1968 Lambeth Conference [are] to share information; to advise; to develop; to encourage; to help in the dissemination of information; to keep in review; to promote inquiry and research. Information and knowledge are at the very heart of these functions. They are the foundation and building blocks.”

Taylor said the vision for her work is “To harness the power of the Communion’s information and knowledge, to serve the Communion and work together to the Glory of God.” She identified several objectives:

  • Harnessing and exploiting the ACO’s knowledge and information
  • Fostering a culture of information and knowledge sharing
  • Introducing and establishing best practice information management, records management, and knowledge management policies, processes, procedures, tools and techniques
  • Improving the quality of the data on the Anglican Communion Office’s database, working in partnership with provincial secretaries, and promoting its use among ACO colleagues
  • Building relationships with professionals in similar and related professional disciplines, particularly those working for Christian organizations

After Taylor’s presentation the standing committee withdrew to a closed session.

Day 3

Unity, Faith and Order: The Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, the departing director for Unity, Faith, and Order, said the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith, and Order (IASCUFO) is studying how member churches make decisions.

“What power do the primates have? What power does the General Synod have?” she asked. “Not every province makes decisions in the same way.”

The goal is to help provinces better understand why member churches better understand each other’s ways of reaching decisions.

Canon Barnett-Cowan told the standing committee that IASCUFO awaits word from provinces about their decisions regarding the Anglican Communion Covenant. She expected the Covenant to be an agenda item at ACC-16.

She said IASCUFO’s Ecumenical Working Group was considering questions from the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and the Church of Ceylon regarding the recognition of non-Anglican Churches’ ministries. The Lutheran World Federation has adopted themes for the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation: a general theme of “Liberated by God’s Grace” and subthemes of “Salvation not for Sale,” “Creation not for Sale,” and “Human Beings not for Sale.” IASCUFO has recommended that Anglicans reflect on these themes.

The Anglican Orthodox dialogue working group has been preparing a draft document on theological anthropology, and IASCUFO will review this work.

After Canon Barnett-Cowan’s presentation the committee withdrew into closed session.

Day 4

The standing committee met in closed session for all of its fourth day. Bishop Tengatenga said the committee expects to issue a job description for the Communion’s secretary general within a few weeks.

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