The Principal Secretary to the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the National Director of the Anglican Fellowship of Prayer, and the parish priest of St Michael and All Angels Church in Toronto, Archdeacon Paul Feheley, reflects on the recent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council.
For a number of years, you could find the following at the bottom of emails that originated from St Andrew’s House, the home of the Anglican Communion in London: “Anglican Communion Office staff from six continents facilitate worldwide collaboration, sharing and dialogue for effective church mission to build a Christ-centred Anglican Communion founded on friendship, respect and a common life”. Over the years I have come to appreciate that statement more and more, and especially recently at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting (ACC-17) in Hong Kong. I had the privilege of being seconded to be part of the communication team at this meeting.
There was much official work that needed to be done: resolutions, a new strategic plan for the Anglican Communion Office, financial considerations for future ministry and mission. On a day-to-day basis, there were presentations and reports from the departments and the networks from around the globe and beautiful and meaningful worship services and sermons. Those that planned and organised it should be proud of all that was accomplished.
To my mind, the heart of the meeting comes from the words, “worldwide collaboration, sharing and dialogue”. At ACC-17, seeing and experiencing the conversations, discussions and even debates shows that the heart of the Communion is in relationships.
From my own opportunities, I think of a lunchtime conversation through a translator where I learned of a ministry in a rural parish in Central America and the threats and challenges for all the people who live in areas controlled by gangs. A time of learning at breakfast with two women from South Sudan who described the hardships of life, violence and faith in a warlike context.
My heart was glad when I spoke with a young person from Sri Lanka who after describing the horror of the Easter Sunday bombings said that she was going home to take back the good news of how much the people of the Anglican Communion cared about them and shared in love pray support and encouragement.
On my first Sunday back, I had no difficulty in saying to the people of my parish how trivial most of our concerns seem when compared to the ones that are faced around the world.
What I saw and experienced in Hong Kong – as I had in previous ACC meetings – is incredible respect regardless of differing convictions. People were sensitive to multiple points of conviction and yet upheld with compassion the central focus and oneness that we share in Jesus Christ.
There are enormous challenges before us over matters that include (but are not limited to) biblical interpretation, faith-based violence, sexuality, poverty, the role of women, gender violence, and ecumenical and interfaith issues.
What I have come to value, and why I believe in the Communion, is that with gifts of humility and kindness, Anglicans feel they are represented and heard in the work of the Communion including its programmes, commissions, people and networks.
We are a long way from being the Church that Jesus calls us to be, but we have embraced an “effective church mission to build a Christ-centred Anglican Communion founded on friendship, respect and a common life”. I thank God that I am part of this amazing worldwide family.
I believe deeply in the future of the Communion, its witness and effectiveness in sharing the good news of Christ and am committed to carrying forward the work of the Communion, its structures and its programs in any way that I can. Deo Gratias.