[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] A media briefing has been held for Zambian journalists to update them on plans for the international Anglican Consultative Council meeting, ACC-16, which gets underway in the Zambian capital of Lusaka on Friday.
Stephen Lyon, the co-ordinator of the Anglican Consultative Council meeting, explained to the more-than-30 journalists who attended a breakfast briefing that the ACC-16 short name had not been used because it was meeting in 2016; but because it was the Council’s 16th meeting.
“One of the things that we want to do is to look back at decisions we made [when the ACC last met in New Zealand in 2012] and see how those decisions have been worked out in different churches across the Anglican Communion,” he said. “And then we want to give space to those who are coming from different parts of the Communion to talk about the things that are important to them: what are their priorities; what are the themes of their work.”
He said that some of the themes would emerge during the meeting; and that some had already emerged from conversations and consultations that had already taken place.
The first of those was “our care for the environment,” he said. “Right across the Anglican Communion, which is right across the world, our environment is impinging on our lives in many ways. In many parts of Africa, it shows itself with the difficulty of actually raising cattle or growing crops because of the changes in weather patterns; and particularly in those areas that lack rain.
“In other places, for example the Pacific Islands, their concern is rising sea levels; because their whole livelihoods is being slowly swallowed up by the sea around them. What can we do? If God created this world, what can we do to care for it?”
He said that a second concern at this ACC was to “ensure we hear the voice of the youth.” Some ninety per cent of Zambia’s population is under the age of 45 and the Anglican Communion has organised a youth conference, which is taking place this week, to bring together young people from across southern and central Africa to discuss the environment and discipleship.
Some of the delegates at the youth conference will take part in the ACC meeting to “bring their voice, their concerns, their questions, to the wider Church,” Stephen Lyon said. “We need to have the voice of the youth here.
The ACC would also look at regions of the world where congregations were growing. “There is a bishop in Tanzania that has done I don’t know how many thousands of confirmations each year. His question is ‘How do I build up those who I have confirmed into the Church in their faith?’
“In other parts of the Anglican Communion, sad-to-say, congregations are declining. So what can we learn from those places in the Communion that are growing, that perhaps we are not taking on board in those places where congregations are declining.”
He said that two other things that “come from the state of the world we are living in at the moment,” were issues of migration and also issues of violence – both in the home and family, and also in communities.
“We have a bishop from America who is leading the campaign of the Church over there against gun violence.” Ian Douglas, a member of the ACC Standing Committee, is Bishop of Connecticut where, in 2012, some 20 six- and seven-year old children and six members of staff were killed when a gunman opened fire on them at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. “How can the Church offer another way of looking forward – a way of peace, a way of reconciliation,” Mr Lyon said.
A key feature of Anglican Consultative Council meetings, Mr Lyon said, was the participation of representatives of other Churches and denominations “They take part in our discussions. They bring their perspective, and they talk about what’s happening in their Church and also offer us an insight into what they see with . . . the Anglican Church.”
A new development at this ACC would be a day conference for people from the churches of the greater Lusaka area, looking at evangelism and mission. “It will be an opportunity for churches right across the Anglican Communion to meet and here from those who live here in Lusaka.”
Mr Lyon explained that one of the main purposes of the ACC was to see whether there were “things we can learn from one another.” He said: “We . . . bring together a diverse group of people that can talk to one another and learn from one another.
“There are no answers to a lot of these questions that will be the solution to all our problems. But there is the opportunity to sit down around tables and to talk and to share so that we can learn from one another.”
The Ven Paul Feheley, a member of the communications team for ACC-16, responded to another question by saying that the question of same sex marriage and relationships was not on the meeting’s agenda. “It is not an issue that is going to be dealt with in some depth,” he said. But he anticipated some discussion around the issue in a session looking back to the Primates Gathering and Meeting that took place in Canterbury Cathedral in January” and the Primates’ communiqué.
Acknowledging that some Provinces have stated that they will not attend ACC-16 because of their disagreement with the Episcopal Church’s position on same-sex relationships, Archdeacon Feheley said: “We respect their right to make those decisions [but] we regret it because we act as a family. And I’m sure it is the same in your family as it is in mine: when some of the members of the family aren’t present; you still have the conversations, you still continue to act and to be; but you are always a little bit less because some of the family members are not there.
“So we respect their decisions not to come but we regret it as well because we would like them to be part of the conversation.”
He said that the ACC Standing Committee had not yet had the opportunity to discuss the format of the session looking back to the Primates’ Meeting and Gathering.
As the press briefing drew to a close, Stephen Lyon said: “All the issues that we address at the ACC we will address because they are the concerns of those coming. We are very conscious of the fact that just because the ACC says something in a resolution, does not mean that anybody will necessarily take notice of it.
“The best thing that we can do is to share the things that work in our situation; share the things that have brought about positive change in different parts of the Communion; and recommend them as good practice and say that there are different ways of doing things and different ways of looking at things.
“We have, within the Anglican Communion, quite a number of leaders who are listened to very carefully within their own situations and they have a great deal to say to those who are living with similar challenges and similar problems but in different situations; this diverse world we live in, this world of differences.
“And so what we are trying to do is to bring people together so that they can talk about those differences and talk about the way that they are working in their particular context.”
ACC-16 will begin on Friday at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka, Zambia; and continue until Tuesday 19 April.