The Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion has announced changes to the operational priorities of the Anglican Communion Office (ACO) which will see it taking more of a coordinating role; with programmatic activity instead focused in provinces, regions, networks and agencies. Currently, three charities serve the Anglican Communion through the ACO – the Anglican Alliance, the Lambeth Conference Company, and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). Today’s announcement relates only to those staff employed by the ACC.
The Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, was commissioned by the Standing Committee to chair an international review in May 2020. The review committee reported in September and, after continuing deliberations, the Standing Committee announced their decisions publicly today after they were shared with staff last week.
The Review recommended that the work of the ACC should focus on supporting the Instruments of Communion and those elements of programmatic work which could not be undertaken more effectively regionally or within provinces. The new focus for ACC staff will be to facilitate and coordinate programmatic work by member churches and authorised networks.
The restructuring has placed a number of staff at risk of redundancy and a formal process of consultation is underway.
In a written Case for Organisational Change distributed to staff, the Standing Committee said that the proposed changes were not only driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. It said that the re-focussing recognises that “the resource gaps between provinces in terms of education and technology have reduced significantly and the resource available to the Communion has increased as a result. It said that “aspects of the programmatic work undertaken at the ACO would be more effectively undertaken through provinces, regions or other agencies across the Communion with the ACO coordinating and communicating that work across the Communion.”
It went on to say that “the more centralised approach which currently dominates project / programme work, has a negative impact on diversity and inclusion and does not reflect the breadth of culture and diversity represented in the Communion, in particular those parts of the Communion who do not have English as their first language or as an official language of their country or province.”
Vice Chair Maggie Swinson, a lay canon in the Church of England’s Diocese of Liverpool, said: “The direction commended by the review report will draw provinces into active participation in the Communion’s work and our common mission to build the kingdom. Staff in the office have served us well and it is a sadness that, in our efforts to increase provincial engagement through devolving aspects of the Communion’s work, some redundancies may result.”
The President of the ACC, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said: “The Anglican Communion is a global family of churches that are called to share the good news of Jesus Christ in an extraordinary range of contexts. This review has been an important part of discerning how we can draw more fully on the gifts, resources and wisdom of provinces across the Communion, as we seek to serve a world in need.
“I’m grateful to Archbishop Thabo, Canon Margaret Swinson and all those who have led this work. I would also like to thank all the staff at the Anglican Communion Office who have served with such passion, commitment and faith over many years, and assure them all of my prayers throughout this process.”.
The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, responding to the changes by saying: “This review takes us back to the original rationale behind the setting up of the ACO. The new structure will enable the ACO to assist the 41 provinces to act out our Five Marks of Mission in a united collaborative manner, as well as enable them to become the family of churches that God wants us to be in order to advance God’s mission.”