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Archbishop of Canterbury addresses concern over global Anglican structures

Posted on: February 12, 2023 1:35 PM
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, delivers his presidential address to members of the Anglican Consultative Council during their 18th plenary meeting in Accra, Ghana
Photo Credit: Neil Turner / Anglican Communion

In a post-colonial world the Church must find ways of demonstrating unity without one powerful group imposing its values on another, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said today.

In a presidential address to the 18th plenary meeting of the global Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-18), gathered in Accra, Ghana, Archbishop Justin said that “no one group should order the life and culture of another. Such control is often neo-colonial abuse.”

He made the comments in a section of his speech talking about the instruments of communion – the four bodies that hold the Anglican Communion together: the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates Meeting, the Lambeth Conference and the Archbishop of Canterbury. He said that when times change so must the Instruments of Communion.

Leading up to his remarks about the Instruments, the Archbishop spoke of the significance of intentional discipleship and noted that it is “lived differently because of different cultures, for we are not the same, although we are one. That is one of the basic reasons why as well as being interdependent we are also autonomous as Provinces.

“There is no reason why one group should order the life and culture of another. Such control is often neo-colonial abuse. Money, power, access to resources should never call the tune, yet such is the lust for power in all human beings – and I include myself, for I sin like everyone else – that one group always seeks to tell another what to do.

“That is why, in a post colonial world, where every day we face more attacks on Christian faith and Christian churches, we have to find marks and signs that show we are one, and yet do not result in the imposition of one powerful group’s values on another. It does not matter whether it calls itself the Archbishop of Canterbury as a focus of unity and an instrument of Communion, the Primates’ meeting, the Lambeth Conference, or any other: any submission to the will of those outside our own Province must be voluntary, never compelled.

He challenged the ACC members to consider how to bridge the gap between interdependence and autonomy without abuse of power. He told the meeting that the Chicago Lambeth quadrilateral from the 1880s sets out what guides the belief of Anglicans and that the five Marks of Mission (the theme of ACC-18) are what Anglicans do.

The Instruments of Communion he indicated set out how we are organised and are brought together.

The Archbishop shared a brief history of each of the instruments and then continued, “The Instruments have grown and changed over the years. They have responded to changes caused by wars, colonialism, decolonising, corruption and failure, heresies and schisms, technological and scientific advance. They have never had either doctrinal or ethical authority, but they have moral force.”

Archbishop Justin spoke of the many changes the world has and continues to face and that the instruments must be “the way forward in mutual help where country comes after obedience to God.”

“My desire is to see Christ glorified in truth, and in my heart of hearts I can say with truth that is what I aim for. I may well get things wrong but let me be clear – before other people outside this room gather to tell me what I must do – I will not cling to place or position as an Instrument of Communion provided the other Instruments choose a new way. The Instruments are just what their name suggests, they exist to serve the call of Christ.”