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#ACC15 considers Instruments of Communion

#ACC15 considers Instruments of Communion

The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC15) reports on their discussions of the so-called Instruments of Communion. There seems to be some significant shifts from earlier ideas about these 4 places were the Anglican Communion comes together.

First is the turn away from a dominant Primates Meeting–which we were right on the cusp of in Dr es Salaam not very long ago–is more or less complete.

Second, suggestions for a much more robust involvement of laity in the Anglican Consultative Council and proposals for regional gatherings are a way to involve more people, meaning more voices, meaning less ability to control the communion by controlling the Primates Meeting.

Third, that the Primates Meeting is to be more of an education and information sharing meeting instead of dominating the discussions and directions of the Communion.

Fourth – a feeling that the Covenant is dead but no one wants to declare it so. It seems that one more body is letting it just run out of steam. Note: the declaration of “success” because the discussions were informative and made people aware of the Communion.

Read the news release here or below and give us your thoughts.

Also here are the resolutions at #ACC15

One way to enhance the Instruments of Communion might be greater regional gatherings, involvement and understanding according to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC).

In a feedback plenary this morning, ACC members heard what their discussion groups had highlighted as the strengths and weaknesses of the current Instruments of Communion. Groups had also made suggestions of ways that the Instruments might be made more effective and better integrated.

Brazilian member Professor Joanildo Burity said the group had celebrated the “truly consultative nature of ACC-15” and he fed back on discussions regarding the ACC itself. “People strongly affirmed the value of having lay and ordained people meeting together,” he said, “It also gives an opportunity to learn about each other face to face and about the host Province.”

From the group, he proffered three suggested improvements to the Council. These were: a stronger lay presence at the meeting; promoting ongoing participation of ACC members in the life of the Communion between meeting—perhaps connected to Networks; and having regional representatives on the ACC to strengthen their links by convening between meetings.

Primates’ Meeting

West African representative The Very Revd Dr Herman Browne spoke as the convener of the group considering the role of the Primates’ Meeting. He summarised the discussions by saying there had been strong support for this Instrument “as a gathering or mutual affirmation and for the benefit of Primate themselves” in their roles as Provincial leaders.

“An effective Primates’ Meeting would be an enabling thing for the Provinces.” he said. “Especially if they share in some meaningful way with the Province they are representing.”

This group’s key proposal for enhancing this meeting, was a study of the Office of a Primate. “Not in order that they are made to look the same, rather so we can appreciate the variety of models [of Primacy] in our community.” This, he said, would help manage expectations of what Primates could and couldn’t do.

Lambeth Conference

The Rt Revd Susan Moxley from Canada presented the highlights of the group discussions on the Lambeth Conference. The value of the Lambeth Conference was the way it built collegiality and trusting relationships among bishops meeting face to face. The bishop said that, in particular, bishops value the ability to be able to “check out the truth of rumours we’ve all heard about each other. To say, ‘This is what we’re told about you’, ‘well that’s not true’” and vice versa.

Feedback from the group also highlighted the way that the Lambeth Conference presented the Communion with a chance to be a “visible sign of community” when it did something public such as the march to highlight the Millennium Development Goals in 2008.

That group’s suggestions for enhancing the efficacy of the Lambeth Conference included hosting regional meetings between, or even instead of the Conference; and gathering lay and clergy together before the conference so their thoughts and views would be brought along by their bishop.

Archbishop of Canterbury

The Revd Canon Dr Dickson Chilongani said his group had been considering the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury. They had reaffirmed the value of the role as a symbol of unity for the Anglican Communion and its spiritual and historical centre. The group also said the position had immense value as someone who participated at the highest level of church and world affairs. Dr Chilongani also said the group had commended the approachability and openness which had marked Archbishop Rowan Williams’ time in the role.

He added that the suggestion that the supremacy of the Anglican Communion should not always sit in England was also raised in the group.

Director for Unity Faith and Order at the Anglican Communion Office, Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan said that all the feedback from the groups would be going to IASCUFO1, and she encouraged the ACC members to continue the conversation in their Provinces.

She said that Anglican Communion Office staff would post the report on the Instruments of Communion–which would be reviewed by IASCUFO in the light of responses during the ACC-15 meeting–on the Canon Barnett-Cowan then asked members to share it with others and encourage them to send their comments to IASCUFO “because this is an ongoing conversation.”

Anglican Communion Covenant

The group conversations about the progress of the Anglican Communion Covenant, were summarised by Helen Biggin, member for the Church in Wales. She said the discussions had sometimes been “painful, but were generous hearted, without heat or rancour.”

She said, “In places where the Covenant is contentious, people remain committed to the Communion, to talk, to share, to relate to each other.” Mrs Biggin explained there had been a wide diversity of how the Covenant had been handled, from the grassroots discussion to “it being stuck in the House of Bishops”.

One strong feeling was that those who had considered it had learned more about “who we are as a Communion, and about ourselves as Churches. The process itself has been valuable.”

Prefacing her statements with the fact that all dialogues had been very positive, she said, “Some groups feel we simply don’t need a Covenant. There was strong affirmation for sections 1 to 3, but considerable caution for section 4. Some of the reasons for that included a reluctance to give one group authority over another; a concern that it would make Anglicanism confessional in a way it wasn’t before; the thought it might be punitive; some Provinces being unable to adopt it for their whole Province; and the question as to whether some might become second class citizens of the Communion.”

She added that the process of consideration continues. “Meanwhile…we continue to work together, share together, pray together and continue to seek God together.”

For more information the media should contact Mr Jan Butter on +64 (0)2102991797 (international media) or the Revd Jayson Rhodes 021661319 (New Zealand media)

Notes to Editors

The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order

The Instruments of Communion comprise the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting, the Anglican Consultative Council and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The 15th Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-15) is meeting in Auckland, New Zealand between 27 October and 7 November. This is an advisory body comprising lay and ordained delegates from all Provinces that consider the present and future life and work of the Anglican Communion.

The Anglican Communion Office serves the Anglican Communion, comprising around 85 million members in 38 regional and national member churches around the globe in more than 165 countries.

For all the latest news, features, podcasts, videos, tweets and Facebook posts from the conference please visit


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I agree with Lionel. If the Communion is so frightened of any new ideas,from, for instance, Bishop Gene Robinson, that they can’t quite bring themselves to invite him (the duly ordained Bishop of New Hampshire) then Lambeth is no longer useful. It certainly did not show me or many any “vivible sign of communion” nor did the “march to highlight the Millennium Development Goals” seem to open any vistas of care and concern for those who aren’t very richly blessed with enough food, and clean water and healthcare but then, again, who doesn’t just love a parade?

Lan Green

Rod Gillis

Reported that ” in particular, bishops value the ability to be able to “check out the truth of rumours we’ve all heard about each other. To say, ‘This is what we’re told about you’, ‘well that’s not true’” and vice versa.

Please tell me that this type of ego-centric navel gazing is not one of the main things distilled in a conversation about the bishops at Lambeth.

Lionel Deimel

I agree with Bill regarding Primates’ Meeting mission creep.


Speaking of the Primates, I was poking around the ACO site and came across something they came up with last year entitled “Towards an Understanding of the Purpose and Scope of the Primates’ Meeting.” Here are a couple of points from it:

“Together the Primates…give leadership and support as the Communion lives out the Marks of Mission…provide guidance for the Communion…We endeavour to accomplish our work through…exercising authority in a way that emerges from consensus-building and mutual discernment leading to persuasive wisdom.”   

Maybe I’m Chicken Little here, but I find this appalling. I absolutely do not recognize the Primate of, say, Nigeria, Uganda, or the Southern Cone exercising any leadership role at all except for their respective Provinces, nor do I think they have much to offer in the way of guidance. And together as a body they have no authority, except a moral one, to exercise in any way. The idea that Primates and Moderators over whose appointment we have no control or say whatsoever have any authority to exercise over ECUSA (or any other Anglican Province not their own) strikes me as simply preposterous.

Bill Dilworth


I disagree that Lambeth has outlived its usefulness – the problem has been that it, like the other Instruments, has drifted from their original status and purpose. As a way for (most of) the world’s Anglican bishops to get together and consult face to face it does well; as a sort of Anglican Parliament it’s terrible.

The report from the Primates discussion group doesn’t seem to have turned its back explicitly on its goal of being a legislating Synod of Bishops or Pope-by-Committee; am I missing something? If that report does indeed mean that they are back to their original consulting status, it’s downright creepy how the attempted power grab goes unacknowledged and unrepented.

Bill Dilworth

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