African Joy of the Gospel: Interweavings No 8 April 2016
by Graham Kings
Date added: 29/04/2016
I will remember for a long time the opening Eucharist in the open air at the west end of Lusaka Cathedral on 10 April. It was an extraordinary service with about 4,000 people, full of joy, celebration, and spectacular choirs.
The Archbishop of Central Africa, Albert Chama, presided, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, preached and final greetings were given by the youthful looking President of Zambia, Edgar Lungu, a Pentecostal Christian.
Kenneth Kaunda, the first President of Zambia, who was born in 1924, was also in the congregation. People took part from the four countries which make up the Province of Central Africa: Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
It was a great joy to be in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, for the first week of the sixteenth meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council from 8 April 2016. I was invited as a consultant and as a member of the Anglican Inter Faith Network.
1. Anglican Consultative Council
The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) is the body which brings together representatives of the different Anglican provinces (national or regional churches). It is legally registered as an English company and charity and meets every three to four years.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the President of the ACC and James Tengatenga, formerly Bishop of Southern Malawi, has been Chair from 2009-16, assisted by the Vice Chair, Elizabeth Paver, from Sheffield, England. The Bishop chaired the meeting and preached a moving farewell sermon at the final Eucharist on 19 April. Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion, presented a perceptive report on his first nine months in the post and he, and his staff, ably served the whole meeting.
There were about 80 participants from around the Communion and much of the time was spent in discussion around circular tables in the centre of the Cathedral. Members from the Provinces of Nigeria, Uganda and Rwanda (associated with GAFCON) chose not to attend, but those from the Province of Kenya were present. The Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East was represented by the Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf rather than by the Presiding Bishop. The Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion published a statement in response to comments leading up to the meeting, concerning follow up from the Primates’ Meeting in January 2016.
Ecumenical guests expressed pleasure at being full members of the meeting, rather than observers. They were introduced by John Gibaut, (Director for Unity, Faith and Order at the Anglican Communion Office) and represented: Roman Catholic Church; World Council of Churches; Coptic Orthodox Church; Zimbabwe Ecumenical Patriarchate; World Communion of Reformed Churches; Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht; Lutheran World Federation; Mar Thoma Syrian Church; and Global Christian Forum. The representative of the World Methodist Council was unable to attend.
The theme was ‘Intentional Discipleship in a World of Difference’. A book had been published on the web, and in hard copy, which was presented by John Kafwanka, the Director of Mission at the Anglican Communion Office.
2. New Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, is ex officio the President of the Standing Committee. During the meeting Paul Kwong, Archbishop of Hong Kong, was elected as the new Chair of ACC and therefore of the Standing Committee and Margaret Swinson, (a lay Canon of Liverpool Cathedral, England) as Vice Chair.
Also elected to the committee were: Jane Alexander (Bishop of the Diocese of Edmonton in the Anglican Church of Canada); Alistair Dinnie (Scottish Episcopal Church); Jeroham Melendez (Anglican Church of the Region of Central America); Nigel Pope (Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, Kolkata in the Church of North India); and Joel Waweru, Bishop of Nairobi in the Anglican Church of Kenya.
In addition to these, the Standing Committee includes the five Primates elected at the Primates’ Meeting in January 2016 in Canterbury to represent their regions: Philip Freier (Australia), Richard Clarke (Ireland), Mouneer Hanna Anis (Jerusalem and the Middle East), Thabo Makgoba (Southern Africa), and John Holder (West Indies).
Two members of the previous Standing Committee continue in office: Eraste Bigirimana (Bishop of Bujumbura in the Anglican Church of Burundi) and Louisa Lette-Mojela (Anglican Church of Southern Africa).
3. Archbishop of Canterbury
On the first day, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a significant report on the Primates’ Gathering and Meeting in Canterbury 2016, which, among many other subjects (eg evangelism, persecution and climate justice) had discussed the doctrine of marriage and the ecclesiological ‘consequences’ following on from decisions taken at the 2015 General Convention of The Episcopal Church.
Prior to ACC-16 in Lusaka, there had been some speculation concerning the Primates’ Meeting and the ACC. The Secretary-General’s statement, mentioned above, clarified key points.
On the final day in Lusaka, Resolution 16.24 was passed, which stated:
The Anglican Consultative Council
- receives the formal report of the Archbishop of Canterbury to ACC-16 on the Primates’ Gathering and Meeting of January 2016; and
- affirms the commitment of the Primates of the Anglican Communion to walk together; and
- commits to continue to seek appropriate ways for the provinces of the Anglican Communion to walk together with each other and with the Primates and other Instruments of Communion.
In an interview before leaving Lusaka, entitled ‘ACC Commits to Walking Together with the Primates’, the Archbishop commented further on this resolution saying that the ‘consequences’ stand and that he had already set up a task group following the Primates’ Meeting:
Moreover, because walking at a distance is not how it should be, a Task Group was appointed ‘to maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.’ That Task Group has been set up. I was asked to create it. And it has been set up with a very wide representation on it of women and men, lay and ordained, from every part of the Communion.
The Archbishop’s Presidential Address, ‘New Call for New Times’, focussed on the two subjects of religiously motivated violence and climate change:
Both these characters – religiously motivated violence and climate change - are global. Both these issues are generational, they can’t be solved in two, three, four years; they will take a generation or more. And both – and this is where most of the world forgets this – both characters can only be confronted with a theological and ideological approach and with a story, with a narrative, that is sufficiently powerful to overcome the natural selfishness of one generation, or the selfishness of countries which are more secure.
He then went on to discuss the significance of theological resources in the global South:
At its heart, these challenges are theological and it requires a deepening of our theological resources. We can only confront them by bringing them face-to-face to the reality of a God we study, worship, engage with, theologically. That is, incidentally, why I support Bishop Graham Kings, who was with us earlier this week, as Mission Theologian in the Anglican Communion. We need to develop our theological strength and visibility in every part of the Communion. Graham’s remit is to support, with others such as the ACO and ACC, the development of the visibility of the hugely deep and important theological resources in parts of the world that the historic centres of theology, mainly in the Global North, too easily forget.
During the second weekend of the meeting, the Archbishop travelled to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, and preached at an open air service to 6000 people, paying tribute to their faith, courage and persistence in the face of difficult times. The service was presided over by Chad Gandiya, the Bishop of Harare, and the Archbishop also met with the President, Robert Mugabe.
During the meeting of the ACC, the Daily Telegraph published an article about the Archbishop’s father and the Archbishop gave a personal statement responding to it: ‘I know that I find who I am in Jesus Christ, not in genetics, and my identity in him never changes.’
I was greatly encouraged by my time in Lusaka at ACC-16. It was a delight to meet so many old friends from around the Communion, including a former student from St Andrew’s College, Kabare, Kenya, Johnson Chinyong’ole, now the Provincial Secretary of the Church of Tanzania, and to make new friends.
A colleague in Durham University had said that for the Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion project I should, some time, contact Professor Joanildo Burity in the Anglican Province of Brazil, who had been in Durham for four years. I was hoping to arrange a meeting in the UK or Brazil. God surprised us with the discovery of each other at ACC-16.
He attended the workshop I led on the book of theological resources in times of persecution entitled, ‘Out of the Depths: Hope in Times of Suffering’, written by members of the Anglican Inter Faith Network (formerly known as the Network for Inter Faith Concerns, NIFCON). Also present was Alwin Samuel, Bishop of Sialkot, Pakistan, who proposed the successful resolution (16.9) for it to be published by the Anglican Communion Office (including in Urdu and Arabic) and commended for study. The Bishop undertook to arrange the translation into Urdu.
A further resolution (16.10) was heartening concerning plans to raise the Inter Faith Network into an Inter-Anglican Commission.
In my next ‘Interweavings’ article, I will reflect on my following week at the Cairo campus of the Alexandria School of Theology, where we held the first conference of the Mission Theology in the Anglican Communion project.
I left Lusaka with fond memories of family celebrations, hospitality, delight in God and in the African joy of the gospel, facing the challenges of evangelism, discipleship, unity, religiously motivated violence and climate change. May God bless the whole Anglican Communion in its service to his world.
(This article was originally published on Covenant and republished here with permission)