Convention pledges ongoing support for direct Anglican partnerships
By Matthew Davies, Episcopal News Service
The world’s 80 million Anglicans are much more aware today than they were 10 years ago that they belong to a global communion, a realization that has led to a flourishing of international relationships between the Episcopal Church and other provinces, dioceses and individuals.
The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said that although he did not attend the 77th General Convention in Indianapolis, he is “more than heartened” by the passage of Resolution D008 that reaffirms the Episcopal Church’s commitment to building Anglican Communion partnerships.
“There is obviously a huge well of goodwill and commitment,” he told ENS in a recent interview at his London-based office. “The Episcopal Church has worked very hard at its relationships and more so in the last few years. Those relationships have paid off and are valued throughout the Anglican Communion. The question is how we are going to build on that commitment.”
Kearon said he also is “very impressed” with the extent to which the Episcopal Church has taken seriously the Anglican Covenant, a document that initially had been intended as a way to bind Anglicans globally across cultural and theological differences.
Through Resolution B005, the Episcopal Church declined to take a position on the Anglican Covenant at this time but committed to remaining a part of the process and to continuing to monitor the ongoing developments.
“What is surprising and very heartening is the extent to which even those opposed [to the covenant] are now talking about the communion in a different way,” Kearon said. “This has been a huge learning experience. People have learned in the process a lot about their identity and what the Anglican Communion is. Irrespective of the outcome, the experience of considering has been a very good learning experience for most Anglicans and has deepened their appreciation of what it is to be an Anglican.”
The Anglican Covenant first was proposed in the 2004 Windsor Report as a way that the communion and its 38 autonomous provinces might maintain unity despite differences, especially relating to biblical interpretation and human sexuality issues. The report came in the wake of the 2003 election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as bishop of New Hampshire, a development that caused some provinces to declare broken or impaired communion with the Episcopal Church. The covenant also was a response to some church leaders crossing borders into other provinces to minister to disaffected Anglicans.
“One of the best things that has happened for the Episcopal Church with respect to our engagement in the Anglican Communion has been the election and ordination of Gene Robinson,” Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas told ENS in a recent interview.
Douglas said that for decades before 2003, if even two people turned up for a hearing on an Anglican Communion-related resolution at General Convention “we in the world mission committee felt like we were doing well … Then after 2003 and the Windsor Report … the hottest ticket in Columbus [at the 75th General Convention in 2006] was the open hearing on the Anglican Communion. More than 3,000 people attended and 92 witnesses testified. That’s a huge change.”
Douglas said that he also sees this change at the local level, in his own diocese, where every year an Anglican mission consultation draws 200 to 300 people from up to 50 parishes, “all of which enjoy direct partnerships in mission with dioceses, parishes, individuals around the Anglican Communion. That is facilitated by the greater awareness at the local level, which we didn’t have a decade ago, and the flatter, digital communication world … That’s all part of the great communion that God is bringing about and it’s the hallmark of the Episcopal Church’s response to the communion.”
At the 77th General Convention, which met July 5-12 in Indianapolis, the Episcopal Church committed itself in Resolution D008 to maintaining and reinforcing strong links across the worldwide Anglican Communion and to continued participation in its various councils, ministries and networks.
The mission-driven budget adopted by convention for the 2013-2015 triennium maintains funding levels and grants for most of the Episcopal Church’s international Anglican partnerships, but it reduces by 35 percent, or $460,000, its financial support to the inter-Anglican budget for the London-based Anglican Communion Office.
“We have tried hard to maintain our level of contribution to the Anglican Communion Office budget, and even though it will decline somewhat in the coming triennium, we intend to do all we can to maintain the individual partnership funding,” Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori told ENS. “I am also aware that other avenues for funding are being explored.”
Jefferts Schori, who serves on the Anglican Communion Standing Committee and Finance Committee, said that the great successes of recent years have been “the increase in diocesan and congregational mission partnerships across the Anglican Communion” and the Continuing Indaba program that has enabled Anglicans to discuss and learn about experiences from contexts far removed from their own and to wrestle with differences concerning issues such as human sexuality and theological interpretation.
The mission partnerships and Continuing Indaba “have provided remarkable opportunities for Episcopalians and Anglicans to learn about the realities of life in different parts of the world, and hearts are being transformed thereby,” she said.
International partnerships also are built and nurtured through Episcopal Relief & Development programs and United Thank Offering grants.
In the 2013-2015 budget, the Episcopal Church maintains funding for its global covenant partners in the Anglican provinces of Central America and Mexico, and also for the Diocese of Liberia in the province of West Africa. Although there will be some decreases in funding for those commitments in the coming triennium, such reductions are part of a process, approved by a previous General Convention, towards autonomy for those partners that used to be a part of the Episcopal Church.
“Support for the covenant agreements provides a means for all Episcopalians to participate in the development/mission work” of those churches, according to the budget commentary.
Through other grants, the Episcopal Church continues its support for current relationships with the Anglican provinces of Burundi, Central Africa, Congo, Sudan, Philippines, as well as for the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, which provides support to the 12 Anglican provinces on the continent.
An increase in funding of more than $21,000, for a total of $106,000, for the Diocese of Cuba represents a “major relationship priority for the triennium,” according to the budget commentary.
Any shift in grant funding for the Anglican Communion is intended to focus efforts on the Episcopal Church’s primary partners in the coming triennium, the commentary notes.
The portion of the budget that focuses on funding for Anglican partnerships was massaged and finalized at General Convention by the Joint Standing Committee on Program, Budget and Finance’s (PB&F) sub-committee for program.
PB&F had decided to use as a template the budget proposed by the presiding bishop in June rather than the one offered by Executive Council earlier in the year. This template served as the foundation for the Five Marks of Mission budget ultimately passed by General Convention. It was structured around those five marks that General Convention had adopted as mission priorities in 2009.
The Five Marks are:
The Rev. David Ota, a General Convention deputy from the Diocese of California, told ENS that in the program sub-committee, which he chaired, there was general agreement that the budget should support the funding recommendations for the Episcopal Church’s covenant relationships and international partnerships.
When it came to the inter-Anglican budget for the Anglican Communion Office, Ota said that the sub-committee used the $500,000 line item proposed in the Five Marks of Mission budget as a starting point rather than the $850,000 as recommended by Executive Council. The sub-committee, Ota said, agreed that $500,000 “would be a significant contribution” to the inter-Anglican budget. But many people who testified at an open hearing during General Convention raised concerns that such a cut “was too deep, and did not model good stewardship when during the previous triennium $1,160,000 was contributed. It was moved to increase the amount from $500,000 to $700,000 to reflect the concerns expressed.”
In general, Ota said, PB&F and the program sub-committee “supported the proposals for honoring our commitments to the Anglican Communion partnerships and global mission [and] … supported the Five Marks of Mission through Anglican relations.”
But Douglas, who serves as a member of the Anglican Communion Standing Committee, said that the cuts to the inter-Anglican budget “do not model good stewardship.”
“I understand that a lot of folk involved in the budget process are trying to balance a lot of difficult realities, and it’s always easier to cut those things that are the furthest from home,” he told ENS. “But I am quite upset on where we landed. The contributions to the inter-Anglican budget help to bring us together as Christians.”
Douglas said that he hopes that a global capital campaign will be launched soon to support the Anglican Communion Office.
The London-based office facilitates the work of the Anglican Communion’s ecumenical dialogues and the instruments of communion – the Lambeth Conference of bishops, the Primates Meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion’s main policy-making body.
Anglican Communion Secretary General Kearon said that the office also acts “as a connecting place, a place of engagement … We seek to enable the relationships that take place [throughout the communion].”
Other ministries managed through the office include the Continuing Indaba program and the Anglican Alliance that coordinates development, relief and advocacy work across the communion.
“Provincial contributions are a tangible sign of commitment to the Anglican Communion,” Kearon told ENS. “The budget is used to enable the work of this office to continue, to enable the instruments of communion to meet and to ensure that the decisions and wishes of those are carried out. We shape our work around the Five Marks. Any cut in our budget means that the communion’s witness expressed from this office is that much less.”
The requested annual amount from each of the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces is based on a combination of factors, Kearon said, including “what the province has given in the past,” the number of Anglicans in a province, and the Gross Domestic Product of the province’s country or countries.
In the last triennium the Episcopal Church contributed $1.16 million to the inter-Anglican budget, 50 percent of the asked-for amount. The Episcopal Church is the second-highest contributor to the inter-Anglican budget after the Church of England, which also does not pay its full asking. Over the past three years, some other provinces have not paid in full their suggested contributions to that budget.
The inter-Anglican budget amounts to 58 percent of the Anglican Communion Office’s total income. The rest, 42 percent, comes from restricted giving and other contributions.
Through provincial contributions, Kearon said, “there is an element of the strong supporting the weak. Small provinces need their membership in the Anglican Communion but cannot contribute. Strong churches in the communion have always supported the weak.”
Kearon said that the implications of the funding reduction from the Episcopal Church have yet to be determined and that his office would know more later this year after the ACC meets in Auckland, New Zealand.
Despite the funding reduction, Kearon said that he is “very impressed” with the way General Convention conducted its business and continues to be optimistic about the future of the Anglican Communion.
Douglas agreed. “I continue to be incredibly upbeat about the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion,” he said. “I do believe that we are very much a communion in the process of becoming and I believe that at ACC probably the primary conversation will be about power and money and not primarily about human sexuality because I think we’ll be in a place to have deep and meaningful conversations about our legacy of colonialism and how we are informed as Anglicans. It is a new world. Will we be a new communion?”
– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter of the Episcopal News Service.