The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) today passed a resolution which endorses a proposal to help create a new town plan for Bethlehem's Manger Square. Anglicans were asked by the Palestinian National Authority to take part in this restoration of Bethlehem. The project will focus on reconstructing and replanning Manger Square (the birthplace of Christ) by the year 2000. The first part of the project will study the costs of renovating the Square. It is hoped the study will involve the co-operation of other churches. President Bishop Samir Kafity of Jerusalem and the Middle East spoke movingly to the Council about the importance of Christian involvement in this project. The town of Bethlehem is predominantly Christian and is an important centre for pilgrimage and tourism for the world Church. In the forthcoming months, the Anglican Church will be approaching potential donors to support this unique millennium project. An international Church support group will be shortly established to oversee this work.
On the final day of its meeting in Panama the ACC also passed more than thirty other resolutions. These included a call for the cancellation of the developing world's international debt. This issue was a major concern for the Council meeting and is likely to be a major issue at the next Lambeth Conference of bishops in 1998.
The meeting also passed a resolution calling on the United States of America to lift its embargo against Cuba and called upon the Anglican Observer to the United Nations to convey the message to the UN.
Gun control was also a major concern at the meeting. Members from Southern Africa spoke forcefully about the need to eliminate personal firearms. The meeting was conscious of the widespread call for gun control following the massacres in Dunblane, Scotland and Hobart, Tasmania. Members from Canada were concerned that any resolution not prohibit the use of firearms to people who hunt for a living in Canada. The final resolution called on Anglicans to work for strict controls on the use of personal firearms and "to set an example by their own renunciation" of guns except when needed for legitimate livelihood.
The meeting also challenged governments not to engage in the manufacture, import, export, storage and sale or purchase of land mines and encouraged Anglicans to support programmes to get rid of land mines that are already laid.
This was the final day of the Anglican Consultative Council which meets every two or three years and has as its membership representatives from each of the 36 provinces of the Anglican Communion worldwide. There are 70 million Anglicans in more than 161 countries around the world and they look to the ACC for resolutions and decisions on major issues facing the Church today. The decisions of the ACC are not binding but provide a means whereby difficult issues can be addressed.
The next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council is scheduled for 1999 when it is hoped that it will meet in St Andrews, Scotland.