The Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, the Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, is to chair of a review into the operational priorities of the Anglican Communion Office. The review was proposed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, and accepted by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council during an online meeting last week.
The Anglican Communion Office, based in the Notting Hill district of London, England, is the secretariat for the Instruments of Communion – the four bodies which hold the Anglican Communion together: the Anglican Consultative Council, the Primates’ Meeting, the Lambeth Conference and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The staff in the Anglican Communion Office (ACO) serve the Communion through co-ordination, networking and relationship building in the areas of mission and discipleship, theological education, gender justice, representation to the United Nations, communications, and administration – including finance and support for meetings and events.
The review team will consult with primates – the leaders of the 40 national and regional independent yet interdependent autonomous churches of the Anglican Communion – and others, including departmental directors at the ACO, to help determine new operational priorities for the Anglican Communion going forward, as the world emerges from the post Covid-19 global lockdown.
“The Church around the world now faces a whole host of new challenges and mission priorities than it could have envisaged just a few short months ago”, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said. “A ‘new normal’ is emerging. It is too early to say what that ‘new normal’ will look like, but it is clear that the assumptions and priorities of the past are not the assumptions and priorities for the future. The work and ministry of our member churches is being changed. We need to change too, in order to help them in that work and ministry.
“One thing won’t change is the priority of all of us to be God’s Church in God’s World; but the world has changed and this review will help us to discern how we be God’s Church in these changing times.”
Archbishop Thabo’s review committee will produce its interim report by the end of June and its final report by the end of August. It will be considered by the Standing Committee at their September meeting. That meeting, which was to have taken place in person in London, will now be conducted by video conference.
NOTES FOR JOURNALISTS:
- The Anglican Communion is a family of 40 (soon to be 41) national and regional churches across the world in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Each Church in the Anglican Communion is independent and autonomous, but interdependent. The Anglican Communion has no “head office” or central decision-making body. The Anglican Communion Office is a secretariat serving the member churches and the Instruments of Communion (also called the Instruments of Unity). The bulk of the Anglican Communion Office staff are based in London; there is also an office in New York, supporting representation to the United Nations.
- The Anglican Consultative Council (and its staff) is funded mainly by contributions from member churches. The Covid-19 lockdown around the world has been costly for many churches, as the suspension of regular worship has resulted in a fall in giving. When considering the recommendations of the review team, the Standing Committee will consider a projected fall of 25 per cent of its anticipated income for 2021.
- Much of the programmatic activity and meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council is currently suspended; and more than half of all eligible staff have been temporarily furloughed, with the support of the UK Government’s job retention scheme.
- The Anglican Communion’s Instruments of Communion are:
The Anglican Consultative Council: This is a body of lay people, priests and bishops nominated from each of the provinces (member churches). It meets roughly every three years to facilitate the co-operative work of the churches of the Anglican Communion, exchange information between the provinces and churches, and help to co-ordinate common action. It advises on the organisation and structures of the Communion, and seeks to develop common policies with respect to the world mission of the Church, including ecumenical matters. The Anglican Consultative Council is a registered charity in England and the legal employer of most of the staff at the Anglican Communion Office. Its Standing Committee are the trustees under English charity law.
The Anglican Consultative Council last met in Hong Kong in May 2019; it is next due to meet in Accra, Ghana on a date to be determined.
The Primates’ Meeting brings together the most senior bishop (known variously as archbishops, moderators and presiding bishops) of the member churches for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation”. The Primates have no authority as a body and their own national churches determine how their ministry is carried out in their own context.
The Primates’ Meeting last met in Jordan in January 2020; it is next due to meet in Rome on a date to be determined.
The Lambeth Conference is a meeting to which all the bishops of the Anglican Communion are invited. It meets roughly every 10 years as an informal and consultative gathering of bishops. It has no jurisdictional power but contributes to greater Anglican unity and cohesion.
The Lambeth Conference last met in Canterbury in the summer of 2008. It was due to meet this Summer, but has been postponed to a date yet-to-be-fixed, because of the Covid-19 lockdown.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the diocesan bishop for Canterbury and Primate of All England. He does not have any jurisdictional power over any other member church of the Anglican Communion, but is recognised as a spiritual leader of the Communion. He is “primus inter pares” – the first among equals – of the other primates of the member churches. He is President of the Anglican Consultative Council, Chair of the Primates Meeting, and convenor of the Lambeth Conference.