Review of focus leads to slimmed-down Anglican Communion Office

19 January 2021

The staffing structure of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) is to be re-organised following a review into the operational priorities of the Anglican Communion Office (ACO). The ACO is the secretariat of the global family of 41 Anglican Churches and comprises staff from the Anglican Alliance and the Lambeth Conference Company in addition to the ACC. Today’s announcement concerns only those staff employed by the ACC.

The review was commissioned by the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee in May 2020, and was carried out by an independent group drawn from across the regions of the Communion, chaired by the Archbishop of Cape Town, Thabo Makgoba, Primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa. That group reported to the Standing Committee in September last year and since then a sub group of the Standing Committee, chaired by Vice Chair Canon Margaret Swinson, has been working to develop the proposals, which were announced to staff last week.

The Review recommended that the work of the ACC should focus on supporting the Instruments of Communion and those elements of programmatic work which could not be undertaken more effectively regionally or within provinces. The new focus for ACC staff will be to facilitate and coordinate programmatic work by member churches and authorised networks.

The restructuring has placed a number of staff at risk of redundancy and a formal process of consultation is underway.

In a written Case for Organisational Change distributed to staff, the Standing Committee said that the proposed changes were not only driven by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The first and primary driver was changes within the Anglican Communion which support a re-focussing of work undertaken by staff of the ACC towards support for the Instruments of Communion and those areas of work which cannot be undertaken more effectively through provinces, regions or other agencies”, the Case for Organisational Change said.

It continued to say that the re-focussing recognises that “the resource gaps between provinces in terms of education and technology have reduced significantly and the resource available to the Communion has increased as a result”; and that “aspects of the programmatic work undertaken at the ACO would be more effectively undertaken through provinces, regions or other agencies across the Communion with the ACO coordinating and communicating that work across the Communion.”

It went on to say that “the more centralised approach which currently dominates project / programme work, has a negative impact on diversity and inclusion and does not reflect the breadth of culture and diversity represented in the Communion, in particular those parts of the Communion who do not have English as their first language or as an official language of their country or province.”

It says: “embracing more local expressions of Anglicanism will facilitate listening and sharing of experience to enhance mutual learning and further mission.”

Vice Chair Maggie Swinson, a lay canon in the Church of England’s Diocese of Liverpool, said: The direction commended by the review report will draw provinces into active participation in the Communion’s work and our common mission to build the kingdom. Staff in the office have served us well and it is a sadness that, in our efforts to increase provincial engagement through devolving aspects of the Communion’s work, some redundancies may result.

The President of the ACC, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, said: “The Anglican Communion is a global family of churches that are called to share the good news of Jesus Christ in an extraordinary range of contexts. This review has been an important part of discerning how we can draw more fully on the gifts, resources and wisdom of provinces across the Communion, as we seek to serve a world in need. I’m grateful to Archbishop Thabo, Canon Margaret Swinson and all those who have led this work. I would also like to thank all the staff at the Anglican Communion Office who have served with such passion, commitment and faith over many years, and assure them all of my prayers throughout this process.”.

Responding to the changes, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said: “This review takes us back to the original rationale behind the setting up of the ACO. The new structure will enable the ACO to assist the 41 provinces to act out our Five Marks of Mission in a united collaborative manner, as well as enable them to become the family of churches that God wants us to be in order to advance God’s mission.”


Notes for Journalists:

  1. The Anglican Communion is a family of 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.

  2. 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.

  3. . Much of the programmatic activity and meetings of the Anglican Consultative Council is currently suspended; and a number of eligible staff remain on temporary furlough with the support of the UK Government’s job retention scheme.

  4. 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 in early 2023.

    • 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 person in Jordan in January 2020. They held a virtual meeting in November 2020 and will meet again virtually in November 2021 ahead of an in-person meeting in Rome in March 2022.

    • 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 in 2020 but has been postponed until 2022 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

    • 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.
  1. Members of the Anglican Communion Standing Committee are the legal trustees of the Anglican Consultative Council – a registered English charitable company. The Standing Committee includes members elected at plenary sessions of the Anglican Consultative Council; and five primates chosen regionally by their fellow primates.

  2. Updated information about the changes will be available online at