Saturday, October 27, 2012

Not excited by ACC

I cannot get excited by the current ACC meeting in Auckland. While touted for us Kiwis as a once in a life time event (literally true: it has never previously happened here in my nearly 53 years and unlikely will happen again in the next 47 years, should the Lord tarry), the question we could ask is what kind of "event" is it?

Again, trying hard to be positive, it is an event in which people meet (cf. ++Tutu's definition of Anglicanism) and those meetings are important for those who meet. But who are those who meet? As best I can tell they are (1) the actual ACC members (2) a more or less equivalent number of jet setting Anglican functionaries, bureaucrats, network co-ordinators, commission chairs and what have you. In other words, a set of people who like leaving their own country to meet with people of other countries, and via the regularity of global Anglican meetings get to know each other well and thus look forward to the next meeting. In sum: everyone gathering for this meeting will have a great time (and, I can assure you, dear reader, that the hospitality shown them in Auckland will be extraordinary). No one will go away unhappy.

But our question in the hard-headed atmosphere of Anglicanland blogging is whether the event merits the excitement of observers such as you and me. Will it achieve anything through its decision-making? There is a question to ponder.

What is ACC's role in the life of the Communion? Does it, for instance, exercise some kind of decisive governmental role in our affairs? If it does, is that governmental role exercised as a representative body of Anglicans across the world? (See now, also, comment below from Bosco Peters).

These questions are just a little hard to answer with enthusiasm.

My particular beef with the ACC is that a most unfortunate myth surrounds it that it is the only "representative" body among the Instruments of Unity because it is the only one of those bodies which involves priests/deacons and laity (as well as bishops).

Strictly speaking this is true. But are the "reps" sent to the body "representative"?

From an ACANZP perspective I have little confidence that our "reps" have the ability to represent conservative clergy and laity in our church. They are fine individuals and quite transparent in the convictions they express in the synodical life of our church. But those convictions are not conservative. Yet conservatism in our church is about 40% of our life (I reckon).

Now sending three reps to ACC is what it is, a process where the diversity of our church attempts to  be captured by three people. It doesn't work. I suggest we need about six people to do that with some sense of adequacy. ACC polity doesn't allow us to send six so we have what we have. Incidentally, it happens that between the bishops choosing their rep, the clergy their rep and the laity their rep that we are represented by three men.

So I do not buy the myth of ACC's representativeness. Frankly, I think gathering the bishops at Lambeth does that much better. At least conservative dioceses with conservative bishops get to send their bishop to that event.


liturgy said...

Greetings Peter

You speak of three reps to ACC. Where did you find this out? I only discovered 2. And understood that was it.

You call ACC one of the "Instruments of Unity" - that is common street talk, of course, but has no formal, canonical status.

Only the Archbishop of Canterbury, amongst your list, holds the formal canonical status in our church as an Instrument of Unity. And in some Anglican churches not even he gets accorded that role.

Hence, I should not be surprised that we are unable to be sure who the reps are from our own province in this once in a lifetime event in our country. And that we could have their number out by 50%!

Can we actually see the smoke signals from Auckland and distinguish whether they are two or three? Or do we just wait till the sailing ship arrives with the information later this year?



Peter Carrell said...

I have always assumed that we have an episcopal rep as well and that that is one of the primates (++Brown?)

I recommend looking out for pigeons. Or is it doves? (I am told they are more Christian than pigeons :) ).

Bryden Black said...

Sorry to say, Peter, I too have little enthusiasm for this upcoming gathering. There was a time when the Four Instruments of Unity (pace Bosco!) were held in some esteem around the AC, but two recent events effectively stopped them ever becoming quasi canonical. They were Lambeth 2008 and ACC 2009 in Jamaica, both very confusing affairs.

Whether this second decade of the 21st C will be kinder to the AC I also seriously doubt. We find ourselves caught in two major historical shifts: (1) from First World dominance in most global matters, including the Church, to the Majority World becoming the real centre of gravity, especially for the Church; (2) “The failure of the Liberal paradigm” (O’Donovan).

The real problem for us in ACANZ&P is we are in limbo regarding both of these shifts. We acknowledge not the second and we muddle our way re the first. The net outcome is a sad drift ... towards we know not what. Not that any of this actually causes me much lost sleep: the Lord God of the Church is far, far freer in his Ways than my small grasp even of these shifts. If Church history teaches me anything, it is that the Holy Spirit has more than a few surprises up his sleeve yet! The only question then becomes whether I am/we are ready to hoist what sails I/we have left hereabouts!

Peter Carrell said...

Well that wind of the Spirit has blown Theology House into a relationship with Laidlaw College so, indeed, anything can happen!

Perhaps Nicky Gumbel should be the next ABC!

Father Ron Smith said...

"the Lord God of the Church is far, far freer in his Ways than my small grasp even of these shifts. If Church history teaches me anything, it is that the Holy Spirit has more than a few surprises up his sleeve yet!"
- Bryden Black -

Acknowledgement of the 'smallness of one's grasp' is everything; whoever does the conjecture here.

Likewise, the connection of Laidlaw College with Christchurch-based Theology House is hardly a 'straw in the wind' of cooperation with St.John's College, or ACANZP.

We are all such tiny specks in the cosmos. Perhaps we need to look to our own integrity - without caring too much about the 'integrity of others.' "Judge not...."

liturgy said...

I don't want to put a cat amongst the pigeons, Peter, but I, for one, continue to find it ummmm.... intriguing (that's my polite word today) that we are told we have elected these ACC delegates, but it appears impossible to easily find out their names, or even how many we have elected!!!



Anonymous said...

Another mysterious election is that of Bishop Philip Richardson, "appointed by the ordained clergy" to the Pension Board according to their latest newsletter (Oct 2012). Or perhaps my voting slip got lost in the post. Not that I have any objection to +Philip, he would probably have got my vote.

Peter Carrell said...

I think, Rhys, that it is election by the clergy who are voting members of General Synod. Otherwise I too missed my voting papers!

Andrew Reid said...

Peter, your NZ experience of your ACC representatives is common across the Communion. Most conservatives (including some bishops and primates) have given up on the ACC given its failure to address any of the multiple issues confronting the communion. To corrupt its acronym somewhat, it could be said ACC stands for "Anglican Can-Cicking".