A statement on the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council
By Archbishop Andrew Hutchison,
June 30, 2005 --
What follows is a statement from Archbishop Andrew S. Hutchison, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, on the recently concluded meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham, Eng.
The Anglican Consultative Council met in Nottingham, England, between Sunday, June 19 and June 28. There were a number of events and developments that occurred at this meeting that I wish to describe for you in this short report.
At its meeting this spring, the Council of General Synod considered the request contained in the communiqué issued last February by the Primates of the Anglican Communion that the Anglican Church of Canada "voluntarily withdraw" its members from this meeting of the ACC. After considerable debate, CoGS decided that we should send our three members to the meeting, but that they should not participate in the proceedings. According, Bishop Sue Moxley, Rev. Canon Allen Box and Ms Suzanne Lawson attended the meeting in Nottingham as observers.
CoGS also considered an invitation by the Primates that the Canadian and U.S. churches make presentations to the ACC "to set out the thinking behind the recent actions of their Provinces" in the case of our church, the blessing of same-sex unions, and in the case of the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA), the consecration of a gay bishop. CoGS authorized me, in consultation with the Officers of General Synod, to appoint presenters. Dean Peter Elliott, Prolocutor of General Synod and Dean of New Westminster, Chancellor Robert Falby of the Diocese of Toronto, Ms Maria Jane Highway, an indigenous member of the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee and Rev. Dr. Stephen Andrews, a member of the Primate's Theological Commission and President of Thornloe University, subsequently agreed to be our presenters. I also attended the meeting of the ACC for our presentation and was the concluding speaker.
I wish to say to you categorically that all of the people who attended this difficult and complex meeting - both our members and our presenters - acquitted themselves of their tasks with remarkable skill and dedication. Our members, sitting as non-speaking and non-participating observers, faced a difficult, frustrating and painful week; our presenters responded to the request of the Primates in a lucid, thorough and transparent way. I was proud to be among these people in Nottingham, and I believe you would have been as well. These were not easy mandates for either group and it is hard to imagine how either of them could have improved on what they did.
It is difficult to say what impact our presentation had. An evening session that was to have carried this conversation further was postponed. I can tell you that members of the ACC listened to us and to our U.S. colleagues intently, and that there was considerable applause at the end of our presentation. In the evening, the Canadians hosted an informal reception which was well attended and which gave members of the Council the chance to exchange views and comment on our presentation. There was much positive feedback.
This was the extent of our formal participation at the Nottingham meeting. The day after our presentation, however, a motion was brought, without notice, requesting the Anglican Consultative Council to affirm the Primates' request that we voluntarily withdraw from the meeting, and further requesting us to withdraw from all activities of the Anglican Communion until Lambeth 2008. That motion was debated at a closed session. We were not present during the debate, we did not participate, and we did not speak. We did not even hear the debate. There is undeniably an issue of natural justice in this process. An amended motion was eventually approved, affirming the Primates' request and interpreting voluntary withdrawal from the Council to include two committees - the standing committee, and the committee on finance and administration. The amended motion carried by the narrowest of margin. Had our members and our colleagues from ECUSA voted, the motion would have failed. We do not have members on either of those two committees, so the practical effect of the motion on us is nil.
There is much to reflect on as a result of this meeting. Having heard our presentation and watched members of the council as our people spoke, I hope and pray that we may have opened a window or two on these difficult topics. I hope and pray that our presentation and the presentation by our ECUSA brothers and sisters may have moved the discussion along and perhaps even provided a slight impetus for the discussion on sexual issues to begin in those parts of the Communion where it has not yet begun. I am encouraged by these thoughts and by these possibilities. I am also encouraged that the Council agreed to the establishment of a "listening process" designed to collate information on sexual issues from the different provinces and to make these resources widely available for study and reflection.
For our part, our presenters made clear to the Council that we in this country and in this church are still very much in the midst of a conversation on this issue, a conversation that will be before the next gathering of General Synod in 2007.
Between now and then, we continue to value the relationships fostered by the worldwide Anglican Communion. We continue to be firmly committed to our international partnerships with other members of the Communion. We are full members of the Communion and we continue to hope and pray that the Communion will emerge from this debate stronger in Christian love and mutual understanding.
I want to thank all of you for your thoughts and prayers during this difficult meeting.
This report is by no means a comprehensive description of all that happened during the meeting of the ACC. For those who wish to know more, many of the documents and motions that were before the Council are available on the web.
The Most Rev. Andrew S. Hutchison
Archbishop and Primate
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