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JAMAICA: Report from ACC-14: Day Six

JAMAICA: Report from ACC-14: Day Six

May 7, 2009

The first part of today's report was written by Robert Lundy, AAC Communications Officer.

The second part of today's report was written by the Rev. Can. Dr. Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream.

$1.5 Million Dollar Indaba

The process that some hope will save the Anglican Communion comes with a $1.5 million dollar price tag. Equally as interesting is who is paying for that process.

Canon Philip Groves is the facilitator of the "Listening Process," a process begun in 1998 that has sought to seek a "common mind upon the issues which threaten to divide us" according to an ACC-14 publication. The main focus of this listening process has been on "monitoring the work done on the subject of human sexuality in the Anglican Communion and included listening to the experience of homosexual persons and the experience of local churches around the world in reflecting on these matters in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason."

On Wednesday, Canon Groves presented the delegates of ACC-14 with a new vision for what the listening process could address in the Communion. This new vision, called the Continuing Indaba project, included taking an African-rooted process of decision making and consensus building, known as "indaba," that seeks to have all the parties involved come together to dialogue, and apply it to the root controversies that are perceived to underlie the problems in the Anglican Communion. This new and improved listening process would address issues over the authority of Scripture, faithfulness to tradition and respect for the dignity of all.

Canon Groves also told the delegates that this consensus building process would also come free of charge to the ACC. That is because a secular organization based in Atlanta, Ga. has promised to fund the Continuing Indaba project until the end of 2011. Though reluctant to say, Groves told reporters that the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine was giving $1.5 million dollars to fund the Continuing Indaba project. The Satcher Health Institute is a progressive research and advocacy organization that seeks reform on societal issues of health. These issues range from ones on mental disorders, to quality healthcare for minorities, to issues of sexual health. It is when you look at the Satcher Institute's Center for Excellence in Sexual Health that you find striking similarities to the proposed Continuing Indaba project and basis for a strong concern on the pressure groups behind this initiative.

The Center for Excellence in Sexual Health has various methods of advocacy and reform. One such method, the National Consensus Process on Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior (NCP) was intended to be a consensus building conversation among participants with widely differing views. The center's conclusion in its 2006 interim report included the following:

"After eighteen months of work, we are confident that what we have learned, through our time together, can assist that needed conversation. Specifically:

* By taking the time to know our partners in dialogue as individuals and not positions, we were able to have a better understanding of one another and our divergent positions; and

* By engaging in "respectful listening," we were able to rise above stereotypes and discover unexpected areas of agreement and gain new insights into the nature of our disagreements.

In conclusion, we are committed to broadening our consensus through continued dialogue..."

One can not help but notice the similarities between the center's methodology and the proposed Indaba project. This would also explain why, according to the Satcher Institute's director, the institute would want to fund the proposed Indaba project. However, one must go further down the money trail in order to find out more.

According to the Satcher Institute's website, the Center for Excellence in Sexual Health, the program which is supporting the Indaba project, is funded by the Ford Foundation, an independent nonprofit grantmaking organization devoted to progressive causes. In 2005, the foundation authored the report, "Sexuality and Social Change: Making the Connection; Strategies for Action and Investment" which described the recommendations and priorities they developed through a consultative process to direct attention and resources to issues of sexuality as a "powerful means to achieve gender equity, improved public health and social justice." Their long term goal is to improve sexual health and promote sexual rights by partnering with and funding organizations that share their goal of social change. The report made it quite clear of their opposition to traditional or orthodox views of human sexuality when they wrote:

"Conservative and fundamentalist forces use sexuality to attack progressive sectors that work on reproductive health, women's rights, girls' education and other issues. Often using religion to justify their actions, these groups see sexuality and sexual rights-particularly women's control of their own sexuality and LGBT rights-as a tremendous threat to the status quo that they want to maintain (or a former order they are seeking to restore). Indeed, more open and positive attitudes toward sexuality would reduce the ability of vocal fundamentalists to sustain these attacks. If the terrain of sexuality is left uncontested, extremist forces will increasingly occupy the space as a base for their onslaught against human rights, religious pluralism, tolerance and social justice."

In fact, the report lists "addressing the impact of religion" as one of its five areas of emphasis to include engaging religious leaders in advocacy, promoting outreach dialog and networking to "search for common ground and increase public attention to progressive views from different faith traditions on sexuality and religion."

When asked how this connection between the Continuing Indaba project and the Ford Foundation could not help but undermine the listening process, Canon Groves insisted that none of the monies the Indaba Project received from the Satcher Institute came from the Ford Foundation and that it was in writing. When asked for the documentation, Groves said that he didn't have it with him and would need some time to get it.

The Ford Foundation gave Morehouse College $2 million from 2006-2009 to establish the Center of Excellence in Sexual Health and an additional $400,000 in funding from 2008-2010 towards its Fellowship Program and to develop a diverse donor base. Perhaps one of those diverse donors has come through with the $1.5 million Indaba funding.

While we're waiting on Canon Groves, think about this. The ACC's largest single contribution came a few years ago from the Province of Hong Kong in the amount of $750,000. The donation from the Satcher Institute is twice that amount. The questions to ask now are, "Would the ACC have continued the life of the listening process if it hadn't been fully funded by an outside source," and "Why would any church want to be the test subject for an experiment in social change engineered by a wealthy secular special interest group that opposes orthodox Christian views?"

Over the next 24 hours the election will take place for the chair of the Anglican Consultative Council. The four candidates for election which will take place on Friday are all members of the Standing Committee of the ACC.

Robert Fordham, Anglican Church of Australia Former Member of Parliament and Deputy Prime Minister of Victoria

Professor George Koshy, Church of South India Former Provincial Secretary of the CSI Former Member of the Central Committee of the WCC

Mrs Elizabeth Paver, Church of England Chair of the Board of Mirfield Former member of Archbishops' Council and former Church Commissioner, Church of England

Rt Rev Dr James Tengatenga, Church of Province of Central Africa Bishop of Southern Malawi Member of the Design Group of Lambeth 1998 ACC Representative on St George's College, Jerusalem

There was an opportunity for members to see the candidates show their paces as members of the Standing Committee chaired and presented the discussion and reports of the Network Discernment groups.

However, there is no doubt that the outstanding performer at the conference so far has been Bishop Gregory Cameron, the former Deputy Secretary General and Director of Ecumenical Studies of the ACC for the last six years who is now Bishop of St Asaph.

He has borne a great deal of the public weight of this conference.

On Monday when Archbishop Drexel Gomez made the presentation to the council on the Anglican Covenant process, Cameron handled many of the questions from the press at the press conference. On Tuesday, the Archbishop of Canterbury presented the Windsor Continuation Report since it was a report made to him, but it was Cameron who spoke alone to the media about it on Wednesday. On Tuesday and Wednesday he was the secretary to the plenary for presenting and amending the text of resolutions on the Powerpoint screen. On Thursday, Bishop Cameron made his own excellent presentation on the work of the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee for Ecumenical Relations and he will address the press on Friday about the report. This report outlines four principles for Anglican engagement in ecumenism which are in brief:

The Goal-the full unity of the church The Task-to recognize and receive elements of the one true Church The Processes-unity by stages The Content-common faith, common sacraments, common ministry.

It is the unanimous and warm consideration of the participants that the ACC has lost an excellent person through his appointment to the bishopric in Wales and that he will be hard to replace. Two of the groups of which he has been secretary have ceased their work, the Windsor Continuation Group and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations.

He made his presentation on the ecumenical relations of the Anglican Communion with energy, passion and enthusiasm as one whose heart and soul was in his work and wanted to enthuse others about it. He spoke of the enormous enrichment and joy he had experienced in meeting members of the Lord's worldwide family in its many expressions.

He ended with a good joke for the files.

"A senior Christian leader, well versed in ecumenical affairs, died and went to heaven. At the pearly gates, St Peter asked if there was anything he would like. Our hero asked for a tour of heaven. Peter offered him one for the next day which was Friday.

"On Friday, Peter took his new guest to a marvelous barbecue, overflowing with every kind of meat dish. He explained that these were all Roman Catholics who in their earthly pilgrimage had only been allowed to eat fish on Fridays, so now they were blessed with a marvelous meat barbecue.

"The next port-of -call was to a bar where all kinds of wonderful cocktails and drinks were available. These were all Methodists who on earth had not been allowed to drink.

"Then they visited a hall where people were singing and dancing, raising their hands in Alleluias and obviously pentecostal praise worship. These were the Quakers who on earth had been called to worship in silence and reflection.

"Finally they came to a room where the people were sitting around in somewhat uncomfortable silence and unease. These, Peter explained, were Anglicans who on earth had been allowed to do whatever they liked."

At the press conference, Lay Canon John Rees, who is the legal adviser to the ACC, was asked about the new constitution of the ACC. In particular he was asked about the role of the Joint Standing Committee. He pointed out that the reason for the constitutional amendments was that the former arrangements had left the trustees of the ACC, their Standing Committee, severally and personally liable for its financial obligations.

Thus when there was a half-million pound debt on the refurbishment of St Andrew's House, this was, for the time being, a debt personally for the members of the Standing Committee. This has now been cleared by the Province of Hong Kong turning a half-million pound loan into a gift. This was, Secretary General Kearon announced, the largest grant the ACC had ever received (until now of course with the most generous offering from Morehouse College).

This unsatisfactory situation for the Standing Committee had now been resolved under English Charity Law whereby the ACC had been established as a company with limited liability and charitable status. This removed the personal liability of the Standing Committee.

Canon Rees was asked what was the relation between the JSC and the constitution of the ACC. He replied that the JSC had the duty as trustees of the ACC to see that the overall purposes of the charity were sustained; if they thought the underlying purposes of the charity were being undermined they needed to take appropriate decision. The purpose of the charity is the advancement of the work of the Anglican Communion as a fellowship of churches.

There is no governing document for the Anglican Communion. There is only a collection of documents which describe the way in which the provinces operate. The JSC are the trustees of the charity, and it is therefore within their rights to make decisions (such as the one to exclude the Ugandan clergy delegate) given their overriding duty to see that the purposes of the trust are fulfilled. Thus it would appear to observers that the JSC can override the constitution or adjudicate on any ambiguities if they deem necessary.

Canon Rees also declared that one cannot be anything but aghast when Christians take each other to court; that it was always deeply dismaying when Christians think they have to resort to the courts when they cannot resolve issues in other ways. He said he was very conscious of disputes where many efforts are made to resolve them through mediation and other processes.

But in the last resort the courts are there to resolve issues that cannot be resolved elsewhere. It is dismaying when Christians cannot resolve things. However there comes a point when trustees have to act to protect their trusts, and they resort to the courts to do that if those interests cannot be protected in other ways. But it is deeply dismaying when Christians find themselves so deeply in disagreement on some issues that that they cannot find a way through to resolve these matters in a way that is mutually beneficial.



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