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Understanding the Anglican Consultative Council

The relationship between the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and the other instruments of unity
22nd April 2005

A briefing paper by Dr James Behrens

1. Summary
(1) The ACC is purely an advisory body.
(2) It is in effect a committee of the Lambeth Conference, to deal with matters on behalf of the Lambeth Conference
(3) It has no executive or administrative power.
(4) It therefore cannot declare doctrine or deal with discipline.
2. The ACC constitution
The ACC in its present form dates from a resolution of the Lambeth Conference of 1968.[1] Its main functions are[2]

(a) To facilitate the cooperative work of the member churches of the Anglican Communion.

(b) To share information about developments in one or more provinces of the Anglican Communion with the other parts of the Communion and to serve as needed as an instrument of common action.

(c) To advise on inter-Anglican, provincial, and diocesan relation­ships, including the division of provinces, the formation of new provinces and of regional councils, and the problems of extra-provincial dioceses.

(d) To develop as far as possible agreed Anglican policies in the world mission of the Church and to encourage national and regional churches to engage together in developing and implementing such policies by sharing their resources of man power money, and experience to the best advantage of all.

(e) To keep before national and regional churches the importance of the fullest possible Anglican collaboration with other Christian churches

(f) To encourage and guide Anglican participation in the ecumeni­cal movement and the ecumenical organisations, to cooperate with the World Council of Churches and the world confessional bodies on behalf of the Anglican Communion, and to make arrangements for the conduct of pan-Anglican conversations with the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox churches, and other churches.

(g) To advise on matters arising out of national or regional church union negotiations or conversations and on subsequent relations with united churches.

(h) To advise on problems of inter-Anglican communication and to help in the dissemination of Anglican and ecumenical information.

(i) To keep in review the needs that may arise for further study, and, where necessary, to promote inquiry and research.

It is the only body in global Anglicanism that has a constitution and legal standing. It meets every three years. The most recent meetings were ACC-X in Panama in 1996, ACC-XI in Scotland in 1999, and ACC-XII in Hong Kong in 2002. ACC-XIII will be held in Nottingham in June 2005. ACC-XIV will be held in 2008, the same year as the next Lambeth Conference. I understand the ACC is likely to meet first.

3. A historical analysis of the Lambeth Conferences
(a) 1897
There have been consultative committees of the Communion, at least since 1897. Resolution 4 of the Lambeth Conference of 1897[3] states

That it is advisable that a consultative body should be formed to which resort may be had, if desired, by the national Churches, provinces and extra-provincial dioceses of the Anglican Communion either for information or for advice, and that the Archbishop of Canterbury be requested to take such steps as he may think most desirable for the creation of this consultative body.

(b) 1920
Further early resolutions of the Lambeth Conference concerning the ACC are resolutions 54 to 56 of 1908, and resolutions 30, 44 and 45 of 1920. Resolution 44 of 1920 is particularly apt.

In order to prevent misapprehension the Conference declares that the Consultative Body, created by the Lambeth Conference of 1897 and consolidated by the Conference of 1908, is a purely advisory body. It is of the nature of a continuation committee of the whole Conference and neither possesses nor claims any executive or administrative power. It is framed so as to represent all branches of the Anglican Communion and it offers advice only when advice is asked for.

(c) 1930
Its committee status was confirmed in 1930 resolution 50.

The Conference reaffirms the opinion expressed in Resolution 44 of the Lambeth Conference of 1920, ‘that the Consultative Body is of the nature of a continuation committee of the Lambeth Conference, and neither possesses nor claims any executive or administrative power’.

The ACC was thus originally mainly an advisory body, a continuation committee of the Lambeth Conference.

(d) 1958
For example, in 1958 the Lambeth Conference (resolution 34)

… recommends that should any far-reaching decision be reached by the diocese of the Province [West Africa], the advice of the Lambeth Consultative Body should be sought.

Similarly in Lambeth 1958, resolution 37 concerning the Jerusalem Archbishopric

The Conference urges that at every stage reference be made to the Lambeth Consultative Body.

In Lambeth 1958 resolution 61 redefined the Lambeth Consultative Body as follows:

The Conference, while reaffirming the opinion expressed in Resolution 44 of the Lambeth Conference of 1920 that the Consultative Body is of the nature of a continuation committee of the Lambeth Conference, recommends that its duties and composition should be redefined as follows

The duties of the Consultative Body shall be:

(i) to carry on work left to it by the preceding Conference;

(ii) to assist the Archbishop of Canterbury in the preparation of business of the ensuing Conference;

(iii) to consider matters referred to the Archbishop of Canterbury on which he requests its aid and to advise him;

(iv) to advise on questions of faith, order, policy, or administra­tion referred to it by any bishop or group of bishops, calling in expert advisers at its discretion, and reserving the right to decline to enter­tain any particular question;

(v) to deal with matters referred to it by the Archbishop of Canter­bury or by any bishop or group of bishops, subject to any limitations upon such references which may be imposed by the regulations of local and regional Churches;

(vi) to take such action in the discharge of the above duties as may be appropriate, subject to the condition that with regard to Churches, provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion its functions are advisory only and without executive or administrative power.

(e) 1968
The ACC’s current form dates from resolution 69 of the Lambeth Conference 1968 under which

The Conference accepts and endorses the appended proposals concerning the Anglican Consultative Council and its Constitution and submits them to the member Churches of the Anglican Communion for approval.

Two examples of its advisory role may be seen in Lambeth 1968 resolutions 36 and 39

Resolution 36

This Conference requests the Anglican Consultative Council (or Lambeth Consultative Body)

(a) to initiate consultations with other Churches which have women in their ordained ministry and with those which have not;

(b) to distribute the information thus secured throughout the Anglican Communion.

Resolution 39

This Conference recommends that bishops should have opportunities of training for their office and requests the Anglican Consultative Council to make provision for such training where regional Churches are unable to do so.

Resolution 18 of the 1988 Lambeth Conference deals expressly with the role and powers of the ACC

[This Conference] recommends that the ACC continue to fulfil the functions defined in its Constitution (developed as a consequence of Resolution 69 of the 1968 Lambeth Conference) and affirmed by the evaluation process reported to ACC-6 (see Bonds of Affection, pp 23-27); in particular to continue its consultative, advisory, liaison and communication roles within the Communion (and to do so in close co-operation with the Primates Meeting).

An explanatory note to this paragraph of the resolution states

“We value the present work of the ACC. We do not see, however, that it ought to move beyond its present advisory role.”

(f) 1998
In 1998 the Lambeth Conference recommended various changes in the way the Instruments of Unity (the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Lambeth Conference; the ACC and the Primates meeting) work together. Thus 1998 the Lambeth Conference Resolution II.2 subparagraph (b) states

This Conference believes that the instruments of unity (the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Lambeth Conference; the ACC and the Primates meeting) need to work much more closely together and to review their mutual accountability (e.g. the ACC and the Primates meetings should consider communicating the results of their deliberations to all Bishops in the Communion);

Resolution III.6 of Lambeth 1998 recommended more integration between the Instruments of Unity.

This Conference, noting the need to strengthen mutual accountability and interdependence among the Provinces of the Anglican Communion,

(a) reaffirms Resolution 18.2(a) of Lambeth 1988 which "urges that encouragement be given to a developing collegial role for the Primates' Meeting under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, so that the Primates' Meeting is able to exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters";

(b) asks that the Primates' Meeting, under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, include among its responsibilities positive encouragement to mission, intervention in cases of exceptional emergency which are incapable of internal resolution within provinces, and giving of guidelines on the limits of Anglican diversity in submission to the sovereign authority of Holy Scripture and in loyalty to our Anglican tradition and formularies;

(c) recommends that these responsibilities should be exercised in sensitive consultation with the relevant provinces and with the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) or in cases of emergency the Executive of the ACC and that, while not interfering with the juridical authority of the provinces, the exercise of these responsibilities by the Primates' Meeting should carry moral authority calling for ready acceptance throughout the Communion, and to this end it is further recommended that the Primates should meet more frequently than the ACC;

(d) believing that there should be a clearer integration of the roles of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meeting, recommends that the bishops representing each province in the Anglican Consultative Council should be the primates of the provinces and that -

(i) equal representation in the ACC from each province, one presbyter or deacon and one lay person from each province should join the primates in the triennial ACC gathering;

(ii) an executive committee of the ACC should be reflective of this broad membership, and;

(iii) there should be a change in the name of the Anglican Consultative Council to the Anglican Communion Council, reflecting the evolving needs and structures to which the foregoing changes speak;

(e) reaffirms the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as a personal sign of our unity and communion, and the role of the decennial Lambeth Conference and of extraordinary Anglican Congresses as called, together with inter-provincial gatherings and cross-provincial diocesan partnerships, as collegial and communal signs of the unity of our Communion.

4. Recent meetings of the ACC since Lambeth 1998.
The ACC met in Scotland in 1999. It made some small amendments to the ACC constitution, and adopted its bylaws and guidelines for meetings of the ACC. It did not make any constitutional change concerning the relationship between the ACC and the other instruments of unity as proposed by Lambeth 1998. For example, the ACC is still the Anglican Consultative Council, not the Anglican Communion Council.

The ACC met in Hong Kong in 2002. Resolution 37 made one very minor amendment to clause 3(a) of the Constitution. The word ‘Council’ is replaced by ‘Standing Committee’; and Resolution 38 made a change (subject to the assent of the Primates) to the status of the Church of Tanzania . More significant is Resolution 41 which states

This Anglican Consultative Council:

1. Asks that the Standing Committee appoint a committee to review the Constitution and By-Laws of the ACC, and to report to the Standing Committee;

2. Asks that the Standing Committee circulate such proposals for amendment to the members of ACC in advance of ACC-13 [i.e. the ACC meeting in Nottingham].

Thus the ACC clearly considers that its constitution needs amendment, perhaps in response to Lambeth 1998 Lambeth Resolutions II.2 and III.6. This is likely to be one of the agenda items at Nottingham.

[1] A brief summary of its role is available at www.aco.org/acc/index.cfm.

[2] From the ‘objects’ clause in the ACC current constitution.

[3] These resolutions are available at www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/archive/index.html.

This article comes courtesy of Anglican Mainstream.

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