Wednesday 13 May 2009

ACC-14 ends with Jamaican enthusiasm in worship and members committed to mission and unity

Final blog from Jamaica. ACC-14 ends this evening with a gala supper for the members and staff. Earlier the closing service was held in the Cathedral Church of St Jago de la Vega in Spanish Town.

I’ve been reading a book I found in Devizes Library while I’ve been in Jamaica - Solitude: A year alone in the Patagonian Wilderness by Robert Kull. It’s the daily journal he kept interspersed with short reflections. Two sentences struck me this morning:

“Instead of building a self-enclosing fortress of knowledge, the intellect can be used to expand the space of awareness and enrich the experience of living. Conceptual knowledge isn’t useless or bad, but it does tend to be self-referential, and we can easily mistake it for the world it describes.”

One of the things the Anglican Communion, at the level of it’s Instruments (with the exception of +Rowan) isn’t very good at is getting out of the head, opening interior, contemplative space, giving time for awareness of what is, and remembering that not everyone sees the world the way we do.

This has been a good ACC meeting. Almost everyone agrees this is so. A few dissenters have gone away muttering about treachery and incompetence in the Covenant debate. Everyone I have spoken with here has been very positive about their experience of ACC-14 and of the future of the Anglican Communion. They will return to their Provinces with new vision and energy for the future of the Communion and I rejoice in that on behalf of Changing Attitude. It will help to strengthen bonds of affection between LGBT people across the Communion as we continue to endure resistance to our full inclusion and restrictions imposed by Provinces obeying the moratoria.

The music at today’s service was yet again inspirational. Choirs from The Queens’ School, Glenmuir High School and Kingston College sang separately and beautifully before the service from the organ gallery and combined to lead the hymns with passion. It’s pointless to print the first lines of hymns – you needed to be present to catch the rhythm and and joy of Jamaican hymnody.

The preacher at today’s service was the Rt Revd John Paterson, outgoing chair of the ACC. John is an Anglican who might be happier spending a year in the Patagonian wilderness that at an ACC meeting, though he has being doing this in one capacity or another for 21 years. He is an introvert, a contemplative. He preached on the abrupt ending of St Mark’s Gospel and concluded by writing an ending for the Gospel as the ACC members prepare to return home.

"The disciples – the members of the ACC went out and flew home from Jamaica. Trembling and panic had not seized them, other than going through customs and immigration. They told everyone they met that Christ is alive and living in Jamaica, and they fully expected him to accompany them on their journey, and to meet them when they arrived home. And what is more, they said, the Anglican Communion is alive and well, and functioning faithfully and effectively in places right around God’s world, in places of fear and strife, in places of poverty, places of wealth, places of natural disaster. Anglicans everywhere are following our Lord’s beckoning to meet him in their Galilee, in the places where they live and work, in the midst of God’s creation where which so badly needs our care."

Earlier in the address he had commented on Anglican polity which has always held that it is bishops in Synod or Council that are able to make decisions that guide the life of the church. For the Communion, he said, the Primates’ meeting cannot do that. We should look to our Primates for wise guidance and theological insights but that is quite different, in his view, from making binding decisions from which the rest of the Church is excluded.

The former Joint Standing Committee of Primates and the ACC has become the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion and should meet more than once a year, with the right balance of Primates, clergy and lay people represented. This is a significant advance in helping the four ‘Instruments of Communion’ work more cohesively together.

Bishop John Paterson has helped give the ACC a much more significant role in the Communion has he hands over to bishop James Tengatenga. This is good news for those of us who believe the Communion will be healthier with an enhanced role for lay and clergy voices.

I have enjoyed good conversations with many of the ACC members, with only the occasional hiatus. Bishop Mike Hill from Bristol is always warm and friendly, good to see Rose Hudson-Wilkin as a new England member, Archbishop Thabo Makoba from South Africa, Bishop Cathy Roskam (who suffered indignity in Nottingham), Ian Douglas and Josephine Hicks all from the USA and Christopher Potter from St Asaph and the Archbishop of Wales and patron of CA, Barry Morgan. The ACO staff (especially the media team), and the volunteers from the churches of Jamaica were unfailingly helpful and generous with smiles and time.

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