London, England - The Anglican Church, with some forty-five million members spread around the globe, has no constitution, but shares a great deal in common. One common feature is that each of the twenty or more member Churches of the family is autonomous. The very real affinity and common life within this diverse family owes much to a habit of consultation.
For a century, Lambeth Conferences have been the characteristic major consultation. That Conference meets only once in ten years and is of Bishops only.
According to the Rt. Rev. J.W.A. Howe, Executive Officer of the Anglican Communion here, something more nimble and available is needed in a world of comtemporary pace and pressure. He says in 1968 the Lambeth Conference itself, proposed what we hope will be the answer: The Anglican Consultative Council. In 1971, from February 23rd to March 5th, the new Consultative Council meets for the first time.
The Council will meet in Limuru, Kenya. This in itself is significant. The meetings are not a Lambeth or London fixture, and will be held in different countries over the years. This helps to make it clear that membershipof the very international, inter-racial Anglican family is shared by everybody on equal terms. Nominations for the Council are not yet quite complete, but it is clear that half the individual members will be European and the other half "non-Europeans." The fifty-five members are not only Bishops. There will also be clergy and lay people and each Church will choose its own member. The Archbishop of Canterbury is a member of the Council in his own right and its President.
The Council will meet every other year and its elected Standing Committee in the intervening years. According to Bishop Howe, this should provide a continuity in the affairs and thinking of the Anglican Communion which previously has been lacking, and which can be of the first importance.
Bishop Howe says some apprehension has been expressed that the creation of the Council might indicate that the Anglican Communion is increasingly pre-occupied with itself at a time when ecumenicity should be in the forefront. He says this would be a disaster, but the danger is not great. Of the stated functions of the Council, three out of eight are ecumenical. Other Churches, it is hoped, will be grateful for an Anglican Church that can respond to their questions more quickly. Among the observers at Limuru will be representatives of the World Council of Churches and the Vatican Secretariate for Unity, and on the Agenda the title of Committee 1 is "Unity and Ecumenical Affairs."
Subjects that are virtually certain to be on the Agenda include the major re-appraisal of mission in the Anglican Communion called for in the Lambeth Conference Resolution...union negotiations and ecumenical policies, women priests...racism, the Church and society, the size of Dioceses, world poverty, marriage discipline and finance.
So, in February 1971, the members will gather from the corners of the globe in Limuru, Kenya, for the first meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. Limuru is rather remote, which should make it work easier. It is too near the equator to know whether it's in front or behind, and is 7000 feet up, which may or may not have any significance!