The Five Marks of Mission: Today and Tomorrow – ACC prepares for 18th plenary

2 February 2023 • Persistent link:

The 18th plenary meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council will take place in Accra, Ghana, from 12 to 19 February. The Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) is one of four “Instruments of Communion or “Instruments of Unity” of the global Anglican Communion of 42 autonomous and interdependent-yet-interdependent Churches present in more than 165 countries. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, is President of the ACC and will join other members of the ACC in Accra for this month’s meeting.

While in Ghana, members of the ACC will visit the Cape Coast Castle, a former staging post for slaves being transported from West Africa to the Americas. An act of reconciliation will take place during a service in the neighbouring Christ Church Cathedral.

The meeting is grounded in prayer, worship and Bible study, with a daily pattern of Morning Prayer, Bible study, Eucharist, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer.

An opening service will take place on Sunday 12 February, at the Church of Christ in Legon, Accra, attended by the President of Ghana, Mr Nana Akufo-Addo. The Chair of the ACC, Archbishop Paul Kwong, will preside at this service, and the preacher will be the Archbishop of Canterbury, Archbishop Justin Welby.

The closing service wil take place at St George’s Garrison Anglican Church in Ghana. Archbishop Justin Welby will preside and Archbishop Paul Kwong will preach – his final act as Chair of the ACC.

Archbishop Paul Kwong will step down as Chair of the ACC at the conclusion of this meeting, as will the Vice Chair, Canon Maggie Swinson, and five other members of the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee. Elections for a new Chair and Vice Chair, and replacement Standing Committee members, will take place during the plenary meeting.

Some 110 members from 39 of the Anglican Communion’s 42 provinces will be present in Accra for ACC-18; as well as five ecumenical guests. Three provinces: the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), the Eglise Anglicane du Rwanda, and the Church of the Province of Uganda have not nominated members to represent them at the ACC, in line with their policy of not participating in meetings of the Anglican Communion’s Instruments of Communion over continuing disagreements with parts of the Communion, especially in the area of sexual ethics.

ACC members will be asked to consider a proposal from the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) for a new piece of work exploring issues of structure and decision-making in the Anglican Communion, “as central to our call to be one”.

A paper from IASCUFO to the ACC says that “the Anglican Communion has faced several structural challenges in the last few decades, which we have yet to address consistently and coherently. Inter-Anglican ‘impairment’ first appeared with respect to the ordination of women, which the Communion sought to address in an orderly and respectful way, both at the Lambeth Conference and in a subsequent commission that coined the phrase ‘highest degree of communion possible.’ In a few cases, provincial churches have sought to accommodate varying views by developing structures of differentiation, which have been understood as ecclesiological experiments.

“Disagreements about same-sex relationships and their place in the Church have proven to be more protracted, and they remain unresolved. While the teaching of Lambeth Conference 1998 [resolution] 1.10 serves for most Anglicans as an important and even authoritative touchstone, many others would wish to see it updated or dropped altogether. Amid continuing doctrinal, theological, and exegetical disagreement, as well as widening division, several churches have declined to attend the meetings of the Lambeth Conference in both 2008 and 2022 and have absented themselves from the other Instruments of Communion. Meanwhile, other provinces have changed their teaching and practice to accommodate same-sex marriage.”

The paper explains how “a range of improvisational differentiation” has “developed in a series of ad hoc decisions and strategies” and says that “as a group asked to wrestle with precisely these questions, IASCUFO believes that the Anglican Communion should try to say again what it believes and to seek a faithful, visible expression for life together in the Church.”

Its proposal is for a looking at “good differentiation”. This, IASCUFO says, “would not seek to presume the inevitability of such differentiation, nor enshrine it for the long term, nor take sides in our painful divides. Rather, the task would be to recognise the reality and depth of our divisions and attempt to describe them in as theologically responsible a manner as possible.

“This will require a doctrine of the Church founded in the Christ-formed unity of ‘one body through the cross’ that may make sense of the hard work of reconciliation to which we are called, not only among Anglicans but with all Christians). So far from seeking to complete or heal our Communion, our interest will be to view the Anglican vocation through a broadly ecumenical lens.”

ACC members will be asked to “affirm the importance of seeking to walk together to the highest degree possible, and learning from our ecumenical conversations how to accommodate disagreement patiently and respectfully.”

There will be an opportunity to hear from a task force, chaired by Archbishop Philip Richardson of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, looking at how to strengthen the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee so that it better supports the Instruments of Communion. The Working Group was appointed by Primates and the work has been carried forward by the Standing Committee.

ACC-18 will also provide space for the 13 authorised Networks and six Commissions of the Anglican Communion to share updates on their work, focusing on the Anglican Communion’s five Marks of Mission. These Marks of Mission were first adopted (as four Marks of Mission) by the ACC nearly 40 years ago, in July 1984, at ACC-6 in Badagry, Nigeria.

The Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Bishop Anthony Poggo, will attend his first meeting of the ACC since taking up his new role in September last year. He said today: “My hope and prayer is that as we consult on how the five Marks of Mission are implemented in various provinces and contexts, we will learn from each other, find encouragement and also challenge each other to do more. We hope that as a result of this gathering, we will revitalise the five Marks of Mission.”

The full programme for ACC-18 will be published soon on a dedicated microsite – – along with the supporting papers and reports. The summary programme includes:

Day 1: Sunday 12 February
The first Mark of Mission: Tell

Day 2: Monday 13 February:
The second Mark of Mission: Teach

Day 3: Tuesday 14 February
The third Mark of Mission: Tend

Day 4: Wednesday 15 February

Day 5: Thursday 16 February
The fourth Mark of Mission: Transform

Day 6: Friday 16 February
The fifth Mark of Mission: Treasure

Day 7: Saturday 17 February

Day 8: Sunday 18 February