Two people from the Diocese of Leeds were part of a meeting of Anglicans from around the world when they a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) in Ghana last week.
Canon Jane Evans, a member of General Synod for the Diocese of Leeds, was elected as the Church of England’s lay representative to the ACC, alongside the Bishop of Norwich, and Revd Dr Andrew Atherstone from Oxford as representatives of the House of Bishops and House of Clergy respectively.
Dr Ben Walker, Strategic Programme Manager at Church House, was there in his capacity as a volunteer co-coordinator of the Anglican Health & Community Network (AHCN), which aims to connect and equip Anglicans both to provide health care and advocate for equitable health-care in their various contexts.
The ACC is the group of representatives, lay, clergy and bishops, of the 42 provinces (member churches) across the world-wide Anglican Communion.
It meets roughly every three years, and this year was hosted by the Anglican Province of West Africa and the Diocese of Ghana.
Participants were invited to gather together for prayer, worship, Bible study and discussion on matters of common concern, to promote the unity and purposes of the churches of the Anglican Communion in mission, evangelism, ecumenical relations, communication, administration and finance.
Jane said: “This is a wonderful reminder of the global spread of the Anglican Church.
“We joined with colleagues from as far apart as Angola, New Zealand and the West Indies.
“Although we have our differences, there is more that unites than divides us, and the sense of fellowship and mutual support was very strong.”
The agenda for the meeting was arranged around the ‘Five Marks of Mission’, under the headings Tell, Teach, Tend, Transform and Treasure.
Each day began with worship, then Bible study on a passage from Mark’s gospel relating to the theme of the day.
The various commissions and networks that work under the ACC’s auspices gave their reports and stimulated discussion on key issues such as gender justice and the role of women, science and faith and care for creation.
“While there are difference of understanding and interpretation of the Bible’s teaching amongst various members of the Anglican Communion, it is these differences which have been widely reported, rather than the many areas on which we strive to work together and support one another,” said Jane.
“This has been an opportunity to see both the extraordinary beauty of connections across the Anglican Communion, and also be challenged by the pains and wrongs of our past as a church,” added Ben.
A key moment was a visit to Cape Coast Castle, a ‘slave fortress’ that was built by the British as a place where enslaved people were bought and sold, then kept incarcerated in appalling conditions until they were shipped across the Atlantic to the West Indies and the Southern USA.
Jane said: “What we saw was humbling and saddening.
“So much hurt was caused, much of it in the name of the church, the repercussions of which are still felt today.”
Ben, an expert in global health and religion, addressed the meeting alongside the Anglican Alliance and Families Network.
He spoke of how Ghanaians have taught the world how to live out Jesus’s call to heal the sick, and referred to the AHCN’s work in drawing people together to tackle malaria and mental health issues.
“We share a hope for what is possible when we share Jesus through healing the sick and improving health for all, regardless of wealth or status.
“Jesus commanded us to preach the Kingdom and heal the sick.
“That’s how you plant churches, by serving people’s needs,” he said.