The biggest-ever international Anglican gathering to hit these shores is almost upon us.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) will be in Auckland in October for almost two weeks.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime event: the first and last chance to see and hear this Archbishop of Canterbury in our part of the world, and the only chance most of us will ever have to sample an ACC meeting firsthand.
The Anglican Consultative Council, of course, is one of the four ‘Instruments of Communion’ that hold Anglicans together. And in the mind of Bishop John Paterson, who chaired the ACC from 2002-0, and who chairs the hosting group for ACC15, it may be the most important.
That’s because it’s the only one of those four, which is fully representative. In other words, it’s the only one which includes elected lay people, and clergy – as well as bishops.
“The ACC provides the only opportunity,” he says, “for Anglicans to talk through their mission and ministry opportunities and challenges in a fully representative forum.”
Bishop John spoke to General Synod/te Hinota Whanui in Fiji about the upcoming ACC meeting, and he drew particular attention to four events within its 10-day schedule.
The first event to note, he said, is the powhiri –and grand opening event – that will kick off at 10am on Saturday October 27 at the Telstra Events Centre in Manukau.
Everyone’s invited. And Bishop John urged members of General Synod to invite people in their churches “to fill that stadium to capacity that morning.”
An Anglican schools kapa haka party will ensure that powhiri is an eye-opener for our international guests. Anglican schools from Auckland and Waikato will be on stage – hopefully strengthened by a group from Te Aute and Hukarere.
Of course, there’ll be speeches and more song, too, and there’ll be a forum in which young people get the chance to ask the Archbishop of Canterbury about the state of our church and its future.
Bishop John made a droll suggestion as to the kind of off-spinners that the Archbishop of Canterbury could find himself facing there:
“Dr Williams… are you related to Henry and William Williams?
“Then what about Sonny Bill?”
Next up, there’s the opening Eucharist, which will take place in Holy Trinity Cathedral the following day, Sunday October 28, at 10am – and the Archbishop of Canterbury will preach the sermon.
That service, which is also open, will be a unique chance for New Zealanders to see and hear Dr Williams in action.
Later that Sunday, the cathedral will host the “Networks Fayre” – a display of the work of the 14 networks which tackle issues of mission and social justice for the Communion. That will be open to all-comers, too, for the hour before the Cathedral Evensong begins at 5pm.
Of course, the ACC has a full business agenda, which will be anchored around daily worship and Bible study, and there’ll be three public presentations in the cathedral, each chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
On the evening of Tuesday, October 30 there’ll be a presentation on ‘Gender-based Violence’, which will be followed, two days later, by another on ‘The Environment’. And on the following Tuesday there’ll be a third, which will focus on ‘Witness’.
Undoubtedly, though, once ACC15 is actually under way, its emotional highpoints will come on the two days when it actually clears outof Auckland.
On the Thursday of the first week the entire ACC will travel to Ngaruawahia, and spend the day at Turangawaewae marae with the Kingitanga.
And on Sunday, November 4, midway through the gathering, the Archbishop of Canterbury will fly south to see for himself what has befallen ‘our’ Canterbury.
He’ll preach in Christchurch that day, and he's not the only one to be heading out of Auckland on that middle Sunday.
All members of ACC will fan out to cathedrals, parishes and pastorates, and to the major hui amorangi centres that day for a “Mission Encounter”.
They’ll engage in a discussion on mission with the people of these local churches – and then return to Auckland primed to take part in ACC15’s own discussion on mission, which is scheduled for Monday November 5th.
Bishop John says ACC15 is a unique opportunity for this province.
“The three-tikanga church which we hold so dear,” he says, “is still perhaps the Anglican Communion’s best-kept secret.
“We have a wonderful opportunity to throw open our doors and our hearts to the Communion as we host this meeting – and to experience for ourselves something of what Archbishop Robert Runcie described as the 'bonds of affection’ which still characterise us as Anglicans.”