Posted by: Titus Presler | March 24, 2013

Lack of funding for Anglican Communion Office should concern Anglicans worldwide

Fast on the heels of the March 21 enthronement of Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, which made for encouraging news around the world, the Day 1 report from the current meeting of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion leads with disappointing news of a financial squeeze for important ministries overseen by the Anglican Communion Office.

Secretary General Canon Kenneth Kearon

highlighted the fact that a major issue for the Anglican Communion Office (ACO) is a lack of funding. This, he said, meant that that for a “not negligible amount of time, staff are having to raise money for their own work.”

Canon Kearon made it clear that the work around theological education – that the Anglican Communion Office had facilitated in the past – currently had no funding whatsoever, and therefore no immediate future.

He explained that funding was also part of the thinking about the Anglican Communion’s presence in New York and Geneva for work with the United Nations and other Churches’ and non-governmental organisations’ representatives there.

As the banner of the Anglican Communion website emphasizes, the communion is present in over 165 countries, making it one of the most widely distributed religious affiliations in the world.  Such diffusion calls for coordination and channeling of energies in order to maximize our impact in the wider world, though Anglicans on a global basis, all 80 million of us, are not vertically or hierarchically organized.  Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, for instance, the Instruments of Communion have no directive authority but rather exist to guide, consult and coordinate.  Sailing the organizational winds of the 21st century, the Anglican Communion is a networking entity.

In that light, it is especially unfortunate that funding is falling short for shared initiatives.  The Anglican Communion Office is a small operation to begin with, not a bloated or power-preoccupied bureaucracy.  The physical and personnel infrastructure of St. Andrew’s House in London, where the ACO is located, is more modest than many Episcopal Church diocesan headquarters, and the relatively few funded ministries – Secretary General, Indaba Project, Mission, Theological Education, United Nations Office, Unity Faith and Order, Communications – have very few staff.  Much of the communion’s work is carried out through networks, 13 of them specifically designated on the website, which operate either without staff or with staff they support on their own.

The two ministries Kearon cited as under financial pressure are important.  Theological Education in the Anglican Communion (TEAC) has done salutary work in researching the nature and direction of theological education around the communion, and its recommendations for what constitutes adequate formation are of great help both to established theological colleges and to new fledgling efforts.  Continuing this initiative is essential, especially in view of the theological tensions that the communion has experienced over the past decade.

A particular Anglican gift over the centuries has been engagement with societal issues in the public square, and many Anglican provinces and dioceses have made robust contributions to public policy debates in their settings.  In that perspective, is it not vital that the Anglican Communion as a whole participate in the single most important global public square, which is the United Nations, both in New York and in Geneva?

Fundraising is clearly on Kenneth Kearon’s agenda, as it should be.  But this is a time for parishes, dioceses and provinces that have means – and of course not all do – to step forward proactively with special and continuing financial contributions to ensure that the particular Anglican gifts that we celebrate both internally, as in theological education, and externally, as at the United Nations, are empowered to make an impact.

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