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Williams plans trips to mend fences

Ed Beavan reports from the Primates’ Meeting in Dublin

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Far spent: a group of Primates with Dr Williams at the Emmaus Centre ED BEAVAN

Far spent: a group of Primates with Dr Williams at the Emmaus Centre ED BEAVAN

THE Archbishop of Canterbury will engage in a round of shuttle diplomacy in an attempt to improve relations with the Global South primates who boycotted last week’s primates’ Meeting.

Speaking during the closing press conference at the Emmaus Centre, near Dublin, on Sunday afternoon, Dr Williams spoke of his plans to visit some of the provinces of the absent Primates, such as South-East Asia. He said that he had recently met the Archbishop of Kenya, Dr Eliud Wabukala, one of the Primates who did not attend, taking part in “a very long and detailed conversation on a variety of matters”.

Such diplomatic endeavours would be a “long task”, he said; and trying to keep the diverse Com­munion together was “difficult”; but “the task we’ve been given, it’s part of the gift of living in the Church” and “part of the cross we carry”.

Dr Williams acknowledged that there remains a “critical situation” in the Anglican Communion. “Nobody would deny that. But that critical situation has not ended the rela­tionships, often very cordial and very constructive, between Churches within the Communion.”

Of the 13 Primates who were absent, seven from the Global South cited as their reason the policy of the Episcopal Church in the United States concerning gay bishops and same-sex unions.

Dr Williams said that there were a “significant number of absentees for a number of reasons”, but, in particular, the absence of the Global South Primates “was felt and noted every day”. Their names were placed on empty chairs in the meeting room, and candles were lit for them. But there was “no suggestion that this is somehow closing the door on those who are not with us”.

A key element of the meeting was a discussion about the nature of primacy and the work of the Primates’ Meeting. The Primates produced a working document (see below) that defined the two-yearly meeting as essentially a consultative affair. Dr Williams said that he hoped that the standing com­mittee of the Primates’ Meeting, whose nature was also discussed in Dublin, could also be part of the process to help “re-establish local and regional relationships”.

The Archbishop of Burundi, the Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, also at the press conference, said that those African Primates who had chosen not to come had not with­drawn from the life of the Com­munion; but, after the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) last year, each province, in consult­ation with its House of Bishops, had decided whether to attend or not.

“Not attending physically does not mean you are not participating in the life of the Communion.”

The Pri­mate of the West Indies, the Most Revd John Holder, said that there had always been differences in the Anglican Communion, not just over human sexuality, but the Church had always “worked out ways and means of dealing with differ­ences”.

They would continue to work hard to get through the current ten­sions.

SEVERAL statements were issued by the Primates’ Meeting. One called for the situation in Haiti to be kept at the forefront of the mind of the Communion; another flagged up the vital importance of taking action against climate change, which was affecting the livelihoods of people in developing countries; and one de­plored the recent murder of the gay human-rights activist David Kato in Uganda.

An open letter was also issued, in which the Primates committed them­selves to addressing “violence against women and girls in their provinces” through training and empowerment.

They also agreed an open letter was also sent to the President of Zim­babwe, Robert Mugabe, con­demning the continued harassment and bully­ing of church­goers in the diocese of Harare, and calling for freedom of assembly for Anglicans there.

A number of private letters will also be sent out by the Primates, one to the President of Pakistan, express­ing disquiet at the country’s blas­phemy laws and the persection of Christians; another will be sent to the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, about the Bishop in Jerusalem, the Rt Revd Suheil Dawani, whose residency permit has been suspended.

Letters are also being sent to the Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Dr Mouneer Anis, and the head of the Coptic Church in Egypt. A private letter will go to the Primate of Sudan, Dr Daniel Deng Bul, congratulating him on the country’s recent peaceful referend­um. The Primates will also write to the six countries involved in the Korean peace process.

On the final day, the Primates elected five members and alternate members for the Primates’ standing committee. These will be announced once all the Primates in the Com­munion have been informed.

Finally, it was announced that the Province of the West Indies has adopted the Anglican Communion Covenant, the third province to do so constitutionally.

Towards an Understanding of the Purpose and Scope of the Primates' Meeting: A working document

Purpose

The Primates’ Meeting is a gathering of the Primates and Moderators of the Churches of the Anglican Communion, convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Archbishop Coggan was the first to call for “meetings of the Primates of the Com­mun­ion reasonably often, for leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation. . .” (Lambeth Conference 1978)

The Windsor report expressed the hope that the Primates’ Meeting “should be a pri­mary forum for the strengthening of the mu­tual life of the provinces, and be respected by individual primates and the provinces they lead as an instrument through which new de­vel­opments may be honestly addressed” (The Windsor Report, Appendix One, paragraph 5).

By God’s grace we strive to express that unity in diversity which is the Spirit’s work among the Churches of the Com­munion and the community of Primates. That unity is ex­pressed and fostered by our study of the scriptures together, prayer and the celebra­tion of the euchar­ist. We look to the Spirit to nurture our bonds of affection as we endeav­our to work together with the other Instru­ments of Communion in the service of the gospel.

The Primates:

bring the realities, expectations and hopes of the context from which they come, thus representing the local to the global;
learn the realities, expectations and hopes of other contexts; and carry home and inter­pret the global to the local

The Primates together:

• give leadership and support as the Com­mun­ion lives out the Marks of Mission*
• seek continuity and coherence in faith, order, and ethics
• provide a focal point of unity
• address pressing issues affecting the life of the Communion
• provide guidance for the Communion
• address pressing issues of global concern
• are advocates for social justice in these situations

We endeavour to accomplish our work through:

• prayer
• fellowship
• study and reflection
• caring for one another as Primates and offering mutual support
• taking counsel with one another and with the Archbishop of Canterbury
• relationship-building at regular meetings
• being spiritually aware
• being collegial
• being consultative
• acknowledging diversity and giving space for difference
• being open to the prophetic Spirit
• exercising authority in a way that emerges from consensus‐building and mutual discernment leading to persuasive wisdom
• the work of the Primates’ Standing Committee

Commitment

In our common life in Christ we are passionately committed to journeying together in honest conversation. In faith, hope, and love we seek to build our Communion and further the reign of God.

* The Five Marks of Mission were summarised in the Mission report of 1999 and reiterated in The Anglican Covenant. They are:
To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
To respond to human need by loving service
To seek to transform unjust structures of society
To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth

Standing Committee
Role Towards the Primates’ Meeting

• care for the life and spirit of the Primates’ Meeting between meetings
• acts as a consultative council for ABC:
• has possibility to speak on behalf of the Primates’ Meeting
• Pastoral role
• sustain and strengthen relationships among all Primates and connect with other Instruments of the Communion
• help to shape the Primates’ Meetings
• ongoing bridge-building role between Primates’ Meeting and the regions

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