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Impressions of ‘gracefulness’

by Ed Beavan

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What manner of communications? The final press conference at the Primates' Meeting with, left to right, the Primate of Burundi, the Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, Dr Williams, and the Primate of West Indies, the Most Revd John Holder

What manner of communications? The final press conference at the Primates' Meeting with, left to right, the Primate of Burundi, the Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd David Chillingworth, Dr Williams, and the Primate of West Indies, the Most Revd John Holder

THE Dublin Primates’ Meeting represented “comfort-zone Angli­can­­ism”, the Bishop of Argentina and chairman of the conservative GAFCON network, the Rt Revd Greg Venables, said this week.

Speaking on behalf of the GAFCON Primates of Uganda, Rwanda, West Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, and the Southern Cone — none of whom went to Dublin — Bishop Venables said that the meeting “had ignored the difficult issues that divide us.

“There was a denial of the serious­ness of the crisis facing the Communion which led to the absence of Primates representing two-thirds of the Anglican Com­munion, and there remains a com­plete lack of trust, which every day is getting worse.

“The Dublin meeting has just made things worse, as they did not deal with the reasons why people stayed away, or the causes of the divisions in the Anglican Church.”

Commenting on the new defini­tion of the standing committee of the Primates’ Meeting, Bishop Venables said that the creation of a new “centralised” body reminded him of Animal Farm: “It seems all Primates are equal but some are more equal than others.”

But the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, who attended the conference, said that it had been “a wonderful meeting, filled with grace”, with “challenging conversations but a clear sense that everyone is working together”.

She urged the absentees to come back to the primatial table for talks. “The reality is that conversations can be difficult with anyone. If we’re not willing to continue in conversa­tion, there’s not much opportunity for healing or reconciling.

“We need to come to the table. I certainly hope and pray my brothers who stayed away can find it in their hearts at some point to come back to the table.”

Speaking to the Anglican Journal, the Canadian Primate, the Most Revd Fred Hiltz, said that the boycott had had a “profound” effect on the gathering; but Primates not attend­ing “in some sense” denied “the voice and perspective of your own Church that you represent”.

He said that the meeting “was not in any way dominated by discus­sions around sexuality”, and the issue of the blessing of same-sex unions was “just not a big-ticket item” as at previous meetings.

He said that everybody partici­pated fully in every aspect of the meeting, including the eucharist.

But, besides emerging from the meeting with hope, Archbishop Hiltz left with a feeling of “angst”, because, since the next meeting is in 2013, it means that there will have been a period of four years since the absent Primates attended a meeting. “A lot can happen in four years in terms of hardening of positions, entrenching of perspectives.”

He said that the Primates’ standing committee would need “to reach out to them as soon as possible and bring them into conversation and renewed fellowship with their colleagues”.

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