Primates' meeting ends

by
19 February 2007

Latest report from the Primates’ Meeting

Family friends: Frank and Naomi, children from St Mary’s, Dar es Salaam, meet the Primate of All Ireland, the Most Revd Alan Harper ROSENTHAL/ACNS

Family friends: Frank and Naomi, children from St Mary’s, Dar es Salaam, meet the Primate of All Ireland, the Most Revd Alan Harper ROSENTHAL/ACNS

Monday 5 p.m. - On Monday afternoon, before issuing their final communiqué, the Primates in Tanzania released the report of the covenant design group. This included the draft covenant, drawn up at the group's meeting in January, and the subject of debate at the five-day Primates' Meeting.
 The official release, and the draft covenant, can be found at www.anglicancommunion.org/acns/articles/42/50/acns4252.cfm

A link to the communiqué will be posted on this site tomorrow morning. For full report and analysis, see this Friday's paper.

Our earlier report:

TENSION was high, speculation was rife, and security was tight, as the Primates’ Meeting started in Tanzania.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, arriving in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday, acknowledged: “We have a difficult meeting ahead of us, with many challenges and many decisions to make. I hope that all the people of the Church will be praying for us as we meet together as the leaders of the Anglican Church worldwide, and that God’s will will be done.”

The Primates are gathering in a heavily guarded wing of the White Sands Hotel, in a coastal resort 15 miles north of Dar es Salaam, the commercial capital of Tanzania. Next door, in the Beachcomber Hotel, Primates from the Global South arrived four days before the meeting to plan their strategy — a meeting originally scheduled to have taken place in Kenya. One Primate, when challenged by The Daily Telegraph’s religious-affairs correspondent, is reported to have boasted: “This isn’t an alternative headquarters. It is the headquarters.”

The Global South Primates are accompanied by advisers and lobbyists from England and the United States, including Bishop Martyn Minns of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), a missionary initiative of the Church of Nigeria, and Canon Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream.

The Global South coalition, led by the Archbishop of All Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, is expected to press for the solution demanded in its Kigali communiqué of September 2006: a separate Anglican jurisdiction in the United States, in the shape of a new province, which would include both CANA and the conservative group the Anglican Mission in America (News, 29 September). Reports suggest that it would be run by a college of bishops and have its own Presiding Bishop.

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The coalition was reported on Wednesday to be proposing an alternative agenda for the Primates’ Meeting, and to have sent a letter to that effect to Dr Williams on Monday. The contents of the letter have not been made public, but reports say that the Global South leaders are demanding the withdrawal of the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, whom Dr Williams had invited to the meeting.

The Revd Dr Kenneth Kearon, general secretary of the Anglican Communion Office, had expressed the hope that Dr Sentamu’s presence would “allow more discussion of church life in Britain, as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s focus is heavily global during these gatherings”.

The Revd Dr Kenneth Kearon, general secretary of the Anglican Communion Office, had expressed the hope that Dr Sentamu’s presence would “allow more discussion of church life in Britain, as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s focus is heavily global during these gatherings”.

It transpired on Tuesday that another Nigerian Archbishop had flown to the meeting: the Archbishop of the province of Bendel, the Most Revd Nicholas Okoh, a former colonel in the Nigerian army.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, with three invited American bishops, was due to address an extra-curricular session about the state of US Anglicanism on Wednesday at 2 p.m., but this was later rescheduled to the following day.

The Global South coalition — many of whom declared before the meeting that they could not sit at the same table as Dr Jefferts Schori — is also said to be sticking to its demand that she be barred from the main meeting.

In an interview with The New York Times at the weekend, Dr Jefferts Schori declared her belief that opposition to the Episcopal Church came from a “handful of Primates”, led by Archbishop Akinola, with support from Uganda and Rwanda. “It’s abundantly clear that there’s a diversity of opinion in the Communion,” she said.

Most members of the Episcopal Church supported the Church, were engaged in worship and mission work, and were not interested in the controversy: “A number of the Primates have perhaps inaccurate ideas about the context of this Church. They hear from the voices quite loudly that this Church is going to hell in a handbasket. The folks who are unhappy represent a small percentage of the whole, but they are quite loud.” The newspaper quoted a figure of 45 congregations that have left to affiliate with provinces overseas, out of 7500.

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The likelihood of the dismissal of Dr Jefferts Schori drew an impatient response from the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane. He told The New York Times: “To be quite frank, they are behaving like schoolboys. She has been constitutionally elected. We should be embracing her. She is a super person.”

Archbishop Ndungane described the Church’s true mission in Africa as being to confront AIDS, poverty, war, and famine. “I wonder if somebody could calculate how much money is being spent on these meetings, which deal with one issue and one issue only, when we have 48 million orphans. Whose agenda is this? Definitely, in my view, this is not God’s agenda. Nor is it the average Anglican’s agenda. I interact with people on the ground. They don’t care about the lifestyles of people in America.”

The official agenda consists of 16 sessions, three of them on the response of the Episcopal Church in the US to the Windsor report. Chaos appeared to be reigning over the viability of the Primates’ standing committee, which was due to report on the Windsor process at the meeting. Of the five members elected by the meeting in Newry in 2005, only one, the Archbishop of Central Africa, the Most Revd Bernard Malango, was present and eligible. In the absence on sabbatical leave of the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, it will fall to Elizabeth Paver, one of two members of the Anglican Consultative Council standing committee, to deliver a joint report.

The Anglican Covenant should have a high profile at the meeting, and was scheduled to be presented and discussed today. The chairman of the Covenant Design Group, the Archbishop of the West Indies, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez, described himself as “very optimistic” at a press conference in Nassau before he left for Tanzania. He said: “To a very large extent, the future of the Anglican Communion is dependent upon what we are able to accomplish.”

The Archbishop of Canada, the Most Revd Andrew Hutchison, suggested that Canada would have a key part to play at the meeting. “We’ve learned how to listen to each other; and we’ve learned how to talk to each other,” he said.

One of the sessions was scheduled to be on the process of listening to gay people, to which the Lambeth Conference committed the Communion in 1998. The Revd Colin Coward, director of the British pro-gay organisation Changing Attitude, is in Dar es Salaam, with the director of Changing Attitude Nigeria, Davis Mac-Iyalla.

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Mr Mac-Iyalla introduced himself to Archbishop Akinola in the hotel lobby. He reported that the Archbishop jokingly asked him whether he was invited to the meeting. “I am very happy to have met him and been greeted warmly by him,” said Mr Mac-Iyalla. “I am happy now that the truth I have always told about myself — that I am a gay Nigerian Anglican — has been witnessed by my own Primate.”

Support for the Windsor report and for Dr Williams came last week from the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey. Speaking about the Anglican Communion at Duke Divinity School in the United States, Lord Carey said: “I fully support the present Archbishop of Canterbury in his desire to hold the Communion together and to find a way out of the present serious situation we are in. The Windsor report, if accepted by all, would strengthen the Communion and heal our brokenness.”

Lord Carey called for a generosity that would include: “American church leaders recognising that the conservative voice has not always been heeded, and that some fine conservative priests have been badly treated. It will, by the same token, require conservative leaders and clergy recognising also that some behaviour towards their diocesans has fallen short of a spirit that is Christian.”

Pleas for moderation were still being made at the eleventh hour. On Monday, the Society of Catholic Priests, representing 500 mainly English liberal Catholic clerics, called on the Archbishops to refrain from action against the Episcopal Church in the US. It warned them not to treat it as the source of all the problems in the Communion, but to recognise that “fractures with the Communion run not between but through provinces, dioceses, and parishes”.

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The Church Times went to press before any outcome of the Primates’ Meeting was known. We will post the final communiqué, if there is one, on this website,  when we receive it. Full analysis in next week’s paper

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