PRIMATES from the Global South and the new US Presiding Bishop, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, have confirmed their intention to attend next week’s Primates’ Meeting in Tanzania despite reports of disharmony, it was announced on Tuesday.
Speaking from Tanzania, an Anglican Communion spokesman, Jim Rosenthal, said that the only two Primates who have sent apologies were the Archbishop of Wales, who is on sabbatical, and the Moderator of the Church of North India, who had given notice earlier. All the other Primates had registered, he said.
The meeting runs next week, from 14-19 February, and takes place at the Jangwani Beach near Dar es Salaam. It will be chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury. For the first time, Dr Sentamu will attend to represent England. Although the Archbishop of York is a Primate, the convention observed hitherto has been that only one English representative attends.
He will be joined by another newcomer, the Most Revd Paul Kwong, elected Archbishop of the Hong Kong Province on Saturday. Archbishop Kwong, who succeeds the Most Revd Peter Kwong, is aged 54, and has been a bishop only since 25 March 2006.
The Episcopal Church in the US will be in the spotlight at the meeting. Two full sessions of the Primates’ Meeting, as well as two external sessions with presentations by US conservatives, will discuss the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.
A report on the Living Church website suggests that Dr Jefferts Schori is expected to face tough questioning, and is likely to outline what steps the Episcopal Church has taken in response to the Windsor Report.
Mr Rosenthal confirmed that there would also be sessions on the “listening process” proposed by the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the proposed Anglican Covenant, and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference, established for those who are unwilling to accept the direct oversight of their diocesan bishops.
At the weekend, reports suggested that conservative Primates from the Global South were continuing to refuse to sit at the same table as Dr Jefferts Schori.
An article in The Daily Telegraph suggested that Global South leaders had written to Dr Williams warning him that he had no right to invite Dr Jefferts Schori to the meeting.
The Primate of Nigeria, the Most Revd Peter Akinola, was also reported as saying that Dr Williams was not acting as a “first among equals”, and should have consulted the others before inviting Dr Sentamu.
Interviewed for The Times, the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, argued that the only thing that could hold the Primates together was the Windsor report. This approach would almost certainly demand the voluntary withdrawal of the Episcopal Church in the US. “Almost everybody involved with this question recognises that there is no way forward from here without pain. It is painful for everybody. There are not going to be winners and losers. There are going to be losers category one, two, three, four, and five. . .”
But the Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Revd Njongonkulu Ndungane, argues in this week’s paper (Comment) that “attitudes to sexuality are not faith-defining.”
“I recall Jesus’s rebuke when some disciples tried to stop a man acting in his name ‘because he is not of our group’ (Luke 9.49-50). What matters is not whether we belong to this or that group, but to Jesus.”