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Primates to meet in Egypt behind closed doors

29 January 2009

by Pat Ashworth

Stifling location? A still from the 1958 film Ice Cold in Alex

Stifling location? A still from the 1958 film Ice Cold in Alex

THE PRIMATES of the Anglican Commun­ion will meet in Egypt from Sunday to Thurs­day, behind closed doors. They will use a format largely modelled on the Lambeth Conference.

It will be the first time that the Archbishops who were at Lambeth will be together with those who boycotted the event, although some acceptances had still not been received this week. On Wednesday, the secretary of the Primates’ Meeting, Canon Kenneth Kearon, put that down to “personal dis­organ­isation” on the part of some.

The draft agenda is largely an extension of the Lambeth agenda. It has been put together by the Archbishop of Canterbury and Canon Kearon, but is deliberately undetailed, and has a “degree of elasticity”. Worship, Bible study, and group discussions will have a high prior­ity. The same question as the bishops dis­cussed at Lambeth will be asked here: what impact has the sexuality debate in the Anglican Com­munion had on the mission of the individual provinces?

Five Primates have been invited to lead the debate on this. They are from the United States, Canada, Uganda, South Africa, and Pakis­tan. The Primate of Canada, the Most Revd Fred Hiltz, told the Canadian Anglican Journal that his presentation would show: “We’re a Church that’s renewing its commit­ment to God’s mission in the world; and that there’s more to the Canadian Church than discussions about sexuality; that mission is front and centre.”

Archbishop Hiltz, who feels that the Canadian position on same-sex blessings is not understood, was frustrated not to have had a platform at the Lambeth Conference, and will be pleased to have this opportunity. Of the other four, Archbishop Orombi of Uganda boycotted Lambeth, and, in an interview with a Ugandan paper at the time, claimed that in countries which supported homosexuality he was “forced to dress as a civilian because these people are dangerous”.

The Primates have requested discussion on the situation in Zimbabwe, which will also take place on Monday. The meeting will dis­cuss the latest draft of the Anglican Covenant, and consider the collected responses of bishops at Lambeth, and on Tuesday will receive a report from the Windsor Continua­tion Group. They will also have a session on the future of theo­logical education.

On Wednesday, Anglican Relief and Devel­op­ment is on the agenda, followed by an after­noon when the Primates will visit the world-renowned new library in Alexandria. Priority will be given on Thursday to the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) to be held in Jamaica in May, and to discussing the expected communiqué. The global crisis and how it is affecting the Communion will also come under scrutiny.

Canon Kearon confirmed on Wednesday that no paper had so far been received from the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) Primates concerning the pro­posed Anglican Province in North America. A report in The Living Church this week said: “Bishop Duncan said the GAFCON Primates will present a paper and make the case of an alternative province.”

Canon Kearon emphasised that the agenda was a draft, that it was in the hands of the Primates, and was often rearranged. “We haven’t received a paper,” he said. “If it’s an application by the new entity in the US to join [the Communion] we would deal with [put­ting it on to the agenda] in a business session if appropriate, but they might decide other­wise if we haven’t been notified of it.”

Of his hopes for the meeting, he said: “I think people have often approached Primates’ Meetings with apprehension. But I think they have sometimes been very difficult meetings because they have been grappling with very difficult issues.

“I think there has been quite a bit of unity towards the end of the meeting, as they come together around the communiqué. I’m hopeful that will be the same this time. I think the Lambeth Conference will have been of benefit for that, because most of them were there and will have found that to have been a positive experience. It may well help.”

Individual Primates would not be drawn to make any comment in advance of the meeting. The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, last week told the annual council of the diocese of Virginia, in his capacity as its chaplain, that he would resist the formation of an alternative North American province with “every fibre of my being”. He said on Tuesday: “I hope that the mar­vel­­lous spirit of wanting to keep the Com­mun­­ion together that was pivotal in Lambeth will also be with the Primates as we meet next week.”

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