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South offers global oversight

28 February 2014


PRIMATES from the Global South of the Anglican Communion have announced that they intend to offer pastoral oversight to dissenting parishes and dioceses in other provinces.

After a meeting on 14 and 15 February in Cairo of archbishops and bishops from Africa, South America, and Asia, the Global South Primates' steering committee released a statement declaring its plan to create a "Primatial oversight council".

The statement, which was not signed by the representative of the Primate of All Nigeria, also accused the Episcopal Church in the US and the Anglican Church of Canada of causing "broken relations, a lack of trust, and dysfunctional 'instruments of unity'" within the Communion since 2003, the year in which the Rt Revd Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, was appointed Bishop of New Hampshire in the US.

The Primates wrote that they believed the time had come to "reshape the instruments of unity" to create a Church that was more accountable. They also called on the Archbishop of Canterbury to call a Primates' Meeting in 2015 "in order to address the increasingly deteriorating situation facing the Anglican Communion.

"It is important that the agenda of this Primates' Meeting be discussed and agreed upon by the Primates beforehand in order to ensure an effective meeting."

Archbishop Welby, who intends to visit every Primate during his first 18 months as Archbishop, was present at the Cairo meeting, together with his director of reconciliation Canon David Porter.

Asked for a statement afterwards, a Lambeth Palace spokesman declined to give Archbishop Welby's reaction to the Primates' move.

The Rt Revd Michael Doe, formerly Bishop of Swindon and general secretary of USPG, now Us., recently taught a session on the state of the Communion to overseas bishops at Canterbury Cathedral (News, 14 February). On Monday he criticised the statement, saying it amounted to an attempt to expand the authority of the Global South.

"Their statement misrepresents the role of the Communion-wide Primates' Meeting. It is not a policy-making body," he said. "There is no provision and no authority [for alternative oversight] in our kind of Communion."

Bishop Doe also warned of the dangers of what he called "reverse colonialism", where, as in the 19th century, one group of nations decides it has spiritual superiority and tells others how to behave.

He called for a return to a policy that acknowledged diversity and difference within the Communion, which was upheld at the last Primates' Meeting in 2011.

The Global South statement also praised the "faithfulness" of the House of Bishops in the recently released pastoral guidance on same-sex marriage ( News, 21 February).

Assembly cancelled. The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has postponed its next General Assembly, planned for October in South Korea. A WEA statement focused on "recent internal divisions among the Evangelical community" in Korea, which made the Assembly "untenable".

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