THE Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury this week has begun in a spirit of “extraordinary” fellowship and warm collegiality, journalists were told on Tuesday.
One of the Primates’ first actions was to invite the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, the Most Revd Michael Curry, to pray at the beginning of evensong on Monday in response to the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
Sources have described the fellowship among those at the closed gathering as “extraordinary”. Any suggestion that the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church — expected to be told of the “consequences” of his Church’s recent vote in favour of same-sex marriage (News, 29 September) — might feel uncomfortable was inaccurate.
One long-standing Primate is said to have described the meeting as “the best he can recall” in terms of relationships within the group, as well as the tone of the conversation between the Primates.
The meeting is missing three Primates from the global South — those of Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda — who have chosen to stay away over the long-standing rift in the Anglican Communion over sexuality.
In an interview with GQ magazine, due to be published on Thursday, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, described divisions within the Communion as “irreconcilable”. The absent Primates have argued that the spirit of the agreement reached last year, which included “consequences” for the United States and Canada for their support of same-sex marriage, was not upheld at the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Zambia, shortly after their gathering (News, 8 September).
The response from the Anglican Communion Office has become increasingly robust, however. Last month, the general secretary, the Rt Revd Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, spoke of “arrogance within some areas of the Communion where some Anglicans claim that they are the Church, and are the true custodians of the undiluted gospel, with the implication that the others have lost it.”
In December, he spoke of the manipulation of African Anglicans by a “very strong minority of conservatives” in the US (News, 16 December 2016).
Signs exist that some Global South Primates are more reluctant to get dragged into what they see as internal disputes within the Western provinces. Last year, the President-Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Dr Mouneer Anis, said that they had spent “almost two decades reacting to the unilateral decisions and the changes in the theology and practice made by some Churches in the West.
“Now it is time for us to also give needful attention to the challenges that are before us in the Global South. We cannot continue to focus on the faults of others while neglecting the needs of our own people” (News, 14 October 2016).
The Presiding Bishop of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America, Dr Foley Beach, was invited to attend the meeting in January 2016. It is understood that his presence at last year’s meeting was regarded as a “one-off”, to ensure the presence of the conservative Primates. This year, he was not invited.
It is not expected that any votes will be undertaken during this week’s meeting. Much of the Primates’ time will be spent on retreat in the cathedral, in prayer and meditation, with support from members of the Community of St Anselm.