AT THE Lambeth Conference this year, bishops will “draw a line under some of the inward-looking approach of the past”, the Archbishop of Canterbury predicted this week at the close of the Primates’ Meeting in Jordan. Primates praised the “mature” and “grown-up” discussions at this week’s meeting.
Primates from 33 of the 40 Provinces were present. Three — those of Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda — chose not to attend, while others were detained by illness or other difficulties. Just one woman was present: the new Canadian Primate, the Most Revd Linda Nicholls.
“We were acutely aware of the ongoing tensions within the Anglican Communion,” the Primates said in a communiqué issued on Wednesday afternoon. “However, we were also profoundly conscious of the Holy Spirit in our midst, drawing us to walk together.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, held before the communiqué was released, Archbishop Welby said that the formation of new Churches that claim an Anglican identity, including the latest, the Church of Confessing Anglicans in New Zealand (News, 25 October 2019), had not been discussed. There had been no desire to discuss “those negative aspects”, he said.
The Primate in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Most Revd Michael Augustine Owen Lewis, Bishop in Cyprus & the Gulf, said, none the less, that there had been “considerable and deep talk about Anglican identity”, with reference to the fact that “Anglicans are those who are in communion with the see of Canterbury.” Not present was the Primate of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Dr Foley Beach. He had been invited as an observer in 2016 (News, 22 January 2016).
In 2016, the Primates’ Meeting asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to set up a task group to “maintain conversation among ourselves with the intention of restoration of relationship, the rebuilding of mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, recognising the extent of our commonality and exploring our deep differences, ensuring they are held between us in the love and grace of Christ.”
In Jordan, the work of this task group was considered by the Primates, who commended it to both the Lambeth Conference and the Anglican Consultative Council. The Primates recommended that another group be appointed “to continue the work of the task group to explore how we live and work together in the light of the Lambeth Conference”. Churches are invited to set apart the Fifth Sunday of Lent, Passion Sunday, “as a day to focus on the Prayers of Repentance produced by the task group”.
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Archbishop Welby spoke of their “strong support for the layout and ideas of the Lambeth Conference, and particularly for its two objectives: one of enabling us to . . . draw a line under some of the inward-looking approach of the past and, secondly, to focus on those things which affect the world.”
The formation of a new Province of Alexandria, covering Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa, was approved, and the Primates “noted progress towards a province in Sri Lanka”.
The communiqué noted with concern “the taking over by the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, of Edwardes College”. The Primates “urge the government to enter dialogue with the diocese of Peshawar, Church of Pakistan, with a view to restoring management of the College by the church authorities.” This runs counter to the wishes of staff members at the college, who are among those who have supported government control (News, 11 October 2019).
Archbishop Welby confirmed for a second time, as at the 2017 meeting, that a promised study on the “deep evil” of corruption had not been completed (News, 13 October 2017), “though we did discuss the questions of corruption at some length during the meeting”. He told the Church Times: “It just slipped off the agenda. . . You are quite right to point out our error, and I take responsibility for that. It will be dealt with now.”
The Primates also heard a report on the progress of the Safe Church Commission, noting that “the fact of past and present abuse is a matter of lasting pain and regret”.
The Primate of South Sudan, the Most Revd Justin Badi, said that the meeting had been “refreshing and very encouraging”, and “held in a mature way”. Archbishop Lewis spoke of his pleasure at holding the meeting in Jordan, which was “an absolute model of interfaith living”, and described it as “a grown-up meeting. . .
“It has not been bland, and people have spoken from the heart and spoken from the head.” He praised the Primates for not going into “a fantasy or dream world of where we ought to have been. . . It doesn’t minimise the difficulties, or paper over the differences that still exist, but it was discussed in an attitude of ‘here we are, we acknowledge our Anglican commonality now let’s go forward productively.’”
Other Primates asked to comment also praised the atmosphere. The Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd John Davies, said that it was “open and positive, warm and very friendly, with all present seeming to me to be walking together and committed to continuing to do so”.
“When we have been dealing with difficult matters we have remained positive and caring of each other,” the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Mark Strange, said.
The Primate of Australia, Dr Philip L. Freier, a member of the task group, said that it had “put forward the importance of a spirit of repentance”, and outlined “a programme for a season of repentance for the Communion”.
He said: “We are all aware of our failings, personal and corporate, that mean we have fallen short of the glory of God. Where we have failed to protect children and vulnerable people from harm in the Church, or failed to speak truth to power or become entangled in the power and privilege of the world, along with many other things, we see the imperative to repent. We receive this as the Spirit‘s call to the Church.
“We recommended the possibility of a Communion-wide eucharistic liturgy as a way of embodying our unity. We affirmed work that has been done in a number of places to better describe the theological characteristics of Anglicanism, and made proposals for consideration by the other Instruments of Communion.”