Agenda promises tense primates’ meeting

By on March 1, 2007

Preparations for what has become an annual meeting of the Anglican Communion’s senior bishops, or primates, heated up in January with news that three U.S. bishops – in addition to Presiding Bishop (primate) Katharine Jefferts Schori – would brief the group before their meeting Feb. 14-19 in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

In addition, a group drafting an “Anglican covenant,” a document intended to unite the Anglican Communion, was scheduled to present a report to the primates.   

Another revelation was the announcement that John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, would be at the meeting. It was the first time an Archbishop of York, the second-highest post in the Church of England, attended. “It is the hope that the presence of Dr. Sentamu will allow more discussion of church life in Britain, as the Archbishop of Canterbury’s focus is heavily global during these gatherings,” said Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams chairs the primates’ meeting with Mr. Kearon serving as secretary.

In addition, Archbishop Williams said that he was looking to the 38 primates for guidance on matters relating to the 2008 Lambeth Conference as well as looking at the Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report, a document that examined how Anglican churches can remain in communion while disagreeing.

There were also reports on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s panel of reference, which takes complaints from disaffected churches, and “the listening process,” a term given to the process of hearing the experiences of gay people. Also on the agenda was the welcoming of Hellen Wangusa of Uganda as the new Anglican Observer at the United Nations.

New primates were to be welcomed from Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia; Australia; Brazil; Burundi; Hong Kong; Indian Ocean; Ireland; Japan; Korea; Scotland; Southeast Asia and the United States.

On Feb. 18, the primates were scheduled to travel by boat to Zanzibar for a eucharist in the Anglican cathedral, where the altar is built over an old slave trading post. The people of Zanzibar are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the last slave sold in Zanzibar and the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery in the British Empire. (Please see related story, p. 11)

The three U.S. bishops were invited after conservative primates from Africa, including the host country of Tanzania, said they would not meet with Bishop Schori because of her support for more-open church attitudes toward homosexuality.

In a public statement, Bishop Jefferts Schori underscored her commitment to the collaborative work of the primates’ meeting and focused on poverty and disease as work churches need to address.

“Our shared work as primates of the Anglican Communion is strategic for addressing hunger, poverty, and preventable disease around the world, and I especially look forward to collaborating on initiatives related to the Millennium Development Goals,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said. “There is much we can achieve together in building the reign of God, but it will require us to see that God’s larger purposes transcend our internal differences. That willingness to trust in God’s leading despite our own fears and divisions is the trust Jesus showed us. May we seek to follow in his road.”

The three bishops from the U.S. were Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, head of a network of dioceses and parishes that is conservative on the issue of homosexuality; Christopher Epting, the Presiding Bishop’s Deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs; and Bruce MacPherson of Western Louisiana, president of the Presiding Bishop’s Council of Advice.

With files from wire services

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