Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has said that he was “taken aback” by criticism of the decision to ask the Presiding Bishop of the US-based Episcopal Church to pray for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting.
Curry prayed for the victims at the start of Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral, England, Monday, October 2, on the first day of the Primates’ Meeting.
On Tuesday, October 3, Canon Andrew Gross, Canon for Communications and Media Relations for the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), speaking on behalf of Gafcon (Global Anglican Futures Conference), said that the decision to invite Curry to lead the congregation in prayer at the Evensong service “put the Gafcon primates in a difficult spot.” Speaking at a press conference in a hotel near Canterbury Cathedral, Gross said that they were “forced to look like they are walking together when they are not walking together.” [ACNA was formed in 2009 by churches and individuals that left the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church because of deep differences over the issue of human sexuality. Gafcon includes conservative primates of the Anglican Communion.]
Later, when asked to respond to the comment during a press briefing at Canterbury Cathedral, Welby said that he was “slightly taken aback.”
He continued: “Michael Curry, who is a citizen of the United States, was asked by us – after we had talked with anguish about the events in Las Vegas – we said: ‘Could you lead a prayer as we begin our prayers together at Evensong?’
“People all over the world are praying for Las Vegas,” Welby said. “I don’t think we ought to bring church politics into Las Vegas. I mean, it is the most dreadful, horrendous, appalling event. I suppose that I would be surprised and disappointed by that comment.”
It is not thought that Gross was speaking on behalf of any of the archbishops attending the Primates’ Meeting. ACNA is not a province of the Anglican Communion and its primate, Archbishop Foley Beach, was not invited to the meeting.
This article was amended on 4 October, to make clear that Canon Gross was not thought to be speaking on behalf of any Anglican primates and that his church, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is not part of the Anglican Communion or involved in the Primates’ Meeting.