The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has rejected an invitation to attend a joint meeting in April of U.S. and Canadian bishops later this month in a move that the Canadian primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, said is clearly linked to the turmoil over homosexuality.
“It does send a very, very negative symbol to the Canadian church, no question,” Archbishop Hutchison said in an interview. “The message it sends to us is that at the moment he does not want to be associated with the Canadians.”
Archbishop Williams’ reason for declining to attend the meeting, scheduled for April 25-May 1 with sessions in Windsor, Ont., and Detroit, was “the present situation and he also refers to a meeting that he should be attending,” said Archbishop Hutchison. However, he added, “Our invitation went out to him over a year ago and I’m sure that this (other) meeting is not something that he (had) committed (to) before our invitation.”
Archbishop Hutchison said he was troubled by Archbishop Williams’ decision. “I’m very upset because it goes against what I believe is his own personal position (on homosexuality) and he has expressed it pretty publicly and in other circumstances,” he said.
Bishop Michael Garrison of the diocese of Western New York said he was “saddened” that the archbishop would not attend. “It would have been a good opportunity for him to have interaction with Canadian and American bishops.” However, he added, “the whole purpose of the meeting is to have U.S. and Canadian bishops interact and network.”
Late last year, Archbishop Williams backed out of a meeting of the Council of African Provinces in Africa for similar reasons.
The North American bishops’ meeting, which has been in the planning stages for more than a year, is scheduled to include the primates of the U.S. and Canadian churches, about 40 American bishops and the full Canadian house of bishops (also about 40).
From April 25-27, the Canadian bishops will hold their regular spring meeting. They will be joined by their American counterparts on April 27, and the joint gathering continues until May 1.
They are expected to discuss the state of religion in Canada and the U.S., with discussions led by Walter Brueggeman, author and retired professor from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Ga.