Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, is scheduled to have his annual meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby on December 9 and said he’s hoping to get an update about the upcoming Primates’ Meeting.
Hiltz, who said he has received a message from Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, about the agenda for the Primates’ Meeting, stressed the importance of how the conversations would be structured.
The primates (senior archbishops) of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion were invited to suggest topics for discussion at the meeting, scheduled January 11-16, in Canterbury, he said.
“There’s no question in my mind that on the agenda will be the subject of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), and its place in the life of the communion, the place of Archbishop Foley [Beach] with the primates,” Hiltz said in an interview.
Beach, head of the breakaway conservative group ACNA, has been invited to attend the first day of the gathering, but Hiltz said some primates might insist on his full attendance.
“I have a sense, though, that there will be some that will exert some pressure on [Welby] with respect to wanting to have Archbishop Foley continue to stay for the meeting,” Hiltz said. “I am hoping to get a clearer picture…of what he [Welby] sees as the dynamics around our actual gathering, and our actual staying together for the course of the whole meeting.”
Hiltz said he had heard “rumblings here and there” that some of the more conservative primates might refuse to participate in the meeting if Beach is not allowed to attend. He said, however, that he believes it is still possible for a good meeting to be had if it is organized properly.
“Without having talked to [Welby] at this point, I think what is going to be absolutely critical in this meeting is how it begins, and what he has to say as the Archbishop of Canterbury and his role as focus of unity for the Communion,” Hiltz said. “I really think that how we actually gather and begin our time together will be pretty critical.”
But Hiltz also reiterated his oft-expressed hope that the meeting will not simply focus on “domestic affairs within the household of faith,” but will also encompass “matters of global concern with respect to our common humanity and our common home, the Earth itself,” including issues such as the refugee crisis and sustainable development.
The last Primates’ Meeting was held in Dublin in 2011, while Rowan Williams was still Archbishop of Canterbury, and was attended by only 23 primates. Some boycotted the gathering to protest the decision by dioceses in the Canadian and American churches allowing the blessing of same-sex unions.
In addition to visits to Oxford and the Anglican Communion Office in London, Hiltz’s trip also included a stopover in Paris for the (Conference of Parties) COP21 climate change conference. Hiltz was invited to participate in an ecumenical prayer service on December 3 at Notre Dame Cathedral, alongside Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and suffragan bishop in Europe, David Hamid.