Primates may push for separate province

By on October 1, 2003

Conservative primates, or national leaders, of the worldwide Anglican Communion are preparing to pressure the Archbishop of Canterbury this month to create a new province for traditionalist Anglicans, according to published reports. Some may call upon Archbishop Rowan Williams to expel the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA) from the communion after it confirmed in early August the election of its first openly-gay bishop and gave tacit approval to the blessing of homosexual relationships, the reports said. The Anglican Communion consists of 38 provinces (each of which may contain one or more countries) that have a relationship with each other and a shared history with the Church of England. The prelates are scheduled to meet October 15-16 at Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s residence in London, at Archbishop Williams’ request. In a letter sent after American Bishop-elect Gene Robinson’s confirmation, Archbishop Williams said he was convening the “extraordinary meeting” to “discuss recent developments in ECUSA.” In a story published on Aug. 29 in Britain’s Telegraph newspaper, conservative archbishop Drexel Gomez, primate of the West Indies, said ECUSA could “choose whether it wishes to remain with us or not” by reversing its decisions. The story said that conservatives “are increasingly confident that they can force the expulsion” of the American church. In an open letter released Aug. 8, Archbishop Bernard Amos Malango, primate of Central Africa, said that ECUSA is “breaking away from us” by departing “from the Scriptures and the faith.” The issue of a separate, non-geographical province for traditionalists, which has been discussed in the past, is likely to be raised at the meeting, since conservatives in the U.S. (see related story) will be meeting the week before the primates’ gathering and have said they will ask that such a province be established. When Archbishop Williams called the meeting, conservative American bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh said that he was “confident that the archbishop will make adequate provision for mainstream Anglicans in North America.” However, Archbishop Michael Peers, the Canadian primate, who is scheduled to attend, has pointed out often that primates’ meetings are not legislative gatherings and they have grappled with disagreement before. The primates most recently met last May in Gramado, Brazil, in what is becoming an annual gathering. They considered the question of whether churches should offer blessings to homosexual couples and issued a statement acknowledging that they found “no theological consensus about same-sex unions” and, as a body, “could not support the authorization of such rites.” In an interview after the May event, Archbishop Peers noted that “the mythology of the primates’ meeting is far different from the reality … We’ve never passed a resolution. It’s a major event for people to talk to each other,” he said. In the Anglican church, the Archbishop of Canterbury is considered “first among equals,” and does not wield papal-like powers, nor does a primate have authority over a province other than his own.

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