Journeying together l-r: Archbishop Walder Dunlop Holder, Church in the Province of the West Indies, U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, Archbishop Armando Roman Guerra Soria of Central America, Archbishop Mauricio Jose Araujo de Andrade of Brazil, and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Anglican Church of Canada.
Photo: Anglican Communion News Service
Anglican primates ended their Dublin meeting (Jan. 25-30) with a passionate commitment to “journeying together in honest conversation.” They agreed that their primary responsibilities include providing “a focal point of unity” for Anglicans worldwide.
However, the absence of several primates at the meeting was keenly felt. “We’ve been aware, sometimes painfully aware, of those not with us,” the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, told a press conference. A total of 13 primates were unable to attend, six for reasons largely beyond their control. Seven primates chose to boycott the meeting to protest the blessing of same-sex unions and the consecration of a lesbian bishop last August by The Episcopal Church in the U.S. “We’ve prayed for them daily,” said Archbishop Williams, adding that while the group was committed to “maintaining a relationship with them [absent delegates],” the meeting could not “be shaped wholly by the people who are not there.”
The absence of some primates was noted by all those in attendance, including Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. “When we first gathered…there was a huge circle of chairs,” he told the Anglican Journal. Chairs of absent members were marked with the individual’s name and province. “We weren’t to occupy those chairs,” said Archbishop Hiltz.
Although he was concerned that those not present for reasons of conscience would only harden their positions, Archbishop Hiltz said he still emerged from the meeting “hopeful.” One of the great triumphs of the meeting, he said in a telephone interview from Heathrow Airport, was achieving consensus on another matter: the purpose, scope and authority of the primacy and the importance of its meeting.
He said he was among those who agreed with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ view that attending the Primates’ Meeting is an obligation. “When you go to the Primates’ Meeting,” noted Archbishop Hiltz, “you don’t represent yourself or your own conscience alone. You represent your province. To say, ‘I won’t go,’ is to deny the voice and perspective of your own church that you represent….”
Archbishop Hiltz said that a document released by the primates about the purpose and scope of their meetings was a “work in progress,” which would be shared with all the primates as well as bishops across the Communion, and the Anglican Consultative Council.
The primates also heard a presentation on gender violence, and later released a statement saying that the church must accept responsibility for its own role in “perpetuating oppressive attitudes towards women.” Anglicans must redouble their efforts to address the issue, the statement said, calling for theological and practical resources to be made available “for reference and adaptation in other local contexts.”
The primates also:
? issued a statement on climate change, asking Anglicans to recognize that “it is real and that we are contributing to the despoiling of Creation,” also calling on governments and the private sector to take “practical steps” to address the issue;
? expressed their condemnation of the murder of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato, saying “We join him [Archbishop Rowan Williams] in saying that no one should have to live in fear because of the bigotry of others”;
? said they were “dismayed by the lack of progress” in the rebuilding of earthquake-ravaged Haiti, and urged governments to deliver promised aid;
? sent a letter to President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, urging him to “use all the power and authority of your office” to put an end to abuses being committed against members of the diocese of Harare. Ω