First published in The Church of England Newspaper.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has rejected Africa’s call to suspend the Dublin primates meeting, a spokesman for Dr. Rowan Williams’ tells The Church of England Newspaper, and the meeting will go on as scheduled.
On Nov 17 Lambeth Palace confirmed that Dr. Williams had received a letter from CAPA chairman Archbishop Ian Earnest. This letter raised a “concern about the planning process for the Primates’ Meeting and request[ed] that it be postponed.”
“However, given the closeness of the time, and the fact that the majority of Primates have already indicated that they will attend, the Archbishop of Canterbury is not minded to postpone the meeting whose date was set two years ago,” the Lambeth Palace statement said.
Dr. Williams’ decision not to postpone the Dublin meeting, will likely cause a quarter to a third of the primates to stay away, replicating the divisions surrounding the 2008 Lambeth Conference where a majority of African bishops boycotted the meeting.
CEN reported in its Nov 12 issue that Dr. Williams had written to the primates on Oct 7, asking for comments on plans to hold multiple small group gatherings of like-minded Primates, rather than the current format of a single plenary session.
In a letter to the CEN published last week, Canon Kenneth Kearon, writing as the “Secretary General of the Anglican Communion”, denied the report, stating there were no plans to cancel or suspend the meeting.
However, at the close of a two day meeting in Nairobi of the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA) primates on Nov 9, Archbishop Earnest wrote to Lambeth on behalf of the African church asking the Dublin primates meeting be postponed so as to avoid the scandal of a boycott, and “save face” for Dr. Williams.
Lambeth Palace told Church of England Newspaper that the “Archbishop’s intention is for [the Dublin meeting] to be a very different style of meeting driven by the need for discernment and dialogue around those issues that affect the life of the Communion.”
The spokesman added that Dr. Williams was “pleased to note that Archbishop Earnest expresses on behalf of the CAPA Primates that there is no desire to exclude anyone from the meeting and the Archbishop of Canterbury is anxious that all Communion Primates and Moderators recognise the importance of this event.”
A disconnect between Dr. Williams and the CAPA primates may be present, however, as the CAPA primates told Dr. Williams on Aug 24 during the All African Bishops Conference in Entebbe that if US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and Archbishop Fred Hiltz were there, they would not come. This view was reiterated in the Nov 9 letter, sources note.
The agenda for the Jan 25-31 meeting at the Emmaus Conference Centre north of Dublin has not been published, apart from the plans to break the meeting up into small group discussion sessions. Nor have any public events been planned for the meeting, a spokesman for the Church of Ireland reported. Unlike past primates meeting which included public worship at local Anglican churches and cathedrals, the Church of Ireland told CEN that no requests had been for Christ Church or St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin to host the primates.
This article, by George Conger, a well-know advocate for the Global South, speaks further to the reality that the G.S. Primates, who met earlier in October in England, had not informed the Archbishop of Canterbury of their intention not to commit themselves to the Covenant Process – until just before the end of the General Synod of the Church of England that made the decision to send on the Covenant for further discussion within the dioceses of the C.of E.
Perhaps the biggest surprise here is that the Chair-person of CAPA, (African Provinces), Archbishop Ian Earnest, had asked the ABC to defer the Primates Meeting scheduled for Dublin in 2011, and were met by his response in the negative: “… given the closeness of the time, and the fact that the majority of Primates have already indicated that they will attend, the Archbishop of Canterbury is not minded to postpone the meeting whose date was set two years ago,” – the Lambeth Palace statement said. (n.b. this Meeting is called at the invitation of the archbishop of Canterbury).
As Primates of GAFCON had already said they would not attend the Primates Meeting if the TEC and A.C.of C. Provincial Primuses were in attendance; and both Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori of TEC and Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the A.C.of C. have already accepted invitations from the ABC to be present at the Meeting; it would seem that Dublin could be a time of consolidation for Primates from the world-wide Communion who are willing to affirm (or at least to discuss) the actions of TEC and the A.C.of C. that the G.S. Provinces have taken exception to – without further splitting the Communion.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch