Anglican Communion News Service
Related Categories: ACO – Primates Meeting
The day began with a presentation on the work of The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission for Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO). Chairman of the commission, Archbishop of Burundi the Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, reminded the group that IASCUFO is a commission set up following a resolution at the 14th Anglican Consultative Council, endorsed by the Primates’ Meeting. It is a combination of two former commissions: the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations (IASCER) and the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission (IATDC), and it has also picked up the work of the Windsor Continuation Group.
He told fellow Primates that the December meeting of IASCUFO in South Africa saw the members work in four groups: one studying the definition of ‘church’. Archbishop Bernard said, “We are asking: ‘Is the Anglican Communion a Church or a communion of Churches?’” The second group is looking at the Anglican Communion Covenant and resources for studying it. The third group is studying the Instruments of Communion, their theological meaning and how they relate to one another. The fourth group is considering the topic of ‘reception’, that is how the work of the Instruments and of ecumenical dialogues is communicated and understood at all levels of the Anglican Communion.
Archbishop Bernard said that, in addition to the Instruments of Communion, there are other informal mechanisms that contribute to strengthening, enlivening and uniting the Anglican Communion. He gave as examples the international Anglican Networks, Anglican mission agencies, principles of canon law, and the Mothers’ Union.
Later the Primates went on to discuss what they believed were the key points from the last few days. These included expectations of Primates’ Meetings, the role of a Primate, the place of the United Churches (such as those in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) in the Communion and the reality of the linguistic diversity of the Communion.
At the request of the Primates, the group stopped on the way to their evening meal in Dublin city centre to make a short visit to Trinity College Dublin to see the Book of Kells, an illuminated 9th Century Celtic manuscript of the Gospels.
From this report, the Archbishop of Burundi is speaking of the relative importance of the various ‘Instruments of Communion’. What has become obvious to onlookers is that the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as ‘Primus inter pares’ is once again under scrutiny – not from enemies of that historic title and role, but rather from the reasonable persepective of precisely what it means to hold that position of leadership in the Communion of today.
What was interesting was the discussion of links other than the official ‘Instruments’, as being at least equally important to the witness of the Gospel. The ongoing missionary partnerships of the Communion are considered to be mainly stable witnesses to the ongoing trust and faithfulness of inter-Provincial partnerships.
Perhaps these discussions – between willing partners of Communion Primates – will emerge as being seminal to the ongoing resilience of the Communion Partner Provinces to maintain the traditional charism of Unity in Diversity that has marked out Anglicanism – in the face of sometimes strident and schismatic (and current) tendencies to the contrary.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch