Archbishop Justin excited by prospect of “extraordinary” Primates’ Meeting
The Archbishop of Canterbury has been speaking of his excitement at the prospect of next month’s Primates’ Meeting. Archbishop Justin has invited primates and moderators from around the Anglican Communion to Canterbury for the meeting, which runs 2 – 6 October. The gathering gives Anglican leaders an opportunity to discuss major issues within their provinces, broader topics affecting the whole Communion and more general global matters.
“I am greatly looking forward to the Primates meeting,” the archbishop told ACNS. “It’s an extraordinary feeling to have the leaders of all the provinces gathering together to pray, to encourage one another, to weep with one another, to celebrate with one another.”
The final agenda will be agreed by the primates themselves at the beginning of the meeting. But it is expected to include sessions on mission and evangelism; reconciliation and peace-building; climate change and environment; and migration and human trafficking.
This is the first time that the primates have met since their meeting and gathering in January 2016. In a video for ACNS, Archbishop Justin described that as “one of the most memorable weeks of my life”, saying that it had been “demanding and extraordinary”.
The key thing that had emerged, he said, was the unanimous vote from those present to “walk together” even though that might be at a slight distance. A Task Group, set up after the last primates’ gathering to examine a range of issues including the restoration of relationships and the rebuilding of trust within the Communion, will present a preliminary report to next month’s meeting.
Archbishop Justin spoke of there being an “energy in the room” when issues such as evangelism, the environment, war and peace and refugees had been discussed in 2016. He said he’d emerged from one meeting saying “this is why the Communion’ exists.”
Sixteen new primates have taken office since the last meeting. One of them, Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo, will be representing the newly-created province of Sudan. Archbishop Justin the presence of the new primates was particularly exciting. “There will be a whole lot of fresh energy and fresh excitement – and, no doubt, some tough questions … I think that’s going to be fabulous.”
A small number of primates have indicated that they won’t be attending, for a variety of reasons.
“We will miss those who are not there,” Archbishop Justin said, “miss them very much.”
The archbishop urged the Communion around the world to pray for the meeting – that the primates would be caught by the Spirit, would find unity in Christ and be able to walk onwards together.
“We will miss those who are not there,” Archbishop Justin said, “miss them very much.” – Archbishop Justin Welby, of the upcoming A.C. Primates’ Meeting.
Having, though, already said: “It’s an extraordinary feeling to have the leaders of all the provinces gathering together to pray, to encourage one another, to weep with one another, to celebrate with one another” – one imagines that the ABC’s excitement might be less evident when the Primates actually meet – minus those of the conservative GAFCON contingent who do not turn up to the meetings.
Whatever reasons other defaulters might give for their absence – apart from those who genuinely have good pastoral (non-political) reasons for their absence – the Chair of GAFCON, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of All Nigeria, has already declared that he will not be there, on account of the ACC’s refusal to exclude TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada because of their stance on Same-Sex Marriage and other gender and sexuality issues.
It is not yet known who else will not be there, but after the recent statement of affirmation of the GAFCON Primates made by the Global South Primates for their leadership in the Communion (presumably away from the traditional leadership role of the archbishop of Canterbury – having already set up their very own ‘GAFCON Primates Council’); it could be that other Global South Primates might be among those absent from the AC Primates’ Meeting at Canterbury this October.
Let’s all hope that those who actually do meet together at Canterbury in October, will have more cause for celebrating than weeping. And if the GAFCON Primates insist on excluding themselves from the meeting, perhaps it will be easier for those who are present to celebrate their commonality on the issue of Unity in Diversity, which has long been a specifically Anglican charism, more in tune with the Gospel imperative than institutional sexism and homophobia.
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand