Anglican Communion Primates’ Meetings: Pastoral Letters and Statements

The 1978 Lambeth Conference requested that meetings should be set up to enable regular consultation between the Primates of the Anglican Communion.  The report from Section 3 “The Anglican Communion in the world-wide Church” noted in its section D, page 103, of the official report:  “We have noted that there have very occasionally been meetings of the primates of all the Provinces.  Since such meetings are important for a Communion which is both episcopally led and synodically governed, we hope that such meetings will be held more often, perhaps in connection with meetings of the ACC” 1  In a speech on “Authority in the Anglican Communion” made by the Most Rev. Donald Coggan, Archbishop of Canterbury, on 7 August 1978 at the Conference, Archbishop Coggan also mentioned these meetings in connection with the question of authority.

“I do not think there is a quick or easy answer to the question ‘Where is authority to be found ?’  Nor do I think it is of the genius of Anglicanism to define too rigidly, though there is always, on the part of some of us, a craving for a rigid neatness.  But I am coming to believe that the way forward in the coming year — and it may be a slow process — will be along two lines: first, to have meetings of the primates of the Communion reasonably often, for leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation.  There have been such meetings, but on very informal and rare bases.  I believe they should be held perhaps as frequently as once in two years.  But if that meeting not on some fairly regular basis is to be fruitful, those primates would have to come to such meetings well informed with a knowledge of the mind and will of their brothers whom they represent.  Then they would be channels through which the voice of the member Churches would be heard, and real interchange of mind and will and heart could take place.  That’s the first thing.

The second line, I think, on which we might well make progress would be to see to it that that body of primates, as they meet, should be in the very closest and most intimate contact with the Anglican Consultative Council” 2.

The Primates’ Meetings are private and closed to the public and media although there is usually a public statement or pastoral letter released at the end of each one.  The first meeting was held in Ely, England, in 1979.  Between 1979 and 1997 meeting were usually held every two years.  Between 2000 and 2003 the meetings were held every year.  There was an extraordinary Primates Meeting held in London, England, in October 2003.  The next “regular” Primates’ Meeting was held in February 2005.  In February 2007 the Primates met in Dar es Salaam and in February 2009 they met in Alexandria, Egypt.

There is a section of the Anglican Communion Office website dedicated to the Primates’ Meetings available here.

The complete list of Primates’ Meeting dates, locations and public statements, to date is as follows:

Meeting Number

Date

Place

Published Statements or Meeting Summary

1st 1979 November 26 – December 1 Ely, England Episcopal News story 79382 dated 13 December 1979
2nd 1981 April 26 – May 1 Washington DC, U.S.A. Statement “Christian Attitudes to War in a Nuclear Age” [Diocesan Press Service 81140 dated 7 May 1981]
3rd 1983 October [15-18] Limuru, Kenya Episcopal News story 83190 dated 27 October 1983

 

4th 1986 March 12-16 Toronto, Ontario, Canada Episcopal News story 86054 dated 20 March 1986

 

5th 1989 April 26 – May 8 Larnaca, Cyprus Statement on the Report of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Communion and Women in the Episcopate dated 11 May 1989 [Episcopal News Service 89093]
6th 1991 April 8-17 Newcastle (Belfast), Northern Ireland Communique dated 13 April 1991 ["Anglican primates issue statement at close of meeting" in Episcopal News Service #91110 dated 29 April 1991, pp. 41-50]
7th 1993 January 16-31

** Joint Meeting with Anglican Consultative Council

Cape Town, South Africa Pastoral Letter [in Anglican World, Lent/Easter 1993, p. 2]
8th 1995 March 10-19 Windsor, England Pastoral Letter dated 16 March 1995 [ACNS 562]
9th 1997 March 9-17 Jerusalem Closing Statement dated 18 March 1997 [ACNS 1163]
10th 2000 March 22-29 Oporto (Porto), Portugal A Communique dated 28 March 2000 [ACNS 2094]

11th
2001 March 2-9 Hendersonville (Kanuga Conference Center), North Carolina, U.S.A. A Pastoral Letter and Call to Prayer dated 8 March 2001 [ACNS 2410]
12th 2002 April 10-17 Canterbury, England Report of the Meeting dated 17 April 2002 [ACNS 2959]

- Statement of Anglican Primates on the Doctrine of God dated 17 April 2002 [ACNS 2960]

- Statement of Anglican Primates on HIV/AIDS dated 17 April 2002 [ACNS 2961]

- Statement of Anglican Primates on the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) dated 17 April 2002 [ACNS 2962]

- Statement of Anglican Primates on the Middle East dated 14 April 2002 [ACNS 2955]

 

13th 2003 May 19-25 Gramado (Serrano Conference Centre), Brazil Pastoral Letter dated 27 May 2003
[ACNS 3450]

 

Extraordinary 2003 October 15-16 London (Lambeth Palace), England Statement dated 16 October 2003
14th 2005 February 20-25 Newry (Dromantine Retreat Centre), Northern Ireland Communique dated 24 February 2005 [ACNS3948]

 

15th 2007 February 14-19 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania Communique dated 19 February 2007 [ACNS 4253]
16th 2009 February 1-5 Alexandria, Egypt Communique (Deeper Communion; Gracious Restraint: A Letter from Alexandria to the Anglican Churches of the World) dated 5 February 2009 [ACNS 4574]

- Statement of Concern about the Sudan Situation by the Primates and Moderators of the Anglican Communion dated 5 February 2009 [ACNS 4576]

- Statement of Concern about the situation in Gaza by the Primates and Moderators of the Anglican Communion dated 5 February 2009 [ACNS]

- Primates’ Statement on Zimbabwe dated 3 February 2009 [ACNS]

Prepared by: Karen Evans
Last Updated: 26 July 2011


1 The Report of the Lambeth Conference 1978.  (London: CIO Publishing, 1978), p. 103.
2 The Report of the Lambeth Conference 1978.  (London: CIO Publishing, 1978), p. 123-124.