Archbishop Hiltz reflects on the Primates' Meeting

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To: The Bishops, Clergy and all the faithful of our beloved Church

Thank you for the steadfastness of your prayers by which you upheld the Primates and Moderators of the churches of the Anglican Communion in their recent meeting at the Emmaus Center in Dublin, Ireland.

As you know a number of Primates were not at this meeting for a variety of reasons including ill health, difficulties with visas, pressing matters within their provinces, and in some cases reasons of conscience. Two-thirds of the Primates were present and worked very hard at a number of issues. Through the guidance of a superb team of facilitators, we considered the nature and exercise of Primacy in our various contexts. There was considerable convergence with respect to the pastoral and prophetic nature of this office, and the authority with which we speak for our provinces following consultation with our bishops, synods and councils. We also took time to address the purpose and scope of the Primates’ Meeting, the work we do and the manner in which we do it.

Between meetings, a Standing Committee of the Primates representing the regions of the Communion (Africa, the Americas and the Caribbean, East Asia and Oceana, Middle East and West Asia and Europe) bears responsibility for maintaining relationships among the Primates, for consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and for planning our meeting every two years.

The Primates shared with one another major developments and challenges facing their respective provinces and the Communion as a whole. We received updates on a number of initiatives including:

  • The Instruments of Communion Task Force which is exploring the interplay between the instruments in the service of the Gospel . (The Instruments are the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting);
  • The Bible in the Church project;
  • The Continuing Indaba( Intentional Listening) Process;
  • The Alliance of Relief and Development Agencies.

The Primates issued a number of letters with respect to crises in a number of places in the world including acts of violence associated with the blasphemy laws in Pakistan; the current unrest in Egypt; increasing tensions between North and South Korea; the murder of a gay rights activist in Kampala Uganda and continuing bullying, harassment and persecution in Zimbabwe. Letters of solidarity were sent to the people of Haiti in their  struggle to rebuild their nation following last year’s horrific earthquake and to the Archbishop of Sudan assuring him and the people of Sudan of our prayers for the Church’s work of peace building  and supporting united efforts in nation building in the North and the South.

The Primates were deeply moved by a powerful presentation on gender-based violence which, in recent years has become a global phenomenon. Almost all such violence is perpetuated by men against women and girls with devastating effects on individuals, families and societies. We learned of a number of initiatives within the Anglican Communion to address this horror with which so many people live daily. As individuals we renewed commitments to raise within our provinces the profile of the third Millennium Development Goal — to promote gender equality and to empower women — to attend to the training of clergy so that they are aware of the nature and dynamics of gender-based violence, and to rally other church and faith leaders in calls for the eradication of all such forms of brutality.

The Primates’ were blessed by the hospitality of the Archbishop of All Ireland, Alan Harper, and graced by the wisdom of reflection on the nature of Primacy and Communion by the Archbishop of Canterbury. We were enriched by numerous opportunities for strengthening the bonds of affection by which we are held together in the unity of the Spirit.

This was a gathering in which we met in the form of a sacred circle. In our midst was a candle surrounded by the names of all those who were not present. We thought of them often, endeavoured to consider, as much as we could, their perspective on the issues before us, and remembered them at morning and evening prayer and at our daily celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

We left the meeting of the Primates encouraged by what had been accomplished and humbled by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s challenge to let the Beatitudes be an image for our common life in Christ and his mirror in the world.

Again, dear friends, I sincerely thank you for your prayers — not only for the meeting of the Primates’ but for the life and witness of the whole Church throughout the world.

+Fred

Fred Hiltz, Archbishop and Primate


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