By Paul Feheley
On the eve of the start of the Primates’ Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, a briefing was held setting out the agenda and some of the priorities the primates will be dealing with over the next few days. Archbishop Phillip Aspinall, Primate of Australia, has been designated spokesperson for the primates.
Several primates have been unable to attend the meeting, including those from Wales, Sudan, and Northern India. The primates of the Philippines and Myanmar have been delayed and their status at the meeting is unclear. At the briefing, Archbishop Aspinall reviewed meetings held on Wednesday Feb. 14 including a gathering for the 13 new primates who meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, chair of the meeting. This group of “rookie” primates discussed the role of primates, the process for their appointments and the main issues facing their province. These included poverty, living alongside Muslims, drought and climate change, rural decline, shortage of young clergy, the changing roles of church and state and the church and education.
Beginning today, the primates will deal with issues related to the Windsor Report and assess progress that has been made with the proposals that are in the report. These will include looking at the response to Windsor that has come from the General Convention of The Episcopal Church (USA). In an unusual move the Archbishop of Canterbury invited three U.S. bishops — Robert Duncan, Chris Epting and Bruce MacPherson as well as the ECUSA Primate, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori to speak about the situation in the Episcopal Church.
Another issue is a proposal that the primates become ex officio members of the Anglican Consultative Council. The gathering will receive a draft constitution that incorporates them into the ACC as a House of Bishops and setting up within the council a House of Clergy and a House of Laity, which is believed to be closer to Anglican norms around the world.
This proposal would require approval by two-thirds of the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion. If passed it may have an affect on future Primates’ meetings which could be tied into meetings of the ACC.
In the next few days, the progress of other Windsor related matters will be examined. These include the listening process, which encourages dialogue on matters of human sexuality and enables the voices of gays and lesbians to be heard; the Panel of Reference set up by the Archbishop of Canterbury to examine issues related to alternate episcopal oversight and the intervention of primates in provinces not their own. The first draft of a covenant, which will point towards the things that all Anglican provinces share and hold together, will also be presented.
In commenting on the agenda, the Canadian Primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison acknowledged that the days ahead would be challenging. “Canada has responded to all that has been asked in regards to the Windsor report,” he said. “We are still in the process of decision making as we move towards our General Synod in June.”
He indicated that he welcomed the opportunity to clarify for the primates where the Canadian church is with many of the questions. He also indicated a strong belief in the guidance of the Holy Spirit for the work and deliberations of this gathering of Anglican leaders in the heart of Africa.
Paul Feheley is principal secretary to the Canadian Primate.
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