Primates' Meeting: Briefing #4

Today’s meeting moved from the work of reflecting on the exercise of primacy and the purpose and nature of the Primates’ Meeting, to considering the role, purpose and composition of the Standing Committee of the Primates. In addition to attending the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) and the Standing Committee, other roles suggested for the committee by Primates included “holding” the life, vision and spirit of the meeting between the Primates’ Meetings; helping to shape their future meetings; and acting as a consultative group for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Several groups also suggested that the Primates’ Standing Committee might have an ongoing bridging role between the Primates’ Meeting and the regions from where the Primates come.

The second session comprised three moving presentations on the issue of gender-based violence. The Primates responded to each report with a moment of silent reflection and prayer. Archbishop Bernard — presenting a report that Archbishop Henry Isingoma (Province de L’Eglise anglicane du Congo) had hoped to give — explained how rape and sexual abuse was being used as a weapon of conflict and terror in the Democratic Republic of Congo and across the Great Lakes Region. This, he said, was devastating individuals and communities. Among the work churches are undertaking to respond to such violence is to assist women who have been assaulted to reach health centres as soon as possible and to reintegrate into their communities by empowering them through education and micro-finance projects.

Archbishop Barry Morgan (Wales) then shared shocking statistics about the scale of gender-based violence in the United Kingdom. He told the meeting that there were one million female victims of domestic abuse reported last year, with 300,000 sexually assaulted and 60,000 raped each year. He explained that a conservative estimate of women trafficked into the United Kingdom was 5,000 a year. He said that gender-based violence was deeply engrained in societies and even in some faith traditions. Archbishop Barry concluded by saying that the churches in the United Kingdom and Ireland needed to work together to address violence against women and girls in a better way.

The Revd Terrie Robinson, Anglican Communion Networks Co-ordinator and Women’s Desk Officer, explained the ways in which some of the Networks, including the International Anglican Family Network, the International Anglican Women’s Network and the Anglican Indigenous Network, and other groups of the Anglican Communion had already raised the urgency of working against gender-based violence. She said Primates’ Meetings had not yet spoken on the issue, and suggested that this meeting consider committing themselves to speaking and acting in solidarity with those leading the elimination of such violence at the grassroots in the Communion. She proposed that they might also ensure appropriate training for clergy and lay people, and promote existing or commission new theological and other resources on the issue of gender-based violence.

The rest of the day was spent by Primates working in small drafting groups preparing documents on a range of issues of international concern.

A final press conference will be held tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon and a podcast of the conference will be placed on the Anglican Communion website tomorrow evening.

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