Primates’ Meeting: Talks take a turn

By Paul Feheley

The way that the Primates’ Meetings had been proceeding took a turn on Saturday. Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Australia the spokesperson for the Primates was unable to attend the media briefing. He is part of the team producing the final statement and was needed for the meeting that had begun to work on the statement.

Canon James Rosenthal, communications director for the Anglican Communion, took the podium to report that the conversations about the Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report continued but had not reached a final conclusion.

The Primates had also moved on to other items on the agenda including a session on Theological Education. All Primates expressed a concern about this topic and appreciated that the Archbishop of Canterbury had named it a high priority.

The rest of the day was devoted to a focus on economic justice. Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Southern Africa and Hellen Wangusa, Anglican Observer at the United Nations, were both present for the press briefing. They lead a lively session that had thoroughly engaged the Primates in one of the top priorities of the Anglican Communion.

Archbishop Ndungane spoke passionately about our world and its needs:

“In our world there is global apartheid where the rich are getting stingingly rich and the poor are getting desperately poor. We know that there are more than 800 million people living in poverty in the world … this is not only immoral, it is a sin, it is evil.”

He turned his attention to HIV/AIDS and told the briefing that by 2010, there will be 50 million orphans in Africa because of war, famine, droughts, and preventable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. He gave details of a conference to be held in South Africa on prophetic witness, social development and HIV/AIDS. The gathering to be held in March will have a number of official representatives and observers from Canada.

Ms Wangusa said that she had the honour of sitting in the Primates’ Meeting .She said she is encouraged by the Primates’ concern for the Millennium Development Goals.

Speaking with intense passion, she told the briefing that “Anglicans have a mandate that tells us that if one part of the body is sick, the rest of the body is sick. So what we are saying at this meeting is a half is not enough, we have to go beyond a half.

“Same thing on hunger. When Christ got people together, and they got hungry, he said what do we have? He didn’t feed half or a fraction, he fed all of them — we cannot say only half.”

In speaking about the UN she said that “Even if it doesn’t help us eliminate poverty, it creates the forum for us to engage” in the issues that face the Anglican Communion.

Ms Wangusa also spoke about Anglican Women’s Empowerment, which will begin meeting in New York Feb. 23. It is in its third cycle of participating in the United Nations Commission of the Status of Women. The focus will be on the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child.

Today the Primates will travel by boat to Zanzibar for a solemn Eucharist in the Anglican Cathedral — where the altar is built over an old slave trading post — as the people of Zanzibar commemorate the 100th anniversary of the last slave sold on the island and the 200th anniversary of the end of slavery in the British Empire.

Paul Feheley is principal secretary to the Canadian Primate.

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