The leaders of 33 Anglican provinces are returning to their home churches “refreshed and renewed” after this week’s Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury Cathedral. Three primates were unable to attend the meeting because of logistical and other issues in their provinces, while another three declined to attend “citing what they believed to be a lack of good order within the Communion,” the meeting’s communiqué said. “We were saddened by their absence and expressed our hope and prayer that all will join us at future meetings.”
The primates who were present described the meeting as “a gift from God, through which we experienced many signs of God’s presence amongst us.” In their communiqué, they said that “we experienced many signs of God’s presence amongst us. The sense of common purpose underpinned by God’s love in Christ and expressed through mutual fellowship was profound.”
Speaking at a press conference at the end of the Primate’s Meeting, Archbishop Paul Kwong of Hong Kong, the chair of the Anglican Consultative Council, described the meeting as “the best” of the five Primates’ Meetings he had attended. “The best, not because everyone present agreed with everything; but because everyone present was sincere, was committed, was honest to each other, and I could sense everyone who was there, in particular myself, felt uplifted [and] encouraged.”
He said that “We are committed not only to walking together, but even walking together much closer because we thought there is a purpose for us together: the purpose of having the Communion which is to be relevant to the world in which God has called us to serve.
“That is what makes this Primates’ Meeting so wonderful and I am so delighted and privileged to attend.”
The Primate of Kenya, Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit, was attending his first Primates’ Meeting. “My delight is that we were able to share deeply, but also to listen to one another. The big thing for me was the presence of each other, because we are a Communion and we are a Communion called as a witness in a broken world.
Archbishop Jackson continued: “We realise that we have so much, in every continent and every province, that we can listen to one another [and] share with one another.”
He said that the highlight of the week for him was the discussion around mission: “The Church is called as a witness to bring healing, to bring peace, to bring reconciliation, to help people to be accountable, to help institutions to become stronger, to be able to respond to issues,” he said. “That was the thrust of our discussion; and the broadness of that discussion gave me a lot of hope: that I belong to a Communion that is so diverse, but can also be united and focused on dealing with issues affecting humanity.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that “in the best possible sense, it has been a ‘business as usual’ Primates’ Meeting, which hasn’t been usual for 20 years. The primates seem to be going away very full of hope.”
In response to a question from a journalist who asked whether there had been a shift at this Primates’ Meeting to focus on external issues rather than internal differences, Archbishop Justin said: “I wouldn’t say ‘to shift’, I would say ‘to return’ the Primates’ Meeting to what I think all of us have wanted us to be.
“I think the reality is you had the slight paradox of bringing together umpteen people, some 35, 38, 39 now, different provinces, 33 of which were there, where everyone came wanting to talk about external issues and we ended up talking about internal issues.”
Archbishop Paul Kwong added: “Every single topic, item, on the agenda has been properly, sufficiently addressed, because the wise chair [the Archbishop of Canterbury] made sure every single primate present had the chance to present their views on any topic, on any subject. Nothing has been shifted.”
Archbishop Jackson Sapit said that the Archbishop of Canterbury had invited the primates to get back to “the main thing”, saying: “the main thing of the Church is to be a witness and go out and minister out there and not focus too much on narrow internal differences. Sometimes they can be amplified to the extent that we forget that we are in a mission field and we forget the mission that we are called to do.”
It had previously been announced that there will be five regional Primates’ Meetings held in the run-up to the next Lambeth Conference of all Anglican bishops in 2020. The communiqué suggested that there may be an additional full Primates’ Meeting before then, leaving it to the Archbishop of Canterbury to consider.
The communiqué says that the Archbishop’s Task Group, established after the 2016 Primates’ Meeting with the task of “restoring relationships, rebuilding mutual trust, healing the legacy of hurt, and exploring the deep differences that exist within the Anglican Communion” had made recommendations around “the development of common liturgy, the principle and practice of pilgrimage, and a season of prayer of repentance and reconciliation.”
In the press conference, Archbishop Justice said that the season of repentance and reconciliation was likely to take place in preparation for the 2020 Lambeth Conference.
In their communiqué, the primates confirmed that “the Anglican Church of North America” (ACNA), which was formed by former members of the US-based Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, “is not a Province of the Anglican Communion.” They say that “those in ACNA should be treated with love as fellow Christians.”
The communiqué had strong words to say about “cross border intervention”, where one province operates in another province without the appropriate consent or approval. “We recognised that there were opportunities for joint initiatives and mission partnerships for the benefit of the Gospel where these are agreed between provinces,” the communiqué said. “However, consent was critical to any inter-provincial collaboration and it was essential that courtesy and love should be extended to Provinces at all times”.
It said that “breaches of consent and courtesy” should be resolved, where possible, in regional Primates’ Meetings, “and only referred to the Secretary General and the Archbishop of Canterbury as a last resort.” It said that “persistent and deliberate non-consensual cross-border activity breaks trust and weakens our Communion.”
The primates reaffirmed “the Communion’s sorrow for previous failures to support LGBTI people and its condemnation of homophobic prejudice and violence.” And it “welcomed the news that the Church of England has embarked on a major study of human sexuality . . . and anticipating considering the results of this work at a future meeting.”
The primates discussed a range of external issues, including evangelism and discipleship, reconciliation and peace building, climate change, food security, refugees, human trafficking, and freedom of religion.
“The world has never felt the need of a Saviour more keenly,” the primates said. “We have shared stories of pain and loss, of natural disasters and tragedy, of violence and threat. However in this world we have joy, courage and hope because of the light of the Saviour of all, Jesus Christ. God has poured his love upon his whole Church by his Holy Spirit. The Church lives to proclaim this gospel in word and deed. We therefore commit ourselves afresh to lead those we serve in the joyful announcement of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“We pledge to pray for the empowering of the Holy Spirit, that we may witness effectively to the good news. To this end between Ascension day and Pentecost in 2018 we call all those who are able, to join us in praying ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ – that the Holy Spirit may empower the announcement of the Gospel so that many may believe.”
The concluded their communiqué saying: “We leave enriched by the communion we share and strengthened by the faithful witness of Anglicans everywhere. We deeply appreciate the prayers of many throughout the world over our time together.”
- You can listen to or watch the press conference using the links below.
- Click here to download the full communiqué (pdf)