6 Primates Seek New Congress

What began as a meeting of three bishops has expanded through six years to a larger, commiuniqué-issuing gathering that includes six primates and three bishops. The fifth Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue issued a 950-word communiqué on October 28 that invoked the Anglican Congress of 1963 and expressed hope that another such congress will convene within the next two years.

“We confessed that one thing we have in common is that we all have needs, not the least of which is our profound need for each other,” said the document, signed by Albert Chama, Archbishop of Central Africa; Jacob Chimeledya, Archbishop of Tanzania; Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town; Bernard Ntahoturi, Archbishop of Burundi; and Daniel Sarfo, Archbishop of West Africa. Bishops from the Western Hemisphere included Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori; Stacy F. Sauls, chief operating officer of the Episcopal Church; Mary Gray-Reeves, Bishop of El Camino Real; Ogé Beauvoir, Bishop Suffragan of Haiti; and Clifton Daniel III, Bishop Provisional of Pennsylvania.

The archbishops and bishops added:

We also celebrated that each of our churches has gifts to offer the others. Framing our conversation in the context of human dignity and flourishing, the sustainability of our common ministry, and the care of the Earth, we found several subjects for fruitful collaboration that will allow us to share our gifts with each other. We committed ourselves to exploring pension schemes, stewardship of finances and other resources (management and investment), health services, mining and related environmental issues, advocacy, migration and statelessness, human trafficking, religious freedom, and theological education. We made commitments to explore these opportunities for partnership and report back to each other early in the new year.

Over our time together, we found ourselves referring repeatedly to the spirit of the Anglican Congress of 1963, which contributed greatly to the transformation of our understanding of mission in the Anglican Communion. It gave us the language of mutual responsibility and interdependence in the body of Christ and helped lead us to understand ourselves as partners in mission rather than in categories of givers and receivers. In that same spirit, and with eagerness to share the blessings we have received in these days, we express our fervent and urgent hope that another Anglican Congress might be held in the next two years, and encourage the active leadership of all who might help to make it a reality for the good of God’s mission to heal and reconcile the world.

The Presiding Bishop alluded to the communiqué on October 27, before its release, while discussing an Executive Council resolution that gives thanks for improving relations between the Episcopal Church and the broader Anglican Communion.

She said in a conference call that the Episcopal Church has partnerships in every Anglican province, and that those relationships are deeper now. The partnerships reflect mutual relationships, she said, rather than those of dependents and providers.

The consultation met October 8-10 at General Theological Seminary, early in the days of the seminary’s public conflict with eight faculty members. Bishop Gray-Reeves, alone among the current group, has been part of the consultation since its first meeting in Advent of 2008. This year’s communiqué is the most action-oriented statement issued by the group to date. In 2011 the consultation held a four-day meeting that welcomed 19 bishops to Dar es Salaam.

On a related front, Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya, chairman of the GAFCON Primates’ Council, has characterized the delay of a new Lambeth Conference as a diminishment of the Anglican Communion’s instruments of unity.

“The recent news that Lambeth 2018 has been postponed, perhaps indefinitely, is the latest sign that the old institutions of the Communion no longer command confidence. We must remember that the fundamental reason for this is doctrinal. We are divided because the Faith is threatened by unbiblical teaching,” Wabukala wrote in his October pastoral letter to GAFCON members.

“In contrast, GAFCON 2 demonstrated that we were emerging as a new and effective ‘instrument of unity’ for the Anglican Communion. Nearly twelve months later, that reality was underlined at the investiture of Archbishop Foley Beach as the second Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America by the Primates gathered in Atlanta, representing GAFCON and the Anglican Global South, receiving him as a Primate of the Anglican Communion.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said that the next Primates’ Meeting will determine when the Lambeth Conference will convene, but that it is unlikely to meet in 2018.

Douglas LeBlanc

Image: More than 17,000 people jammed Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, for the opening service of the Anglican Congress on August 13, 1963. Canadian Churchman photo from the Archives of the Episcopal Church

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