Adapted from Adrian Butcher, ACNS
A task group set up after the Primates’ Meeting in January to maintain conversation has met for the first time and stressed its determination to work together. But it acknowledged the process would take time and could not be rushed.
The primates asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint the group to restore relationships, rebuild mutual trust, heal a legacy of hurt, and explore deep differences. Archbishop Welby presented the group’s mandate to the Anglican Consultative Council in Lusaka in April. This week seven members of the group have been meeting in London.
An eighth joined in via video conferencing. A ninth member of the group, the Most Rev. Ng Moon Hing from the Province of South East Asia, was unable to attend.
The Rt. Rev. Govada Dyvasirvadam, Moderator of the Church of South India, will not participate because of allegations he is facing in India.
“What we are trying to do here is mirror what we desire for the whole Communion,” said the Rt. Rev. Linda Nicholls, Bishop Coadjutor of Huron in Canada. “We are trying to practice in our engagement with each other here what we long for in the wider Communion.”
The Most Rev. Ian Ernest, Archbishop of the Province of the Indian Ocean, said exchanges within the group had been frank and open.
“What has come out very clearly is the level of transparency that we have in the group. We have been able to be open and speak openly about our differences,” he said. “We also recognize the richness of the Communion. And we all love our Communion; that is what binds us together.”
The Most Rev. Paul Shishir Sarker, Moderator of the Church of Bangladesh, echoed that theme. “Our cultures and backgrounds are very different, and we express our spirituality differently but we are moving forwards together,” he said.
The Rev. Canon Rosemary Mbogo, Provincial Secretary of the Anglican Church of Kenya, said the group will work to hear all groups within the Communion.
“That is really needed if we are talking about healing and walking and working together in a unified Communion,” she said. “It’s gone well. We have covered a lot of ground on understanding each other and the people we represent. We have been coming to know each other by spending time together. There is definitely hope. I am convinced of that.”
The Most Rev. Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the Anglican Communion’s general secretary, said he was grateful to task-force members for the sacrifices they had made to attend the meeting.
“I am really encouraged by the depth of trust that is beginning to be seen and also the hope expressed by the participants,” he said.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry agreed that finding solutions will take time.
“Quick fixes aren’t long-term solutions,” he said. “Long-term solutions require long-term work. We are talking about relationships. You don’t build or renew or heal relationships overnight. So, we are going to take whatever time it takes, but we are going to do it.
“I was coming to London anticipating and hoping we would find ways to genuinely go deeper in our relationship with Jesus Christ. I believe the closer we draw to God in Christ, the closer we are going to draw to each other.”
The group stressed the importance of prayer to its work.
“We have committed to pray for each other,” said the Most Rev. Philip Freier, Primate of Australia. “There may be a sense that this is just a talkfest. But [prayer] is a profound action consistent with the theme.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury formally welcomed group members and prayed for them before talks began on Tuesday. He also addressed the first session, stressing there was no set agenda and that the group was to appoint its own chair. Members agreed that they will alternate in chairing the group.
The group is scheduled to meet annually, with additional electronic meetings. The date of its next meeting is yet to be confirmed.