Primates’ Meeting Focuses on Pandemic & Climate

A Primates' Meeting in 2017 | ACNS

By Mark Michael

The Anglican primates gathered online for two days of discussions focusing on the continued fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges of climate change, according to a communique released following the meeting’s conclusion on November 23.

The Primates’ Meeting, which gathers the chief bishops of the Anglican Communion’s 41 provinces, is one its four instruments of communion, and has generally met every two to three years since its inception in 1978. Last week’s gathering fell about a year after the first digital Primates’ Meeting. The last traditional face-to-face meeting was held in Amman, Jordan in January 2020.

The primates’ discussions focused on global crises that are also slated to be key themes of next summer’s Lambeth Conference. The bishops shared different ways that their churches have responded to the widespread suffering caused by the pandemic, and also called for a global response to the disparities in the worldwide distribution of life-saving vaccines.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and deepened fault lines between rich and poor in our world. This is powerfully demonstrated in the unequal distribution of vaccines. We are united in calling for greater vaccine equity, based on a spirit not of charity but of recognizing the common good in resolving the current disparity. We call for generosity from those who have towards those who have not and for a greater acknowledgment of the effect of the pandemic on health and education,” they wrote.

The primates called on the Special Session of the World Health Assembly, which meets November 29-December 1 “to be bold and courageous in its plans for an international agreement and treaty on global health emergency preparedness and response,” and to take immediate steps to address vaccine disparities and counter vaccine hesitancy.

They also discussed the impacts of climate change on their communities. Archbishop Justin Badi Arama, the primate of South Sudan, said that half of his country has at times been underwater from catastrophic floods caused by climate change. Others shared about the impact of devastating wildfires and cyclones, and the existential threat to small island nations posed by rising sea levels.

Noting that the Anglican Communion had sent its first-ever delegation to the recent COP 26 summit in Glasgow, the primates stated that the worldwide response to the climate crisis “has been wholly inadequate.”

They added, “We call on the nations and governments of the world to redouble efforts to reduce global temperature rises and to provide a just finance package to enable and accelerate the transition to a lower carbon world. We also call on faith actors to advocate for urgent, bold climate action and to transform hearts and minds away from destructive attitudes and behaviors towards responsible care for God’s creation.”

The primates said that they looked forward to next summer’s Lambeth Conference, and praised the digital Bishops’ Conversations that began last summer as “an important part of the listening phase of the journey to the Lambeth Conference.”

The communique indicated that Lambeth is fully expected to be a face-to-face gathering, but “some parts of the conference will be available online” for bishops who may not be able to travel because of continued pandemic-related travel restrictions. They added, “Every effort is being made to bring people together and hear all voices equally.”

The primates also celebrated the inauguration of the new provinces of Alexandria (North Africa), and of Angola and Mozambique, welcomed the new chief bishops of these provinces as well as the new leaders of Burundi, Pakistan, and the Philippines, and mourned the death of Archbishop Fereimi Cama of Polynesia.

The next Primates Meeting has been scheduled for March 2022 in Rome.

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