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All eyes turn to Canterbury as Primates' Gathering draws near

All eyes turn to Canterbury as Primates' Gathering draws near
The 2016 Primates' Gathering is not an Instrument of Communion

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
Jan. 10, 2016

The interest, news and commentary surrounding Primates 2016 is coming fast and furiously from all parts of the Anglican world as next week's gathering of Anglican primates -- including some non primates -- is just hours away. All Anglican eyes are turning towards Canterbury to see what finally happens. Will Primates 2016 be the ultimate showdown between the traditionally orthodox Global South and the liberalizing progressive West?

When Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby issued his invitation to the network of Anglican primates around the world, he was careful to craft the invitation as a "Primates' Gathering" rather than a "Primates' Meeting," indicating that his confab would be more of friendly discussion in nature rather than a formal "meeting" of top Anglican prelates.

Initially the Primates' Meeting was designed by former Archbishop of Canterbury Donald Coggan in 1978 as an opportunity for to Anglican primates to gather for "leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation." He held his first Primates' Meeting the next year. Formal Primates' Meetings have been held every two or three years since then in different locations around the world that have a strong Anglican presence.

Starting in 1979 when the first Primates' Meeting was held in Ely, England; followed in 1981 at Washington, DC; 1983 in Limuru, Kenya; 1986 in Toronto, Canada; 1989 in Larnaca, Cyprus; 1991 in Newcastle, Northern Ireland; 1993 in Cape Town, South Africa; 1995 in Windsor, England; 1997 in Jerusalem; 2000 in Oporto, Portugal; 2001 in Hendersonville, North Carolina; 2002 in London, England; May 2003 in Gramado, Brazil; October 2003 in Canterbury, England; 2005 in Newry, Northern Ireland; 2007 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; 2009 in Alexandria, Egypt; and 2011 in Dublin, Ireland.


In 1978 when Archbishop Donald Coggan launched the first Primates' Meeting, the fabric which holds the Anglican Communion together was already beginning to show its first signs of fraying -- The American Episcopal Church had started ordaining women to the priesthood. In 1974 the Philadelphia 11 were irregularly ordained as Episcopal priests. That canonically illegal action was followed up by General Convention approving the practice and changing Episcopal canons in 1976. That deed was quickly followed by the Anglican Church of Canada later that year when the first ACoC women priests were ordained. New Zealand followed suit in 1977. Little by little women's ordination filtered through the Anglican Communion with the Church of England signing on in 1992. By then The Episcopal Church had consecrated its first woman bishop -- Barbara Harris -- on February 11, 1989.

Little by little various Anglican provinces starting allowing women's priestly ordination and eventual raised them to the bishopric. Finally one of their members became the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, and that action helped to drive a deeper wedge into the Primates' Meeting, but not before a partnered gay homosexual priest was made the first out and proud gay bishop in Anglicanism.

Vicky Gene Robinson's 2003 election to the Episcopal House of Bishops rent the fabric of Anglicanism, and that tearing has never been repaired. In fact two Primates' Meetings were held in 2003, in May and October. The brief two-day October closed-door meeting at Lambeth Palace was called by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to deal with the deepening crises and increasing conflict caused by Robinson's election.

It was reported that in 2005, following the 2004 consecration of Vicky Gene Robinson as the ninth Bishop of New Hampshire, 19 primates at the Primates' Meeting in Newry, Northern Ireland refused to attend the Service of Holy Communion with Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold.

By 2006 when Katharine Jefferts Schori became the Episcopal presiding bishop and the first female Anglican primate, at least 22 Anglican provinces were in broken or impaired communion with The Episcopal Church over homosexuality and her elevation as an Anglican primate. Jefferts Schori's election brought the Anglican Communion to a heightened ecumenical crisis point. In 2007 when the primates met in Dar es Salaam seven Global South bishops from Africa and South America refused to receive Holy Communion with the American female presiding bishop.

"This deliberate action is a poignant reminder of the brokenness of the Anglican Communion," stated Anglican Church of Nigeria Archbishop Peter Akinola at the time.

When the 2011 Primates' Meeting rolled around, 15 of 38 primates did not attend the get-together in Dublin. The missing primates cited irreconcilable theological differences or travelling difficulties.

The Episcopal Church now has a different primate. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is slated to attend next week's Primate's Gathering. So far only one primate -- 92-year-old Archbishop William Brown Turei of New Zealand -- has indicated his unwillingness to attend Archbishop Welby's Primates' Gathering. ACNA's Archbishop Foley Beach has also been invited for an Anglican Primates' "Meet & Greet" but he has not been invited to the conference table.


Some of the primates have met before and have become friends. For others who are new this will be their first introduction to the group of Anglican primates.

Those planning to attend include: Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby (The Church of England); Archbishop Barry Morgan (The Church in Wales); Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi (Anglican Church of Burundi); Archbishop Ian Ernest (The Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean); Archbishop and Primate Nathaniel Makoto Uematsu (The Nippon Sei Ko Kai -The Anglican Communion in Japan); Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis (The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem & The Middle East); Archbishop and Primate Frederick Hiltz (The Anglican Church of Canada); Archbishop Paul Kwong (Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui); Archbishop Thabo Makgoba (The Anglican Church of Southern Africa); Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul Yak (Episcopal Church of South Sudan & Sudan); Archbishop Stephen Than Myint Oo (The Church of the Province of Myanmar); Archbishop and Primate Eliud Wabukala (The Anglican Church of Kenya); Archbishop and Primus David Chillingworth (The Scottish Episcopal Church); Archbishop Kahwa Henri Isingoma (de L'Eglise Anglicane Du Congo); Archbishop and Moderator Paul Sarker (The United Church of Bangladesh); Archbishop and Moderator Samuel Robert Azariah (The United Church of Pakistan); Archbishop John Holder (The Church in the Province of the West Indies); Archbishop and Primate Paul Kim (The Anglican Church of Korea); Archbishop and Metropolitan Nicholas Okoh (The Church of Nigeria); and Archbishop of Polynesia Winston Halapua (The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia).

Also: Presiding Bishop Hector Zavala Muñoz (The Anglican Church of South America); Archbishop Albert Chama (Church of the Province of Central Africa); Archbishop Bolly Lapok (Church of the Province of South East Asia); Archbishop and Primate of All Ireland Richard Lionel Clarke (Church of Ireland); Archbishop Stanley Ntagali (The Church of the Province of Uganda); Archbishop of New Zealand Philip Richardson (The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia); Archbishop Jacob Erasto Chimeledya (Anglican Church of Tanzania); Presiding Bishop Francisco Moreno (La Iglesia Anglicana de Mexico); Archbishop Clyde Igara (The Anglican Church of Papua New Guinea); Archbishop and Primate Francisco De Assis Da Silva (Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil); Archbishop and Moderator Govada Dyvasirvadam (The United Church of South India); Archbishop and Metropolitan Daniel Sarfo (the Church of the Province of West Africa); Archbishop Philip Leslie Freier (The Anglican Church of Australia); Archbishop and Moderator Pradeep Samantaroy (The United Church of North India); Prime Bishop Renato Mag-Gay Abibico (The Episcopal Church in the Philippines); Archbishop and Primate Sturdie Downs (Iglesia Anglicana de la Region Central de America); Presiding Bishop Michael Curry (The Episcopal Church); and Senior Bishop Nathan Tome (The Anglican Church of Melanesia).
Also expected to attend are: Archbishop of York John Sentamu (The Church of England); and Archbishop Foley Beach (Anglican Church in North America). However Archbishop and Primate William Brown Turei (the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand & Polynesia) is not expected to be attend.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline.

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