DAR207: Actions of New Westminster and The Episcopal Church Dominate Agenda
New Primates could tilt the Anglican Communion in any direction
By David W. Virtue in Dar es Salaam
WHITE SANDS HOTEL, Dar es Salaam--The actions of the Diocese of New Westminster to bless same-sex unions and the consecration of the homosexual Bishop of New Hampshire will dominate the agenda of 34 Primates meeting here (four are absent) as they begin their deliberations Thursday, amidst tight security.
Both conservatives and liberals alike are determined that the foibles of the TEC are not primary issues facing the Anglican Communion, (even global warning was listed as one of several important issues which the Primates may be called upon to make some comment), liberal Southern Africa Archbishop Ndungane has stated that sexuality is a second tier issue, and the CAPA primates have said that world impoverishment and AIDS are more deserving of their attention than American sexuality, nonetheless the first days' agenda announced by the Most Rev. Phillip Aspinall, Primate of Australia signaled that the response to the Windsor Report was a priority among the primates.
Canon Gregory Cameron, Deputy Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council said the agenda would be devoted to following through with the implications of the Windsor Report, pointing up the actions of New Westminster and the TEC's confirmation of the election of Bishop Gene Robinson, and these would highlight the meeting here.
At a press conference, Aspinall reported that earlier today he had presented to the joint meeting of the Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council a proposal for a worldwide study of hermeneutics. "It was well received", he said. An observer noted that this seemed to be upgrading the "listening process" preparing a higher ground for diverse interpretations of the Bible in the name of hermeneutics (a theory of interpreting texts) that could allow a technical basis for the Episcopal Church's innovations in sexuality.
Aspinall announced that there were fourteen new primates, - including the Archbishop of York - two new as of last week, making a third having never met before, and with four absent, observers could only speculate as to the outcome of votes on any issues. Aspinall said it was a considerable number, "certainly more than a third, getting somewhat towards a half of the primates present new," and making any votes on sexuality issues far less predictable in outcome.
Aspinall, a soft-spoken liberal, said the range of issues confronting those provinces is very diverse indeed. "The Primates this afternoon shared some issues they are facing in their own contexts. They included, issues of drought affecting climate change (an issue for Australia) for global warning; issues of rural decline and depopulation; a shortage of young clergy in some places and abundance of young clergy in other places and changing relationships between church and state and the impact of the role of education in some places. A very significant portion of the agenda time of the Primates is being devoted to following through the implications of the Windsor Report."
Cameron noted that the Anglican Communion consists of 38 provinces, 44 churches living by a principle of interdependence; that share its life with other Anglican Churches in Communion. "The relationship of the provinces is one of interdependence," he said. He said the actions of North America had generated wide distrust citing the election of Robinson, the public authorization of same sex unions. and in order to rebuild trust a moratorium on such blessings would have to happen.
In response to a question about Episcopal boundary crossing, Cameron said, quoting the Windsor Report, that there should be a cessation of those interventions. "But when the Primates got together in Dromantine the feeling was so sensitive in North America that it was not right just to cease them, and part of their intention in founding the Panel of Reference was to try to find a mechanism whereby there could be some partially objective assessment which sought to ease the situation. What the primates will want to consider is the effectiveness of the Panel of Reference." He said the Primates would not be able to stop such interventions until such time as they were reassured that the parishes they were trying to help have a secure place.
Mrs. Katharine Jefferts Schori, titular of The Episcopal Church, arrived yesterday and is scheduled to meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury and three American bishops tomorrow.
When asked if Archbishops John Sentamu of York and Mrs. Schori would be seated, Aspinall said no decision had been made. "The Archbishop of Canterbury will consult the Primates at the beginning of the meeting," he said. Significantly, the leader of the Global South primates, the Archbishop of Nigeria, Dr Peter Akinola, yesterday flew in an extra archbishop of his own, Nicholas Okoh, Archbishop of Bendel. He is one of the nine archbishops in the Anglican Church of Nigeria and has nine dioceses in his province, according to The London Times.
IN OTHER NEWS, VirtueOnline has learned that the Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola has sent a letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury said to express some of his concerns about the seating of both Sentamu and Schori, but no definitive word could be obtained as to its full content.
Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan had his laptop stolen, but said it was a case of simple larceny. One priest, however, who asked not to be named, said it was like having America's nuclear codes stolen and hoping no one could decode them.
What is clear is that the subtext of this meeting is the Episcopal Church's failure to live out the demands of the Windsor Report. Mrs. Schori is "determined" to stay for the full duration of the Primates meeting and will do her best to meet with those who disagree with her said a spokesman for the national church.
But one thing is clear, despite the possibility of a new camaraderie among first time Primates, the wild card of biblical sexual morality will be played by Archbishop Peter Akinola and supported by other CAPA archbishops, and he will force the issue out into the open one way or another in his determination to rid the Anglican Communion of unrepentant North Americans.
But the chemistry of the Primates has now been changed with the new constellation of Archbishops, and it is now uncertain how they will influence each other and how they will be moved to vote.
---Canon J. Gary L'Hommedieu contributed to this report
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