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Archbishop Williams Apologizes for Slavery in Cathedral Sermon

By David W. Virtue in Dar es Salaam

Islamic leaders on the predominantly Muslim island of Zanzibar, off the coast of Dar es Salaam, ripped the arrival of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his party of Primates today, saying that their visit to the island served no purpose for the people, as the group had openly practicing gays and lesbians.

Writing in the Swahili newspaper Majira, Sheikh Azan Khalid Hamdani, a spokesman for the Muslim community that represents 95 percent of the island population, said his people were against the trip and by coming they might bring unrest.

"The trip by the Anglican Archbishops does not bring economic development or social development. The group will sit down and discuss and make a statement. Several leaders from the Island have expressed regret that the Archbishops have been allowed to make the trip which has no benefit for our people. I do not understand why the archbishops are coming - they are coming to promote gay activists," said the Sheikh.

But the trip to the island was greeted with joy and celebration by a packed Christ Church cathedral where four busloads of primates and media descended on the aging cathedral built on the site of a former Arab slave market. It is ironical that it was Westerners who came to abolish the slave trade, and Williams apologized profusely for the West's complicity in it during his sermon. At the conclusion of the service an African archbishop thanked the Archbishop of Canterbury for the English missionaries who brought the gospel to Zanzibar in the first place!

The high altar is built on the former site of a whipping post where slaves were punished. The archbishop offered up prayers of reparation and spoke movingly in his sermon about slavery. Under the constraint of preaching one sentence at a time, pausing for translation into Swahili for his mostly African audience, the archbishop preached on 1 Cor. 13 raising the question of how love makes us see, relating this new spiritual insight to the recognition of the evil of the slave trade.

The archbishop told the packed cathedral, with more listening outside under tents that, "That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great savior."

During the service some seven primates refused to receive Eucharist. Two archbishops did not show including Peter Akinola Archbishop of Nigeria who was said to have serious back problems, (which VOL confirmed on return to Dar es Salaam.) The Primate of Brazil the Most Rev. Mauricio Andrade left the Primates meeting early to attend a meeting in his home country.

Dr. Rowan Williams is the first archbishop to come to Zanzibar to preach and celebrate in nearly 50 years. His appearance was greeted with choirs singing in the streets. The last archbishop to visit the cathedral was Lord Geoffrey Francis Fisher nearly 50 years ago.

Island President Amani Abeid Karume greeted the Archbishop of Canterbury and his party at a luncheon in a nearby hotel following the two-and-a-half hour service at the cathedral which included the commissioning of the Anglican Observer Mrs. Hellen Wangusa.

Today's event was a hiatus in week long discussions over The Episcopal Church's failure to be Windsor compliant.

Several insiders spoke off the record to VOL saying that there was a possibility no Lambeth Conference will be held next year in Canterbury. "It all depends on what happens tomorrow," said the source.

Apparently Wednesday's primatial love fest for "gratitude to The Episcopal Church" for its C effort response to Windsor was not what it appeared.

On Wednesday evening at the press briefing Australian Archbishop Phillip Aspinall reported that the primates had reached a consensus of approval for the Episcopal Church's response to the Windsor Report noting that two out of three of the Windsor requirements had been sufficiently met.

Rumors abound that there might not be a Lambeth 2008 as it is presently constructed owing to a number of Global South Primates who say they are in broken communion with Dr. Jefferts Schori, but we will know more tomorrow.

On Monday evening reporters will receive a text of the communiqué in which the covenant will be spelled out. A final report of the Windsor process will be given even if it is no report.


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