Global Anglican Leaders gather in Egypt

Religious Intelligence reports:

The agenda for next week’s 2009 Primates’ Meeting will avoid taking action on the problems dividing the Anglican Communion, focusing its energies on discussion on how to discuss the conflicting truth claims within the church.

The Feb 1-5 meeting at the Helnan Palestine Hotel in Alexandria will open with a morning retreat led by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams followed by worship at St Mark’s pro-Cathedral. Business sessions will be interspersed over the week with worship and excursions to local sites, including the Alexandria School of Theology and the newly renovated Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

However it is unlikely the agenda for the five-day gathering will survive unscathed. At their meeting in 2005 in Northern Ireland and in 2007 in Tanzania the primates rebelled, forcing the meeting to address the issues that had split the Anglican Communion.

In organizing the agenda, Dr Williams solicited the views of his fellow archbishops, presiding bishops and moderators, asking what topics they wished to discuss. From these responses he developed a lesson plan that will include a session on global warming, international finance, co-ordination of development work among church agencies, and the Communion’s theological working group. Time has also been set aside for a discussion of the May agenda of ACC-14 in Kingston, Jamaica, the Anglican Covenant, and a presentation from the Windsor Continuation Group.

Five primates: Uganda, the Episcopal Church, Canada, Pakistan and South Africa have been asked to prepare briefings on issues facing their churches, while leaders of the Gafcon movement have been asked to present a paper on the third province movement in North America.

The primates come into the Alexandria meeting with some degree of bad feeling amongst themselves and with the leadership of Dr Williams. The Gafcon primates are seeking a mandate to create a third province in North America, while liberal leaders are adamantly opposed. Last week, the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan told delegates to the Diocese of Virginia’s annual synod that he would vigorously oppose any plan for parallel jurisdictions, while earlier this month the Church of Nigeria’s bishops said their call for a new province was non-negotiable.

In his closing press conference on Aug 3 at the Lambeth Conference, Dr Williams told reporters there was a broad desire for a “season of gracious restraint” marked by abstentions from further gay bishops and blessings, and a halt to foreign incursions into the jurisdictions of the North American provinces.

“The pieces are on the board” for the resolution of the Anglican conflict, Dr Williams said at Lambeth, “and in the months ahead it will be important to invite those absent from Lambeth to be involved in these next stages.”

He also had promised that “within the next two months” a “clear and detailed specification for the task and composition of a Pastoral Forum” to support embattled traditionalists would be unveiled. So far, these promises have yet to be honoured, while litigation and canonical and ecclesial chaos grow within the North American churches.

Of the Communion’s 38 primates, two have written that they will be unable to attend the gathering: South India and Pakistan. The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu has been invited to attend the gathering by Dr Williams, while the deans or senior bishops of provinces currently without primates: the West Indies, Central Africa, and Melanesia, will represent those churches.

Read George Conger’s article here.