Primates Feb 16

Primates Discuss Covenant, Listening Process
Continue Windsor Consideration

Archbishop of Canterbury visits President of Tanzania
By Matthew Davies

[ENS] A proposed Anglican Covenant — intended to affirm those cooperative principles that bind the Anglican Communion — together with a report on the Listening Process, and further consideration about the Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report occupied the February 16 sessions of the Primates’ Meeting near Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The day also included an afternoon courtesy call on President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania paid by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams.

At a media briefing closing the day, Archbishop Phillip Aspinall of Australia, spokesperson for the meeting, said the Primates “moved from the intense listening mode to much more discussion, exchange of views and debate. We heard free and frank views as well as areas of concern and tension that still need to be worked through.”

Aspinall said he hopes “to report further tomorrow as those discussions mature.”

The Primates also received the report from the design group that has been charged with developing an Anglican Covenant.

The Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council, the Communion’s main policy-making body, considered the report earlier in the week and informed the Primates that “it wishes to commend the work of the design group for further discussion in the Anglican Communion,” Aspinall said.

The Primates said that they wish to share the Covenant with the bishops of the Anglican Communion before its public release. Copies of the Covenant Design Group report and the draft Covenant are expected to be made available, along with the Primates’ communiqué, on February 19.

Aspinall said that they hoped for initial responses from around the Communion within the next 12 months and for a revised version of the Covenant to be presented to the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops.

‘Statement of classical Anglicanism’

Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies, who joined the media briefing, was appointed by Williams to serve as chair of the Covenant Design Group, which held its first meeting in Nassau, Bahamas, in mid-January.

“The overall purpose of the draft covenant is to provide the Anglican Communion with a mechanism of mutual accountability of holding one another together,” he said. “We believe that when it is finally approved we will have a means of holding each other in check and dealing with difficulties from time to time.”

He said that the draft proposal represented “a statement of classical Anglicanism,” but acknowledged that “it is not one size fits all.”

The Primates have requested that Williams write a letter commending the draft and the report to the 38 Anglican provinces for study and response, and noted an urgent need to translate the report into several different languages.

Another session was devoted to the consideration of a report from the Panel of Reference, which considers situations where congregations are in serious dispute with their bishop and unwilling to accept his or her episcopal ministry. Retired Archbishop Peter Carnley of Australia, chair of the Panel, delivered the report.

A number of difficulties were discussed about the Panel’s procedure: the effort required to establish the facts in a case where large volumes of written material are provided; constraints caused by the fact that legal actions are underway; and getting timely responses.

“Blunt questions were raised about whether the outcomes achieved are proportionate to the amount of work by the Panel,” Aspinall said. “While no definitive answer has yet been reached, it was pointed out that there has to be a will for reconciliation in these circumstances in order of the work of the panel to be effective.”

During the final session, the Primates heard from Canon Philip Groves who presented an interim report on the Listening Process, which strives to honor the process of mutual listening, particular to the experience of homosexual persons.

Groves has been making contacts around the communion and assessing what churches are doing to listen to gay and lesbian people, Aspinall said, acknowledging that there needs to be “established safe ground” for the process to be effective.

“He outlined preliminary proposals for the Lambeth Conference and is working on developing high quality materials that will deal with the experiences of homosexual people, what science can tell us about homosexuality,” the legal contexts, the reflection on the Bible, and training resources on facilitating listening.

Responding to questions from the media, Gomez insisted that the “difficulty of broken communion is more perceived than real,” and identified three groups of provinces in terms of responses to actions of the Episcopal Church.

“The first group of provinces has made no formal statement and that is probably the largest group,” he said. “The second is made up of provinces that have declared themselves to be in ‘impaired’ communion,” the group with which he identified his own province of the West Indies.”

The third group, he said, “has received the most attention in the last three years — the group that has declared it is in broken communion and it is those primates who have chosen not to attend Eucharist with the Presiding Bishop” of the Episcopal Church for the last two gatherings of the Primates. (Related story to follow.)

Meeting President, Remembering Martyr

In mid-afternoon, the Archbishop of Canterbury made a courtesy call on President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and paid tribute to the progress the country has made in recent years. The Rev. Jonathan Jennings, Williams’ press officer, quoted him as saying that “Tanzania has been a symbol of hope and stands for what can be achieved through democratic development.”

Williams was joined for the presidential meeting by Archbishop Donald Mtetemela of Tanzania, Bishop Alexander John Malik of Lahore, and Bishop Valentino Mokiwa of Dar es Salaam.

In other activities, Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi led a prayer service commemorating the anniversary of the death of Janani Luwum, African martyr and former Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, who was murdered in 1977 under dictator Idi Amin’s regime.

The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, who escaped Amin’s rule in 1974, read two prayers. “Both were under the pastoral care of Janani Luwum,” Canon James Rosenthal, communications director of the Anglican Communion, told reporters. Jefferts Schori read a lesson as part of the commemoration.

On February 17, the Primates will continue discussions about the Episcopal Church and receive presentations on theological education and the proposal of a worldwide study of hermeneutics, the branch of theology that deals with biblical interpretation.

— Matthew Davies is international correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.

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