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DUBLIN: Archbishop of Canterbury Stresses Unity.Candle Lit for Absentee Primates

DUBLIN: Archbishop of Canterbury Stresses Unity. Candle Lit for Absentee Primates
Williams says no to consecration of non-celibate gay bishops. Affirms church teaching

Clarity sought over role of Primates; Demonization of Gays denounced, calls for reduction in violence, Climate change and peace on earth sought by Primates. No communiqué issued

By David W. Virtue in Dublin
January 30, 2011

A candle was lit and empty chairs were placed around the room to note the absence of some 15 Anglican archbishops from the meeting at the Emmaus Center north of Dublin. Simultaneously, some 23 archbishops bewailed the death of a gay man in Uganda, called for clarity over the role of primates, argued for the reduction of violence and pressed for peace on earth, but, ironically, could not find peace and unity among themselves.

For the first time in modern ecclesiastical history, only two-thirds of the Anglican Communion's body of Primates was present. Dr. Rowan Williams wanted even in a vacuum to continue the conversation of the past. Left unsaid was the fact that those present represent only 30% of the Anglican Communion. The vast majority of Anglicans were with no representation or voice. To correct this, Dr. Williams plans a "face-to-face, person-to-person" tour of Africa (Kenya) and South East Asia in an effort to shore up his base and engage in "detailed conversation". It's going to be a long task, he said.

I asked him directly at a press conference how he proposed to re-establish his credibility with the absentee Primates, and bring them back to the Primatial Table, bearing in mind that GAFCON and the Jerusalem Declaration are now a reality, and that they represent about 70% of the practicing Anglican Communion though with fewer archbishops. Dr. Williams replied that he might have a few words to say about the phraseology of "establishing credibility, which I think begs a few questions."

"The answer is, as I have already indicated, we hope that the new members of the Primates' Standing Committee will, all of them, be doing some work to re-establish local and regional relationships. And, as I said, I am myself, in very regular contact with all of them."


The death of gay activist, David Kato in Uganda, brought forth the indignation of Dr. Williams and TEC Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori with resounding calls to fight homophobia wherever it is found. When VOL asked if their reaction might be premature bearing in mind that local newspapers said Mr. Kato's partner had fled and the motive might be robbery. The Archbishop of Uganda would not respond till he knew more, but Williams was unmoved and retorted, "Of course we don't know the full details yet. The fact is, though, that he was someone who had been named in this rather disgraceful Ugandan publication, someone, who in effect, whose murder had been called for." (The weekly Ugandan tabloid "Rolling Stone" is now defunct. Furthermore the ABC jumped in once before in a similar case in Nigeria which turned out to be false. Changing Attitude, a pro-gay UK Anglican organization tried to pin the death of a gay man on the Anglican Church of Nigeria. It was all lies).

"I think that this murder illustrates the fact that words have results. You can't go around sharing information about identity of a supposed lesbian and gay person and urging people to ostracize them or worse, 'Hang Them.', in the headline of one of the Ugandan newspapers. You can't do that without taking responsibility for consequences. Words have results. And that is certainly a lesson we all need to learn whenever people use any kind of language that dehumanized or demeans such persons, we have to think these are the possible consequences." Indeed.

Challenged by the Irish press on excluding gays from the episcopate leading to violence, the Archbishop of Burundi, Bernard Ntahoturi opined, "I think you had better ask that question of someone else other than in Africa. This is (not) an issue as far as the ministry is concerned I don't have any case of that in Africa."

WILLIAMS: "May I come in briefly on that? The question which has to be focused around the exclusion of certain homosexual persons from episcopal ministry is a question about behavior not a question about sexual identity. That is a question about whether someone who is committed and in an active same-sex partnership is eligible as a bishop, because the Church has not traditionally blessed such unions. Now that's, that's the problem we're involved in. So it is not about the dignity or rights of homosexual persons as such. That's where we stand."

QUESTION: "Is this a question about a person just being a homosexual?"

WILLIAMS: "I'm saying exactly the opposite. It's not a question of being homosexual. It's the (sexual) activities and what the Church is to make of it."

QUESTION: "Is there a difference between homosexual and heterosexual orientation?"

WILLIAMS: "No, I'm simply saying that the traditional ethic of the Church recognizes that some people have homosexual inclinations, but (the church) has not blessed homosexual partnerships, and therefore there is unfinished business, to put it mildly, about their eligibility. It is about the exercise of those (same-sex) desires and orientations. That is the distinction that is being made. I don't think, because it's not something we've been discussing these past few days, I really don't want to focus on it now."

Asked why Ugandan Archbishop Henry Orombi had not attended the Primates meeting, Williams responded, "He didn't attend because, along with a number of other African primates, he does not want to sit at table with those who have ordained active homosexual persons."

The Archbishop of Canterbury did say that Orombi along with other global South primates were signatories in a statement deploring and condemning all violence and demeaning language toward homosexual persons. "He was a signatory to that."

The Primus of Scotland, David Robert Chillingworth said "There is no doubt we do have some challenges in the Anglican Communion, but I am heartened by this meeting that there is a real, real effort within The Communion, among the Primates to deal with the challenges we have, and to move The Communion on to a state, to a level, to a place where we can engage in a meaningful and creative conversation guided by the Holy Spirit. I don't think that we can be unrealistic, I think we must be realistic, that there will be differences and you know, as well as I know, that these differences in The Communion, aren't necessarily those that are generated, or came into being through the present human sexuality issue."

Asked by Church Times reporter Ed Beaven if TEC's continuing to ignore previous Anglican Communion communiqués on homosexuals in the ministry would affect the long term unity of the Anglican Communion, Williams replied, "I have no crystal ball about the future. Clearly that division is very real, nobody is denying that. The question is how we cope with it, how we argue with one another, whether we'll still able to sit in the same room and argue the case, and that's why I'm sorry these are those who are not here to continue that argument among us."

Williams went on to say that there is solidarity between the churches in the North Atlantic world, churches in Africa, the churches in Asia about a broad range of ethical and spiritual questions, some of which surfaced in documents from this meeting. "That is not NOTHING. Some people would say that is more that goes to the lifeblood of the Church and anything else."


The role of the primacy was clearly on the mind of Dr. Williams because of the number of those not attending this primates meeting. In a letter, just before Christmas, he noted, "We should be thinking about what we mean by 'primacy' itself, since we cannot get the clarity we so badly need about the nature and authority of this (Primates') Meeting unless we clarify for ourselves how we see this question. So one of my chief hopes for the Meeting is to emerge with greater clarity and agreement what we expect of the Primates corporately and how best we can realize our expectations.

"In the light of that, I am very glad to say we have now a document about how we understand the work, and calling, and responsibility of the Primates' Meeting. This is the result of a number of days of very intensive discussion of our theologies of the Church and of ministry. And we have also redefined the task of the Standing Committee of the Primates' Meeting, reaffirming its independence of the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council, and giving to it some limited rights of inviting people for particular purposes and for particular pieces of work."

An observer familiar with the mind of Williams said he is clearly no longer referring everything back to committees, but is allowing the primates to have some traction in order to tempt those absentee primates back to the table. He also wants to rein in the activities and power of the Anglican Consultative Council. He believes it has over reached itself in the person on Canon Kenneth Kearon whose Standing Committee has lost so much credibility because of its liberal emphasis among archbishops like Mouneer and Orombi, the former resigning saying that his presence has "no value whatsoever" and that his voice is "like a useless cry in the wilderness." Stung by these remarks, Williams is now doing major damage control to draw them back to the table. Said Williams, "I think we have fulfilled the task as expressed in those letters of clarifying what we think about the (Primates') Meeting and helping to set up some structures that will serve it a bit more effectively. It is crucial that we have some decisions about the shape and effective future standing committee or steering group for the Primates."


The Archbishop of Burundi Bernard Ntahoturi noted, "I think that you're right to ask [about] some of the members of the Primates' Meeting who did not attend, and a good number of them are from Africa, [Nigeria, Uganda, and West Africa] and the issues that they raised are as far as we are concerned very understandable. What we have to understand is that the Anglican Communion is like a family, and when in a family there are issues that come up people do not agree or do not see in the same way the well-being of the family some actions are taken and some decisions are taken.

"First of all, I would like to say that, they have not withdrawn from the life of the Anglican Communion. They are still members of the Anglican Communion, and when we met in August and also in October -- as Primates of CAPA -- we the decision that attending or not attending [the Primates' Meeting] would be decided by each Province individually. That's why you see Burundi and other Provinces from Africa have attended as a decision taken by the House of Bishops in Burundi. I talk about Burundi, but also other Provinces that are here (Central Africa and South Africa).

"Not attending, physically, does not mean you are not participating in the life of The Communion. I personally believe that, whether they are here or they're not in Dublin, their hearts and aspirations to see that the Anglican Communion develops positively and works together for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.

"The issues are still there, and I think it was very good for us, who attended, that those issues were addressed in the sense that we believe and recognize that they're difficulties within The Communion. But if those difficulties and those issues and questions that we are being faced together and see how we solve them and see how we continue living together. So participation is a commitment to the future and to the life of The Communion where everyone is as a member of this large and worldwide family."


VIRTUEONLINE to the Archbishop of Canterbury: The Ordinariate in England seems to be gaining traction and moving ahead full steam with about 1,000 parishes ready to leave -- according to the morning news - including five bishops, numerous clergy and hundreds of parishioners leaving over issues of women's ordination and homosexuality. Is this the beginning of the end of the Church of England? And would you be forced to take sides with the Evangelicals on homosexuality if all the Traditionalists leave?


Questioned further, the archbishop added, "The Ordinariate proposal is a global one. It's up to each local (Catholic) Episcopal Conference to implement it as they see fit. I should add that I think some of the estimates of numbers of parishes and faithful transferring to the (Walsingham) Ordinariate in the United Kingdom are a bit exaggerated."


The Primates also issued an "open letter" on gender-based violence to The Communion. A second "open letter" was addressed to the President (Robert Mugabe) of Zimbabwe urging him to honor legal decisions to get rid of of the former Bishop of Harare, Nolbert Kunong, and to assist the legitimate Anglican community.

A Letter was sent to the Primate (Daniel Deng Bul Yak) of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan assuring him of prayers at this time of instability and transition in the Sudan. It also congratulated him and his colleagues, on the peaceful process of the Referendum for Independence.

Another Letter was sent to President (Asif Zardari) and members of government in Pakistan, addressing the persecution of Christians there and addressing their great concern over the rising levels of violence against Christian minorities there; deploring the assassination of the [Punjab] Governor (Salmaan Taseer), and the continuing pressure on Christian communities in that country.

A Letter also went out to the Prime Minister of Israel (Benjamin Netanyahu) noting the current situation of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem (Suheil Dawani) whose residency permit has been suspended; paralyzing a lot of the work of the Diocese (of Jerusalem). The primates urged that this be speedily resolved.

The Primates also wrote to representatives of the six nations involved in (nuclear weapons) negations in Korea -- (North Korea, South Korea, China, the United States; Russia, Japan and the United States). Once again, prompted by strong representations from the church (the Anglican Church of Korea) there. Again, the primates urged a peaceful resolution, a peaceful reunification of the country and for everything to be done to lower current tensions.

"Finally, we have written to the President Bishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East who is also the Bishop in Egypt - Bishop Mouneer Anis -- and to the head of the Coptic Church in Egypt (Pope Shenouda III) assuring them of our prayers and concern not only of the tragic events that have taken over the Christian communities in Egypt in recent weeks, but also our concern about current levels of instability and violence in Cairo and other cities, and promising them our prayers."

The Primates also issued statements addressing the continuing crisis in Haiti, assuring the church of its prayers and issued a second Statement on climate change; recognizing that those living in the Pacific region where rising water levels are now putting at risk the lives and livelihood of many people in the region.

It is all student union stuff, said one shrewd London observer. "I recall the days when we condemned apartheid in South Africa on Monday, white dominance in Rhodesia on Tuesday and then went home for tea and crumpets."

Present at the press conference were the Archbishop of Burundi, Bernard Ntahoturi; (an evangelical) the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, David Robert Chillingworth; (a liberal) the Archbishop of Canterbury (Rowan Williams) and the Archbishop of the West Indies, John Walder Dunlop Holder, an Anglo-Catholic. Notably absent, meaning not invited, was Katharine Jefferts Schori of the US Episcopal Church and Canon Kenneth Kearon Secretary General of the Anglican Consultative Council.


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