Primates emerge from London meeting with strong statement on threats to
[Episcopal News Service] -- The primates of the Anglican Communion
October 16 from a closed two-day meeting at London's Lambeth Palace,
headquarters of the archbishop of Canterbury, with a strong statement
what they perceive as threats to unity.
The special meeting was
called by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan
Williams to address "controversial decisions by the Diocese of New
Westminster" in Canada to bless same-sex unions, and the confirmation
the election of an openly gay bishop by the Episcopal Church's General
Convention in August.
"These actions threaten the unity of our own Communion as well as our
relationships with other parts of Christ's Church, our mission and
witness, and our relations with other faiths, in a world already
confused in areas of sexuality, morality and theology, and polarize
Christian opinion," the statement said.
statement said that the actions in Canada and the US "could be
perceived to alter unilaterally the teaching of the Anglican
Communion ... Whilst we recognize the juridical autonomy of each province
in our Communion, the mutual interdependence of the provinces means
none has authority unilaterally to substitute an alternative teaching
if it were the teaching of the entire Anglican Communion." Such
decisions "jeopardize our sacramental fellowship with each other."
The 37 primates representing
the provinces or autonomous churches of worldwide Anglicanism argued
that "each province needs to be aware of
the possible effects of its interpretation of Scripture on the life of
other provinces in the Communion." The statement made it clear that the
primates reaffirmed the resolutions from the 1998 Lambeth Conference of
Anglican bishops stating that homosexual behavior is contrary to
Scripture and that blessing of same-sex relationships was not
At the same time the statement
pointed to another resolution that calls
on the church "to listen to the experience of homosexual persons and to
assure them that they are loved by God" and full members of the Body of
The statement also warned
that the consecration of the Rev. V. Gene Robinson as bishop in the
Diocese of New Hampshire would signal that
church has "reached a crucial and critical point," one that could place
the future of the Anglican Communion itself in jeopardy. "This will
the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to
further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide
in consequence whether they can remain in communion with provinces that
choose not to break communion with the Episcopal Church USA," said the
The primates asked the archbishop
of Canterbury to appoint a commission "to consider his own role in maintaining communion within and between
provinces when grave difficulties arise." The statement concluded, "It
is clear that recent controversies have opened debates within the life
of our Communion which will not be resolved until there has been a
lengthy process of prayer, reflection and substantial work in and
alongside the commission."
Honest and open meeting
In comments at a closing
press conference, Williams said that "what we
have achieved has been hard won but we found the will to keep working
together." Noting that the meeting "has certainly been anything but
and not without pain," he added that "it has been honest and open and I
hope we have grown in some real shared understanding as a result."
Williams said that "we have grown closer together rather than, as many
people predicted, further apart during this meeting. Yet he admitted
that "issues around homosexuality will continue to be difficult and
divisive for the Anglican Communion, as they are for many Christians.
will continue to cause pain and anger and misunderstanding and
resentment all around."
Williams also said that
the final statement "renders talk of winners
Difficult but truthful
Presiding Bishop Frank T.
Griswold agreed with Williams that it was "a
difficult but truthful meeting. We work in very different contexts," he
said, so what may be good news for one province can turn out to be bad
news for another province."
Underscoring the comments
by Williams, Griswold said that "sexuality
issues are far from settled" but that "the Anglican Communion is not
static but dynamic" in the way it addresses issues.
Archbishop Drexel Gomez
of the West Indies, a leading spokesman for the conservative primates,
was asked at the press conference if he thought
the statement would fall apart if Robinson were consecrated. He said
that "we will follow the process" and wait for the commission report.
"That's what I expect to do."
James Solheim is director of Episcopal News Service. Dan
director of communications, contributed to this report.
from the Primates Conference
Archbishop of Canterbury's statement at the final press conference of the Primates'
Press statements from Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and Archbishop Drexel Gomez
A Statement by the Primates of the Anglican Communion meeting in Lambeth Palace
Canon Gene Robinson addresses Halfway to Lambeth by satellite link
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