I find the Communiqué from the Primate’s Meeting to be balanced and developed with great care. It is obvious that much prayer and study took place among the Primates at this meeting, and that they were receptive to one another in the common life of the Spirit.
It should be noted that much of the time of their meeting was spent dealing with pastoral matters pertaining to disasters and epidemics and ongoing challenges throughout the world that effect so many people as victims of war and violence and systemic poverty. The common mission of the Anglican Communion in responding to these developments is the imperative of the work of the Church.
The work of the Primates spent on the Windsor Report is what receives so much attention in the press. It is in this work where the balance and respect for one another seems so evident. In addressing the Report, they affirmed much of the ecclesiology for describing the Anglican Communion, and accepted the Instruments of Unity outlined therein. But they also indicated a need for more work and study concerning the Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury and a Council of Advice for the Archbishop.
The Primates strongly urged the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada to withdraw from representation at the Anglican Consultative Council (one of Instruments of Unity) which will meet in June. This withdrawal is to be until the next Lambeth Conference, which is scheduled for 2008. At the same time, the Primate’s asked that the representatives from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada be present at the June meeting for the purpose of making a report to the entire Anglican Consultative Council on the work that is being done in our churches concerning human sexuality. As our Presiding Bishop has said, this will give space for both speaking and listening, which the Windsor Report recommended. “We will have the opportunity to speak out of the truth of our experience.” I note that a Theological Committee from the House of Bishops has been working on contributing to this opportunity to share from the perspective of the Episcopal Church.
The Primates also asked the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint a panel of reference to supervise the adequacy of pastoral provisions for groups in serious theological dispute with their diocesan bishop, or dioceses in dispute with their Provinces. This creation of a panel under the Archbishop is in response to the condemnation in the Windsor Report of bishops disrespecting the jurisdiction of Diocesan bishops. I remind all that our House of Bishops, at its meeting last March, issued “Caring for All the Churches: Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight” which deals with this concern, and which was commended in the Windsor Report.
There is much work that remains to be done. And there is much more understanding of one another throughout the Communion that must result. The Primates made it very clear that each Provincial Church in the Communion has proceeded entirely in accordance with their constitutional processes and requirements. It is often these differing areas of polity that eventuate in much misunderstanding.
The desire to maintain the integrity of the Anglican Communion remains strong. This is evident to me from the Communiqué. It is also important to note the concluding sentence of the Presiding Bishop in his Statement: “Again this week it was revealed that so much more unites us than divides us.”
The House of Bishops will be meeting at its Spring Meeting from March 11-16. Part of our work together will be the result of the need to continue to do what has been asked of us by the Windsor Report and affirmed by the Primates.
The Rt. Rev. Barry R. Howe,
Diocese of West Missouri