07 March 2011

Anglican primates hold six-day meeting in Dublin retreat centre

The Primates of the Anglican Communion at their meeting in Swords, Co Dublin. Seated on each side of Archbishop Rowan Williams are Archbishop Alan Harper and Canon Kenneth Kearon; in the back row (second from left) is the Irish-born Scottish primus, Bishop David Chillingworth

The March 2011 edition of the Church Review (Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough) carries this full-page report and these photographs on page 12.

Anglican primates hold six-day meeting
in Dublin retreat centre

The Primates of the Anglican Communion held a six-day meeting in Dublin recently when they met in the Emmaus Retreat and Conference Centre in Dublin in January. The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams said at the end of the meeting that the outcomes of the Primates’ Meeting in Ireland had met his “chief hopes” for the week.

The Primates were welcomed to Ireland by the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Alan Harper. The Primates meet regularly for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation.” Their previous meeting was in Alexandria in February 2009, and their last meeting in Ireland was in Dromantine in February 2005.

Speaking at a press conference in Swords at the end of the conference, Dr Williams explained that when he was indicated that the items to be considered included decisions about an effective Primates’ Standing Committee, reflections on primacy itself, and expectations of the Primates’ Meeting. “My chief hope was to emerge with greater clarity and agreement about what we expect of the Primates corporately and how best we can realise our expectations,” he said.

“In the light of that, I’m very glad to say that we have now a document about how we understand the work and calling and responsibility of the Primates’ meeting; the result of a number of days of very intensive discussion of our theologies of the church and of ministry. We have also redefined the task of the Standing Committee of the Primates' Meeting.”

Dr Williams said he had also been eager to honour the issue of gender-based violence flagged up by African bishops at their meeting in Uganda last year. As a result of this, and of the moving presentations on gender-based violence, the meeting had drawn up a substantial statement outlining the responsibilities of the Church in combating gender-based violence throughout the world.

Canon Patrick Comerford, who was chaplain at the Anglican Primates’ meeting, with Archbishop Rowan Williams

Acknowledging the “significant number of absentees” at the meeting, Dr Williams said that the fact remained that two-thirds of Anglican primates were present and three-quarters expressed their willingness to attend but were unable to do so. “That means that two-thirds of the Communion at least wish to meet and wish to continue the conversations they have begun.”

He said, however, that the absences of fellow Primates were felt and noticed every day, and that the documents agreed by the Primates emphasised building relationships across the whole body of Primates. He added he would be having meetings with the Primates who were not present.

The Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Burundi, the Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, stressed that those Primates from Africa who had not attended had “not withdrawn from the life of the Anglican Communion.”

“I personally believe whether they are here or not in Dublin, their hearts and aspirations are to see that the Anglican Communion develops positively and works together for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.,” he said.

After the six-day meeting, the Primates also agreed on statements and letters on a range of issues including climate change, the murder of Ugandan David Kato, Haiti, the persecution of Anglicans in Zimbabwe and letters of support for the Primate of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan, Archbishop Daniel Deng, and the Primate of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, Archbishop Mouneer Anis.

During the meeting, the Primates also visited Trinity College Dublin for a private viewing of the Book of Kells, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, preached in Christ Church Cathedral, and the support staff visited Skerries for dinner and a walk on the beach one evening, and.

Apart from Archbishop Harper, the Irish presence at the conference included the Most Revd David Chillingworth, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church and Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane, who is Irish-born; the Revd Canon Kenneth Kearon, who is secretary-general of the Anglican Communion and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin; Dr Cecilia Clegg, a former lecturer at the Irish School of Ecumenics, who was one of the facilitators; and Canon Patrick Comerford, who was the chaplain at the week-long conference.

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