Magazine article Anglican Journal

Primates' Meeting Likely to Be Difficult

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Primates' Meeting Likely to Be Difficult

Article excerpt

The 38 primates of the Anglican Communion have yet to meet this month in Dar Es Salaam, but events leading up to the meeting scheduled Feb. 14-19 already indicate that it will be a tough one, particularly for Katharine Jefferts Schori, the new presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA).

Shortly after her election last June, conservative primates from Africa and other developing nations, including the meeting's host province of Tanzania, stated unequivocally that they would not meet with Bishop Schori because of her support for the election of Gene Robinson, the gay bishop of New Hampshire, and because she is a woman. (While some provinces within the Communion, including Canada, ordain women to the priesthood, others remain opposed to it.) These same primates have asked the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to invite someone other than Bishop Schori to represent ECUSA at the meeting. The United Kingdom-based Church Times newspaper has reported, however, that Archbishop Williams has already invited the presiding bishop to attend the meeting, so that she can "be given a chance both to hear and to speak, and to discuss face to face the problems we are confronting together. We are far too prone to talk about these matters from a distance, without ever having to face the human reality of those from whom we differ."

Aside from being the only woman in the all-male grouping of church leaders, Bishop Schori attends her first meeting among equals burdened by very public upheavals in her own backyard that some observers have noted, almost seem orchestrated to shame her and to force the resolution of the division within the Communion against ECUSA. She had barely taken office when seven dioceses opposed to female leadership in the U.S. church asked the Archbishop of Canterbury for "alternative oversight."

Meanwhile, San Joaquin, a California diocese with 10,000 members, approved an initial step toward changing its constitution to end ties with the church. Additionally, last December, eight parishes in Virginia--several with roots going back to colonial America--severed ties with ECUSA and aligned themselves with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, which is overseen by Archbishop Peter Akinola, primate of the Church of Nigeria. included in the eight departing congregations is The Falls Church (in Falls Church, Va.) which once counted the first U.S. President, George Washington, among its members. Reacting to the departures, Bishop Schori wrote in the Dec. 19 issue of Washington Post that the departures "have received a significant amount of publicity, but they represent a tiny percentage of the total number of Episcopalians in the church." ECUSA, which counts 2.4 million members, has 7,200 congregations.

Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, released a statement that squashed anyone's hopes of CANA gaining equal recognition in the denomination. CANA, he wrote, "is not a branch of the Anglican Communion as such but an organization which relates to a single province of the Anglican Communion," and it is "to my knowledge, a 'mission' of the Church of Nigeria.'" The group has also "not petitioned the Anglican Consultative Council for any official status within the Communion's structures, nor has the Archbishop of Canterbury indicated any support for its establishment," he added. …

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