[News Analysis]: The 2016 primates gathering will live to see its second day, with all participants scheduled to return to the Canterbury Cathedral crypt on Tuesday, 12 January 2016.
Sources familiar with the deliberations stated the first business session of the meeting on Monday afternoon focused on setting the agenda for the week long gathering and an address by Archbishop Welby on the issues facing the Communion.
Fears the first day would see a walkout did not come to pass -- to the chagrin of the crew of a BBC video truck parked outside the cathedral in the rain awaiting the capture on film of the departure of the conservatives. At the close of business the primates attended a public Evensong service in Canterbury Cathedral -- with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church of the USA sitting four places down from Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America.
British press speculation and informed sources opined before the meeting that Archbishop Beach would be sent home after the first day. Conservative commentators expected the GAFCON primates to demand the expulsion of Bishop Michael Curry and Archbishop Fred Hiltz as a condition of their continued participation at the opening bell. Neither appears to have occurred -- so far.
In a letter to the clergy of Uganda published on 6 Jan 2016, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali wrote: “If godly order is restored during the ‘gathering’ of Primates, then I will be free to join any subsequent Primates Meeting that may be convened immediately thereafter in Canterbury. If such godly order is not restored, then I will uphold the Provincial Assembly’s resolution and withdraw from the meeting.” The term “godly order” he explained, meant addressing the tear in the fabric of the communion caused by the Episcopal Church and Anglican Church of Canada by its unilateral adoption of doctrines and disciplines at odds with the wider mind of the church.
AI has learned the Archbishop of Uganda has not wavered in his determination to address these issues. They are expected to be discussed on the second day -- however the lack of official information from the closed door meeting prevents verification of this claim.
Speaking to Canada’s Anglican Journal in December, Archbishop Fred Hiltz stated the first day would begin with fasting and prayer and with Archbishop Welby offering an address about “who we are, what we are called to be for the Communion, and how we fulfill that vocation together.”
Archbishop Hiltz’s predictions of the first day flow of events appears to have been borne out. AI can confirm the primates spent Monday morning in prayer and the afternoon in hearing an address by Archbishop Welby and in setting the agenda for the week ahead.
AI has seen what purports to be a copy of the archbishop’s address, and has asked the Lambeth Palace press office to confirm its veracity. If the document is correct, then the themes identified by Archbishop Hiltz in his Anglican Journal interview were present in Archbishop Welby’s address. The archbishop’s aides have not responded so far.
Nor can claims that an overnight ultimatum was given by the GAFCON block to Archbishop Welby be verified.
What is known is that it rained all morning in Canterbury, and is likely to rain on Tuesday as well and that Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche community, will address the primates on Thursday and Friday on the subject of Jesus, and attempt to lead the Anglican leaders into a deeper love of the Lord.
The meeting continues.