This month, at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the primates and moderators of the member churches of the Anglican Communion will meet in Canterbury. At our last gathering in Dublin in 2011, we expressed our hope that the Primates’ Meeting be “a primary forum for the strengthening of the mutual life of the provinces, and be respected by individual primates and the provinces they lead as an instrument through which new developments may be honestly addressed.” The new developments of which we spoke then included a wide range of matters within the church and within the world.
In this meeting, we will take time to give thanks for the health and vitality of the Anglican Communion through the work of its numerous commissions, networks and dialogues, touching on everything from faith and order, to unity and common witness, to relief and development work! We can also expect a lot of conversation about the structures of the Communion and their effectiveness in serving the member churches in our common commitment to God’s mission.
We will engage in conversations about human sexuality, recognizing that the churches are in very different places with respect to the blessing of same-sex unions (marriages), grounded not only in theological convictions rooted in Scripture, but also cultural contexts and political realities. We will be challenged to address the tensions that exist in the Communion and to live the reconciliation we proclaim through the gospel of Christ.
If we are to honour our calling as modern-day apostles, pastors and prophets, our agenda must reflect a good balance between matters that are domestic and of particular concern within the household of faith, and matters that are global and of overwhelming concern to our common humanity and our common home, the Earth itself.
I think particularly of the global refugee crisis and the church’s role in welcoming and accompanying refugees who have fled from their homelands in search of freedom and peace in a new land. I think of the ways in which the church could uphold the new international commitments made at the recent Paris Climate Change Conference (www.cop21.gouv.fr/en/). I think of the church’s role in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by world leaders last September (www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals).
I ask for your prayers for this meeting of the primates. Pray with me that our conversations and commitments become the very stuff of Canterbury Tales, celebrating and deepening our growth in Communion, our life in Christ and our witness to his gospel of love for the redemption and healing of the world.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.