Hiltz: Primates’ Meeting ‘not a decision-making body’

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Archbishop Fred Hiltz wants to see a Primates' Meeting agenda that engages with
Archbishop Fred Hiltz wants to see a Primates' Meeting agenda that engages with "urgent issues within our common humanity." Photo: André Forget

A number of primates within the Anglican Communion are pushing for a Primates’ Meeting agenda that “reflects not only concerns within the domestic life of the church, but around the urgent issues within our common humanity,” said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Returning from his December 9 meeting with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, Hiltz said he was informed by Welby that this particular call “is not coming from just certain parts of the Communion-it’s coming from every part of the Communion.”

While Hiltz acknowledged that issues around same-sex marriages will be an important topic of conversation at the meeting, he said he has encouraged Welby to make sure that the meeting’s agenda tackles important issues affecting the church and the world.

Earlier, Hiltz identified poverty, the global refugee crisis and climate change as key concerns for churches.

In an interview with the Anglican Journal, Hiltz said he was pleased with how receptive Welby was to this message. “He’s very open to that, and he said that a lot of the primates are calling for an agenda that reflects both.”

Hiltz also said that after his meeting with Welby, he came away “encouraged by his [Welby’s] clarity in terms of what the Primates’ Meeting is and what it’s not.”

The Primates’ Meeting “is not a decision-making body-it’s a body for people that come together to pray and discuss and discern and offer some guidance. We don’t make resolutions,” Hiltz said.

Since it was announced that Archbishop Foley Beach, the leader of the breakaway Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), would be present for the first part of the meeting, Hiltz said there has been concern in some quarters over whether or not attempts will be made to confront The Episcopal Church (TEC) over its decision this year to allow same-sex marriages. But Hiltz said Welby was quite clear that the meeting would not exclude any of the primates of churches that are members of the Anglican Communion.

“His principle is one of full inclusion of all the primates. I think he will encourage, and if need be, challenge, the primates to uphold that principle,” Hiltz said.

The meeting-scheduled Jan. 11-16, 2016-will be the first to be hosted by Welby since he was enthroned in 2013. The primates last met in Dublin in 2011, a meeting attended by only 23 or the 38 primates.

Hiltz said he believes part of the difficulty in getting the primates to meet arose from different understandings of the role of the Primates’ Meeting among the other instruments of the Communion. What began as a way for primates to meet for “friendly conversation” has been pushed in a more disciplinary direction, Hiltz said, which has led to some distorted understandings of how much authority primates actually have over the wider Communion.

“Within the Communion, as the Primates’ Meeting, we are called to a servant role, in terms of how we speak of, support and model servant leadership in the spirit of God’s mission,” he noted. “We’re servants of the churches in which we minister…we are called to be servants, not rulers.”

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André Forget
André Forget was a staff writer for the Anglican Journal from 2014 to 2017.

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