by Pat Ashworth
THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury has written to all the Primates of the Anglican Communion, in advance of their February meeting in Tanzania, confirming that he has invited the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA), Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, to attend.
Dr Williams acknowledges that the meeting will be “an important and
difficult encounter, with several moments of discernment and decision to be
faced, and a good deal of work to be done on our hopes for the Lambeth
Conference, and on the nature and shape of the Covenant that we hope will
assist in strengthening our unity as a Communion”.
While questions remain about ECUSA’s relations with other provinces —
“though some provinces have already made their positions clear” — the
Archbishop says that he does not think it wise or just to take “any action
that will appear to bring that consideration, and the whole process of our
shared discernment, to a premature end”.
Dr Williams believes that it is important that Dr Jefferts Schori “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.”
The Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi, has already declared publicly that he will not sit at the same table as Dr Jefferts Schori (News, 29 December). Attempts failed this week to reach him for a response to the letter.
Dr Williams goes on to say that, given the “acute dissension” in ECUSA and its widespread effects in the Communion, he intends to invite “two or three other contributors from that province, for a session to take place before the rest of our formal business, in which the situation may be reviewed”.
He says he is currently consulting about how this could be best organised. He also emphasises that ECUSA is not a monochrome body, and contains “a full range of conviction”.
Dr Williams reminds the Primates of the unequivocal support of many bishops and dioceses in the United States for the processes and recommendations of the Windsor report. “There is much to build on here,” he says. “There are many in the Episcopal Church who are deeply concerned as to how they should secure their relationships with the rest of the Communion. I hope we can listen patiently to these anxieties.”
Underlining the importance of planning constructively for Lambeth 2008, Dr Williams issues a strong warning: “If we become entirely paralysed by our continuing struggles to resolve the challenges posed by decisions in North America, we shall lose a major opportunity for strengthening our common life.”
Dr Williams tells the Primates that he will be seeking the advice of the Primates’ Meeting on the question of invitations to Lambeth. He also confirms the presence at the meeting of the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, as a spokesman for the Church of England.