Anglican primates encircled by prayer ahead of Canterbury meeting

[Episcopal News Service] The Anglican Communion is being called to prayer as its 38 primates – the senior archbishops, presiding bishops and moderators – head to Canterbury, England, next week for their first official meeting in five years.

“I invite Episcopalians to join me in prayer for this gathering, that God will be fully present with us and that we may follow our Lord Jesus in the ways of His love and in so doing be part of God’s blessing to the world,” said Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry in a Jan. 7 statement.

Curry will be attending his first Primates Meeting since his installation as the Episcopal Church’s presiding bishop and primate last November.

Earlier in the week, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby released a video message calling for prayer and recognizing that the primates are expected to deal with “some very, very difficult issues – within the life of the Anglican Communion, but also hugely difficult issues that are affecting the whole church of Christ and our whole world.”

The agenda will be set by common agreement with all primates as they begin their Jan. 11-16 meeting at Canterbury Cathedral, widely regarded as the mother church of the Anglican Communion. Issues addressed during the meeting are expected to include religiously motivated violence, the protection of children and vulnerable adults, the environment, and human sexuality, according to a Lambeth Palace press release.

“What I would ask people to pray for more than anything else is wisdom and love,” said Welby, who has visited every province in the Anglican Communion since becoming Archbishop of Canterbury in 2013, a commitment he set out early in his primacy.

The last Primates Meeting was held in Dublin, Ireland, in January 2011, making this the longest period of time between two meetings since they began in 1979.

Seven primates chose not to attend that meeting because of the presence of then-Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and developments within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada supporting the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people.

In an effort to avert a similar boycott, Welby has invited Archbishop Foley Beach, the leader of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), to gather with the primates for conversation before the official Primates Meeting commences.

ACNA is composed largely of former Episcopalians who chose to break away from the Episcopal Church over disagreements concerning human sexuality issues. The leaders of some provinces, mostly in Africa, have declared their affiliation to ACNA and claim to be in a state of impaired communion with the Episcopal Church and other provinces whose actions they dispute.

Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of the Anglican Church of Uganda issued a statement Jan. 6 calling for “discipline and godly order” to be restored in the Anglican Communion during the Canterbury “gathering” – otherwise he said he will withdraw from the subsequent official meeting.

The hope expressed by Archbishop Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canada is that the agenda would “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.”

Hiltz’s Jan. 7 statement made particular reference to the church’s response to the global refugee crisis, climate change and advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Curry, following his historic election as presiding bishop in June 2015, told ENS that the Anglican Communion is as much about relationships as it is about structure and organization. “It really is a network of relationships that have historical roots, but actually have missional roots,” he said. “What really binds us together is that we are followers of Jesus in the Anglican way … and that primal relationship holds us together.

“Of course, we’re struggling – we’re struggling, we know that – but I really do believe that we can continue to work together in partnerships that help to serve God’s mission in this world by joining together so that children don’t go to bed hungry, to help so that people have water, to help so that education is available to children, to help so that women can support their families. We’ve got some work to do; we’ve got some Jesus work to do … This world is crying out for us and it needs us, and the Anglican Communion is one way that God uses us together to really make this a better world.”

A website has been launched with resources pertaining to the meeting and will include collects and prayer requests as the primates gather.

Primates are the senior archbishops and presiding bishops elected or appointed to lead each of the 38 autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion. They are invited to the Primates Meetings by the Archbishop of Canterbury to consult on theological, social and international issues.

The Anglican Communion Primates Meeting is one of the three instruments of communion, the other two being the Lambeth Conference of bishops and the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion’s main policy-making body. The Archbishop of Canterbury, as primus inter pares, or “first among equals,” is recognized as the focus of unity for the Anglican Communion.

Each province relates to other provinces within the Anglican Communion by being in full communion with the See of Canterbury. The Archbishop of Canterbury calls the Lambeth Conference, chairs the meeting of primates and is president of the ACC.

In some Anglican provinces the primate is called archbishop and/or metropolitan, while in others the term presiding bishop – or as in Scotland, primus – is used.

The Archbishop of Canterbury also invites to the primates meetings the moderators who lead the united ecumenical churches of North India, South India and Pakistan.

In 1978 Archbishop Donald Coggan, the 101st Archbishop of Canterbury, established the Primates Meeting as an opportunity for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation.”

The primates have met in Ely, England, in 1979; Washington, D.C., in 1981; Limuru, Kenya, in 1983; Toronto, Canada, in 1986; Cyprus in 1989; Newcastle, Northern Ireland, in 1991; Cape Town, South Africa, in 1993; Windsor, England, in 1995; Jerusalem in 1997; Oporto, Portugal, in 2000; Kanuga Conference Center, Hendersonville, North Carolina, in 2001; Canterbury, England, in 2002; Gramodo, Brazil, in May 2003; London, England, in October 2003; Newry, Northern Ireland, in February 2005; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in February 2007; Alexandria, Egypt, in February 2009; and Dublin, Ireland, in January 2011.

The provinces and primates of the Anglican Communion are listed here.

Visit the official Primates 2016 website

Follow @Primates2016 on Twitter

– Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.


  1. Thank Presiding Bishop Curry for all that you do for oppressed and marginalized people here in the USA and around the world.
    Praying for all the Primates, dioceses, churches, Christians, believers and non-believers alike.
    I have a dream that in the days ahead the hard work put forth by those who have gone before will come to full fruition and we will live in a time of peace in this glorious age.

    Love and Light in Christ,

  2. Rev Deacon Chip Faucette says:

    lets follow the Good book and stop this humanism walk into myth!!! to hell with human sexuality
    feed the poor
    visit the sick
    cloth the naked

    • Doug Desper says:

      Dear Chip —

      While I agree with your call to focus more on the Great Commandment, I’m afraid that it’s too late to just shut off the spot light on all things dealing with sexuality and redefining marriage. For nearly 40 years the Church has been lobbied – sometimes bullied and shamed – by advocates who wanted the change. Well, it’s here. But the spotlight can not now be shut off in satisfaction saying, “ah, the new normal”. When General Convention jettisoned Matthew 19 and Genesis 2 – Jesus’ word on marriage left out of the Marriage “Study” – did they think that there would not be consequences? It’s time to face how the Church will fare with the seismic shift. Our Province is small in the Anglican Communion with an inordinate amount of influence, mainly due to our money. I’m starting to sense that money no longer buys happiness.

  3. Neil Nortcliffe says:

    If all the archbishops can do at this forthcoming conference is have petty spats about the validity of women’s orders and the inclusion/exclusion of people according to sexuality and waste their breath on who is in communion with who and ignore (apart from a round of sanctimonious episcopal handwringing), the dreadful plight of our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ who face hatred and death on a daily basis around the world, then there’s little point to the time effort and money being devoted to it.

  4. Kevin Miller says:

    Praying for the unity of the Church!

  5. Margaret Sjoholm-Franks says:

    The Archbishop Stanley Ntagali of Uganda said that unless “godly order,” is restored he cannot participate in any official meeting of the communion. I suspect the “godly order” the bishop talks about includes some bishops and male priests from African dioceses having several wives and practicing polygamy covertly and making those women pass for “assistants” or secretaries or sisters of the official wife…it also includes looking the other way when gays and lesbians get murdered just for being who they are

    • Doug Desper says:

      A thought here, Margaret.

      You and I would agree that ISIS terrorists are brutal murderers. Others would agree with us, except for their own racist reasons. With them we agree that ISIS is horrible, but because we share that belief with them as misguided people does that make us a racist equally with them?


      So it is with foreign archbishops and their opposition to marriage redesign or conservative views on homosexuality. FAR too many TEC leaders extrapolate and then falsely represent that because the overseas bishops (the majority of the Communion) oppose TEC’s revisionist views that these bishops thereby are indifferent to the murder of gays, and other brutal tactics. Such an argument is ridiculous but the new “go to” way of shutting down opposition.

      Seems that our racism training isn’t working. North American elitism is very much alive.

    • Nancy Sjoholm says:

      I think that the Episcopal Church is ahead of the rest of the Anglican Communion in accepting all people and providing for their need to be united in love. I hope that others will follow our lead, and show acceptancefor all.

      Margaret: I wonder if we are in any way related. Sjoholm is such an unusual surname

  6. Chukwuebuka Kingsley says:

    I see peoples’ comments on this and I bleed in my heart. There cannot be both light and darkness in the same church. Give a sinner the best of care you can without giving him Christ in the truth of His Gospel undefiled, you have done nothing or a thing least important. For beyond whatsoever care or accommodation you can give someone is the Salvation of such a one from his sins. But how can he get if you as a Church that should give it him now try to conform yourselves to his own way. Tell one his sin to his face that he may repent, confess and forsake them and be saved; then have you shown him true love for true love does not rejoice in iniquity. That I rebuked you for your sin doesn’t mean I hate you rather it means I love you; It is then left for you to repent of your sin if you still want to be in communion with me for there is no compromising of my standards that had long been established even before your fathers were born.
    If any church thinks it can no longer bind itself to the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ as plainly as it is given us in the Scriptures, let it then know that it has anathematized itself from those that still bind themselves to the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ and there cannot be any harmonious communion or reconciliation whatsoever unless she repents and forsakes her sins and brings herself back to the binding of the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ – the Head of His Church.
    For light and darkness can never be together in the same church. Never. For our God is light and in him is no darkness.

  7. Julie Kimani says:

    Praying for truth and unity.

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