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Anglican Primates’ meeting: Day 5 news

6 October 2017 • Persistent link: iarccum.org/?p=4068

ACNS coverage of the Primates' meeting in Canterbury
Anglican primates discuss action on climate change

Disappearing islands in the south Pacific, recent hurricanes in the Caribbean, and food security issues in Africa were amongst the items discussed by Anglican church leaders as they discussed climate change and the environment during the Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury, England. The discussions began on Tuesday when the Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop John Holder, briefed his colleagues on recent hurricanes in the Caribbean; and continued yesterday (Thursday) when the primates heard about disappearing islands in the south Pacific and food security issues in Africa.

Later, in an interview with the Anglican Communion News Service, Archbishop John Holder of the West Indies said that he welcomed the primates’ discussion on the environment, saying that it was “very important” for the Church to speak out on climate change. “We are connecting these two devastating hurricanes [Irma and Maria] to climate change,” he said. “We can’t prove it but we think there is some kind of climate change element in there.”

Commenting on the primates’ discussions, he said: “We were hearing the stories from different parts of the world on climate change,” he said. “And I think we are all convinced it is a fact of life.

“Even if you take away the term ‘climate change,’ something is going wrong with the weather. The weather is becoming extremely destructive and there must be a reason for that.

“So all of us … understand this is a problem and we commit to doing whatever we can to alleviate this problem; or at least help people prepare themselves for the bad weather. And when they are devastated or when they have bad experiences, then chip in to help them to reconstruct and revive themselves.”

On Thursday morning, the Archbishop of Southern Africa, Thabo Makgoba, began the session with a biblical reflection from John 1: 29. He told ACNS that he finished his reflection with “a challenge, as Jesus invites us – as he said to Peter – to feed his lambs, to feed his sheep.

“And I lamented the fact that very often when we discuss things as primates we discuss the social justice issue of feeding the lamb and the vulnerable”. He encouraged his fellow primates to think about “caring for the where the lambs and the vulnerable are – that is the environment” and to “make the linkage between social justice and climate justice.”

A number of primates spoke about climate change issues in their region, including Archbishop Albert Chama of Central Africa, who spoke about food security; and Archbishop Winston Halapua, the Bishop of Polynesia in the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, who spoke about rising sea levels.

“The design of the Primates’ Meeting is just so overwhelmingly empowering,” Archbishop George Takeli, the Primate of Melanesia, said, “particularly the sessions on reflections on the Scriptures.

“The reflection by Archbishop Thabo was so deeply transforming – particularly in the invitation to see the world through the eyes of God. That was the greatest challenge and the life-transforming invitation that was given to us this morning when he asked how many provinces were affected by food security and climate change – I think the whole house did raise their hand up.”

In a starkly powerful message, he said: “some may see information on climate change on television and take it as interesting reading, as entertainment; some would read it in newspapers and treat it as something to occupy time, but for me – and especially for us in Melanesia – it is actually an urgent matter.”

He said that there were three important issues to consider: “The weather pattern throughout the year is no longer consistent, creating surprise cyclone seasons – we have more cyclones than before causing flash flooding. Some places where there are no floods we are getting flash flooding happening.

“Secondly, the climate change is affecting the soil – the whole overall environment where you could plant two or three times before and you could harvest the same amount of food, is no longer there.” He said that many Melanesian’s live of subsistence farming and can no longer grow crops to feed themselves and their families.

“Thirdly,” he said, “the sea rise: the sea level rise is affecting some of our islands [which are] are now underwater. It is a serious issue. It is a serious concern.”

The Archbishop of Southern Africa, Thabo Makgoba, is recognised as a leading champion of environmental concerns. He too welcomed the discussions. “What I hope will come from this meeting is a commitment by each primate to pray for social justice issues but to look at those with the eyes of saying the climate, the environment, the earth where they are happening, ought to be cared for,” he said.

Archbishop George added: “What strikes me is the awareness, as I listen to many stories from my brother primates throughout the world I see that I am being buried deep in their own issues as well. They become part of me.

“Our stories are making the world become a very small world – that we are part of each other. And what I begin to sense from the Primates’ Meeting is that all of us are moving towards creating a strong network to work together between the primates, addressing the issues of climate change and other issues together.”

Middle East archbishop briefs Anglican primates on reconciliation

Archbishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem and the Middle East has briefed his fellow Anglican Primates on his province’s reconciliation ministry. The Archbishop, whose own diocese takes in the countries of Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Syria and Lebanon; and whose province includes Iran, Cyprus and the Gulf, and Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, has considerable experience of reconciliation work.

“This morning I had the opportunity to update the primates on the situation we have in Jerusalem – a city which embraces three religions,” Archbishop Suheil told the Anglican Communion News Service, “and I said something about how we build trust and hope amongst the communities who live there.”

He said that reconciliation was “a priority” for Anglicans, and added that the work could be done through the church’s work and mission. “I believe strongly that through the work of our schools and institutions we can reach people and we can build up a trust and friendship amongst all these communities.”

The Archbishop, who was attending his first Primate’s Meeting since being elected as the lead bishop in his province, said: “ At the Primates’ Meeting we had wonderful fellowship amongst everybody. And this is, for me, a week of learning from each other, exchanging experiences and also learning what other provinces are doing.

“I believe that the interaction that happened with all the primates was very helpful in a very good Christian spirit. And I have to say ‘thank you’ to Archbishop Justin, because he is a good facilitator and I am really confident that he will lead the whole Anglican Communion to a place of getting together to be reconciled with each other. This is my wish and prayer.”

Reconciliation is one of the three priority areas of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. It was on the agenda of the Primates’ Meeting at the request of the communion’s leaders who took part in the meeting this week on the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral, England.

Global Anglican commission to tackle inter-religious tensions

A new global commission to “bring mutual understanding and build trust where there is ignorance, fear and hostility” between different faith groups has been launched today at the Anglican Communion’s Primates’ Meeting in Canterbury, England. The new Anglican Inter-Faith Commission had been requested by members of the Anglican Consultative Council when they met in Lusaka last year. Today, primates from 33 Anglican provinces heard how the new body had now been established.

The Bishop of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, Mouneer Anis, will chair the new group, which will meet for the first time in Cairo in February next year. Bishop Mouneer addressed the primates in a video message filmed in his diocese’s new media centre. Each province in the Anglican Communion has been invited to identify suitable members of the commission.

“Building on the strong foundations laid by the Network for Inter-Faith Concerns (NIFCON), the Anglican Inter-Faith Commission … will work both internationally and in regional groups across the Anglican Communion, in the first instance to gather research into the engagement of Anglicans with people of other faiths,” A spokesperson for the Commission said. “It will look at both the challenges and the opportunities of inter-faith dialogue, of working together with other faith communities for the common good and of witnessing to and sharing the love of God with others.

“The Commission will listen carefully to the experiences of Anglicans in all the provinces and will seek to identify good practice which can be shared throughout the Communion. It will then develop regional and thematic workstreams which will seek to enrich the life and ministry of the Anglican Communion worldwide in its relationships with people from faith backgrounds other than Christian.”

At a press conference in a building overlooking Canterbury Cathedral, at the end of the Primates’ Meeting, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said that “the issues of interfaith strain, stress, even conflict, are global, they are generational and they are ideological.”

He said that the new Commission “will bring together the wisest people across the Communion to work on this area in the places of highest tension with the aim of replacing diversity in conflict with diversity in collaboration.”

The Commission would operate at “different levels”, Archbishop Justin said. “There is a very strong emphasis on operating at a global level, but also at provincial and regional levels . . . because different levels face different issues of conflict between faiths, or of tension between faiths, and potential conflict; and opportunities for collaboration between faith groups depending upon whether Christians are a majority or minority in the area, or what the other faith groups are in the area, and so on.

“It will look at both issues around the theology of our differences and how we handle those, and also practical application of working together.”

The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, told ACNS that at a time of “ever increasing influence of extremists … among the major religious communities in a significant number of our provinces, this Inter-Faith Commission and its objectives are a welcome and timely step in the right direction.

“This is an opportunity for the Anglican Communion to play its role in every part of the world where we are present.”

Speaking at the press conference, he added: “particularly in parts of the world where Christians are a minority, with this Anglican Commission, the minority status will now have something bigger to look up to. It means when that country speaks there are 165 other countries speaking through that local representation.”