At lunchtime today, a moment of drama occurred at the White Sands Hotel (non-Primates side). Archbishop Peter Akinola walked down the staircase of the hotel lobby, attired splendidly in white, and walked calmly down the corridor and out into the sunshine and the security-guarded wing of the hotel where the Primates meeting is taking place. With a few other photographers and reporters, I followed him, but to late to engage him in conversation.
Some minutes later he returned and went upstairs again. By this time, all the reporters and photographers gathered around the pool at the White Sands were alerted, including the BBC reporter and film cameraman who have been filming Davis and myself. The cameras assembled facing the stairs waiting for him to return. They didn’t have long to wait. Archbishop Akinola returned down the stairs, trying to cover his face with his hand and some papers to hide himself from the photographers. Davis and myself, Trevor Barnes and Andrew Fenner from the BBC joined everyone in following him. Trevor tried to asked the Archbishop a question as did I. He refused to acknowledge us and when asked if he would comment, replied tersely, No. He finally reached the no-go area and walked off, with cameras clicking and film cameras rolling.
Archbishop Akinola had been accompanied on this brief journey by Archbishop Oko of the Province of Bandel, Nigeria who was acting as his ADC. He left Peter Akinola at the security cordon and walked back into our part of the hotel. Davis and myself followed him, with Davis calling out to him ‘Your Grace, can I have a word with you?” He ignored Davis, reached the stairs and disappeared.
Some minutes later Archbishop Akinola returned yet again, this time accompanied by Angela Minns and a security guard. There was speculation as to why he had left the company of the other Primates (he is the only Primate to be sighted this lunch time) and what might be happening upstairs. Is a Global South strategy meeting taking place? Are they responding to developments inside the Primates meeting this morning? Inevitably, media speculation is that the Global South strategists are hatching a new plot.
I was surprised that the Archbishop risked coming to our side of the hotel, and even more that he returned a second time with a security guard and tried to hide himself.
I observe that every other Primate who has visited us in the exclusion zone have come to sit and chat, share a drink, smoke a cigar, and relax. Archbishop Akinola alone has come and refused to speak with people. He created a bad impression for me, especially after the openness of his greeting to Davis and myself on Wednesday. These signs mean a lot to me. Why does the Archbishop need to act in secrecy and run away from cameras and questions?
It reinforces my impression that in contrast to our open presence here, where we have been willing to talk with everyone, liberal and conservative, something underhand is going on upstairs amongst people who have something to hide.
Later in the day, it transpires that Archbishop Akinola and 6 other Global South Primates had chosen not to attend the Holy Eucharist today, because of the presence of Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church. Instead he was indeed consulting his brother Archbishop Oko and, one might safely speculate, Bishop Martyn Minns, Canon David Anderson and Canon Chris Sugden. We might also safely assume they were composing together the press statement subsequently issued by the Global South.
The statement says the Primates who did not attend the Eucharist included seven bishops. Does that mean there are other Global South Primates who did not attend the Eucharist but who did not wish their names to be made public, or is seven the real total? At Dromantine it was 14. Those who would split our beloved Communion have lost half their rebel numbers in two years. They are now just 7 out of the total number of 36 Primates who are present. They are a smaller minority than before. The press release claims they represent more than 30 million faithful Anglicans. The majority of the Primates represent Anglicans like us, who are faithful to our Global Communion and to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
When the extreme conservatives of England published their so-called ‘Covenant’ in January, subsequent reaction showed how deeply divided they are among themselves. This Primates meeting is now showing the Global South Primates to be similarly deeply divided. Inclusive Church believes wholeheartedly in fidelity to the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to the Anglican Communion with its amazing diversity and to one another.