Report from the White Sands Hotel, Dar Es Salaam – Day 5

The atmosphere around the White Sands Hotel today, Saturday, feels different. There are fewer media hacks around, the BBC duo are away sending their material, more people are here on holiday, and the pressure has reduced. Whether there is less pressure inside the Primates meeting remains to be seen.

Yesterday evening’s press conference reported on four areas. First was the area which remains to be resolved. The Primates are still considering their response to the Windsor Report and the Dromantine statement by the Episcopal Church. They hadn’t yet reached a definite conclusion, though they had engaged in discussion, debate and an exchange of views and we were told they have real tensions which have still to be worked through. There are clearly strong and desperately held differences between them. I imagine the Global South secessionists are desperate to get a win on this, because if they don’t, they will return home having achieved none of their goals and with the majority of the Communion more securely intact than before. The leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury will be strengthened, and his patient, prayerful wisdom will be seen to have prevailed.

The tensions must have been exacerbated by the refusal of 7 Primates to attend the Holy Communion service with their brothers and sister Primates yesterday. This news was posted on the Church of Nigeria web site and not the Global South web site, although all seven were described as Global South bishops. We puzzled about this last night. My conclusion this morning is that it wasn’t published on the Global South web site because they are now split among themselves and are not in agreement over their strategy for walking apart from the Communion themselves.

Those seven also broke the protocol of silence agreed by the Primates – that none of them would speak independently to the press or reveal anything until the conclusion of the meeting and the final communiqué is issued. This was news to Archbishop Aspinall of Australia who was addressing the press conference. He wasn’t sure what the implications were, but indicated the Primates would reflect on it. Who broke that agreement? A fragment of the Global South coalition. How many Primates refused to share Communion? Seven – half the number that refused at Dromantine. Progress, of a sort. The Presiding Bishop, we were reminded, has continued to honour the agreement not to discuss the business of the meeting.

Tonight we will learn whether they have finally resolved among themselves their attitude towards the Episcopal Church and its response to Windsor, whether they have reacted adequately or not. It is the Episcopal Church alone that is the focus of concern for the Primates, not Canada, or the UK Provinces, where Civil Partnerships for clergy should be of concern to some Primates.

Archbishop Drexel Gomez was one of the Primates who didn’t receive Communion at Dromantine but did share in yesterday’s service. Is this because, as I have been saying for some time, inviting him to chair the Covenant Design Group was a very astute move, which has forced him to compromise his previously extreme position as a member of the Global South group threatening secession?

Other reports were discussed yesterday; from the Covenant Design Group, the Panel of Reference and the Listening Process. The Primates are not in dispute over these three areas. From the limited information available, we can be quietly very confident about the work Canon Phil Groves has so far completed on the Listening Process, and on his proposals for the Lambeth Conference, which were briefly outlined. We will have to wait until the text of the draft covenant is released before we will know whether it is heading in a direction acceptable to LGBT Anglicans.

Tomorrow we go by ferry to Zanzibar for a service in the Cathedral, built on the site of a slave market. The bishops have today and Monday to complete their business and resolve their differences over the response of the Episcopal Church. So far, none of the outcomes predicted by the Global South secessionists has come to pass. Katherine Jefferts Schori and John Sentamu have participated from the start. No one has walked out. A second Province in the USA has not been formed.

We LGBT Anglicans are not yet in sight of the Promised Land, however. The implications of the TEC response to Windsor are almost certainly that progress towards a church fully inclusive of LGBT people may be slowed in the USA, Canada and England. The ability to elect or select a lesbian or gay priest, partnered or not, as a bishop, may be restricted. The ability of priests to bless the loving relationships of LGBT church members may similarly be compromised in certain dioceses or Provinces.

Inclusive Church, with partners Changing Attitude and Integrity, will continue to work and pray for full the inclusion of all, and especially those who for whatever reason are marginalized or treated in some way as less than welcome in the world-wide Anglican Church.

Join the discussion