A Translated Feast: From Tunisia to Cairo

Posted by Fr. Tere on 10/29/2015

A Translated Feast: From Tunisia to Cairo

Just three days before the Global South meeting (dubbed GS15) was scheduled to meet in Tunisia, there was an attack against a government official in the town of Hammamet, the very place where the meeting was to take place. Choosing caution and not wanting to risk any incidents with Christians visiting from all over the world, Tunisian government security officials insisted that the gathering be “postponed.” As a result, word went out that the conference canceled. It has been re-scheduled for October 2016, but the venue has not been decided. 

Immediately after the cancellation, there was a flurry of email traffic among Primates about the possibility of gathering together elsewhere. The issues in the Communion are huge. The main question was whether or not the gathering that the Archbishop of Canterbury has suggested could bear fruit. It was a herculean effort to change flights, but the decision was made for the Primates to gather in Cairo. Although most of the conversations were held for “Primates only,” I have known all the Primates for years as International Dean of the ACNA and GAFCON Ambassador and was welcomed. There was plenty of time (and need) to pray as they met and to visit at meals and during down time. 

 The Communiqué is available and can be read, but the historic significance of the Cairo meeting might be missed. There is a lot of gold in diplomatic language. Those who are used to “say nothing” statements that don’t accomplish anything may be tempted to have that momentum carry through to the current situation, but that would be a mistake. There has been a dramatic change. 

 Of course, many people have prayed for the crisis in the Anglican Communion for years. A lot of the answer to those prayers was manifest in the person of President Bishop Mouneer Anis, Primate of Jerusalem and the Middle East, and Bishop of Egypt and the Horn of Africa. Bishop Mouneer (also a medical doctor) has used the metaphor of an untreated infection in the body to describe the Communion’s situation. He called for Unity of the Spirit in such a graceful way that many other Primates told me they heard the urgency of that call to unity in a fresh way. He was also very gracious to both GAFCON and to the ACNA prior to the meeting. As a result, from the first moments of arrival, the atmosphere was light-hearted. Of course, during discussions there were burdens to bear and even some apologies offered and accepted, but the overall tone was collegial and cooperative. 

 If you read the Communiqué carefully, you will note that they did not share the agenda items, but there was unanimous agreement about what they put on the agenda. There has been conversation before among orthodox Primates, but this is the first time that so many are so deeply unified. That is not a guarantee that things will work well, but it is a powerful sign. 

Remember this: although many meetings have not accomplished much in the past, or were undone by Communion officials in London, it would be a mistake to throw up our hands and say, “Nothing can ever be done.”

This is a new day.

We should remember that the reason that orthodox Primates have declined attending recent meetings is that the provisions of the meeting in Dar es Salaam were ignored by London. Now, with a vast group of Primates (who lead the overwhelming majority of active Anglicans in the world) agreeing on what needs to be done, there is cause for more hope than there has ever been. Here is the obvious truth. If there is no meeting, then the Communion has failed and is falling apart. If there is a meeting with a strong orthodox voice, there is a chance that it could work, especially with such strong agreement from so many Primates. Their bond of unity is a symbol of what is possible. 

In my view, largely because of the grace, humility, and passionate strength offered by Archbishop Mouneer, the meeting not only held together, but even linked other key leaders by phone. Of course there will be battles to fight and dragons to deal with. This time, however, our leaders are moving with a deeper unity than they have ever known. That means that the possibilities for the Anglican Communion in January are the brightest they have been in twenty years of struggle.

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