Posted by: Titus Presler | January 30, 2011

Internal issues and outward mission bifurcated in Anglican primates’ discussions

Day 5 – Jan. 29 – of the Anglican Primates’ Meeting appears to have been been split evenly and disconcertingly between matters of internal self-understanding and organization on one hand, and, on the other hand, an issue of wrenching urgency in the contemporary work, gender violence.

The split is disconcerting because in primates’ own briefing there is no hint of mission in the discussion of primacy and the role of the Primates’ Meeting and its standing committee.  One would think that there would be at least passing reference to the larger purpose within the mission of God that the primates and their various modes of meeting and interacting should serve.  Instead, the focus seems to have been entirely on modes of relationship and communication, these conceived primarily in bureaucratic terms, even to the extent of highlighting the supposed importance of “holding” the life, vision and spirit of the meeting between the Primates’ Meetings; helping to shape their future meetings” and so on!  So here ecclesiastical myopia prevailed.

The primates then turned to gender violence, rightly seen as one of the primary scourges of our age.  It is also good to see that they heard not only from Congo, where rape as a major weapon of war is rampant, but from Wales and the United Kingdom, where the statistics of rape, domestic abuse and sex trafficking were said to be “shocking.”  The primates responded to each of three presentations with “a moment of silent reflection and prayer.”

Detailed envisioning and strategizing were devoted to the primates’ internal workings, with no attention to the missional horizon.  When it came to hearing about a missional urgency, there were moments of silence and vague sentiments, but no mobilizing of the evident institutional power of the primates in their churches or in concert on the global scene.  It could be that these impressions are off the mark, that the discussions actually integrated mission and internal clarification.  If so, the primates need to give a better account of themselves, which is relevant to their own stated agendas of better communication and, correlatively, the reception of their work in the communion.

So far, however, I am left thinking that their primary energy was devoted to their internal life, which unfortunately echoes a critique that the world often makes about the church.  When it came to facing a world issue, the primates looked concerned and bowed in prayer but did not mobilize their resources to engage the mission.


  1. Your reference to a ‘missional horizon’ perhaps gets to the crux of the state of affairs in the Anglican Communion. One would have hoped that would have been the priority of such a gathering. By taking such a long view, it would be possible to see a future beyond the current crises, and make current navigational decisions based on such a beacon.

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