Monday, April 16, 2007

Archbishop of Canterbury announces he will meet with Episcopal Church

Photo credit:by Brian G. Bukowski, Episcopal Life
By Mary Frances Schjonberg and Solange de Santis, April 16, 2007
[Episcopal News Service] The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, announced April 16 that he intends to visit the United States this autumn in response to the invitation from the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church.

Speaking in a news conference in Toronto, Williams said he would make the visit together with members of the Standing Committee of the Primates, of which Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is a member, and the Anglican Consultative Council.

"I look forward to some sharing of our experiences as pastors as well as discussion of the business of the Communion. These are complicated days for our church internationally and it's all the more important to keep up personal relationships and conversations," he said. "My aim is to try and keep people around the table as long as possible on this, to understand one another, and to encourage local churches on this side of the Atlantic and elsewhere to ask what they might need to do to keep in that conversation, to keep around the table."

Williams said the meeting will take place during the House of Bishops' previously scheduled fall gathering in New Orleans September 20-25.

"I am glad that he has accepted this invitation, and I know the other bishops will be glad, as well," Jefferts Schori told ENS in an interview following Williams' announcement. "We look forward to a conversation together in September."

Jefferts Schori said that she has received replies from some members of the Joint Standing Committee indicating their plans to attend. Replies from other members are still pending at this time, she said.

This will be the first time Williams has met with the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops or attended a meeting of any of the church's leadership bodies such as General Convention or Executive Council.

The House of Bishops said on March 20 "there is an urgent need for us to meet face to face with the Archbishop of Canterbury and members of the Primates' Standing Committee" and requested and urged Jefferts Schori and Williams to negotiate a meeting "at the earliest possible opportunity."

Jefferts Schori has underscored in earlier interviews that the House of Bishops' resolution inviting the Archbishop of Canterbury to meet with them was passed unanimously.

When Williams did not respond, there was speculation that he would not accept the bishops' initiation.

"Whatever has been said in the press, there's never been any suggestion I should decline that invitation," Williams said at the Toronto news conference. "These are difficult days because I think the (global Anglican) Communion in recent years has had to face the fact that the division on certain subjects, especially human sexuality, has been getting much more deep and bitter and threatens to divide us."

The bishops' request came in the form of a resolution passed during their March 16-21 meeting at Camp Allen in Navasota, Texas, northwest of Houston. It was one of three resolutions the bishops passed in response to a communiqué issued by the Primates of the Anglican Communion at the end of their meeting in February in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


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