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Archbishop Robin Eames addresses the media at Lambeth Palace

Posted on: October 15, 2003 4:17 PM
Related Categories: Abp Eames, Primates Meeting, primates-2003

The Primates of the Anglican Communion gathered today for a two-day meeting in Lambeth Palace to listen to provincial perspectives, reflect on the issues raised and explore ways forward.

The media attention has been overwhelming and it was necessary to hold a press briefing at 4pm in the courtyard of Lambeth Palace where an unscripted statement was delivered by the Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Robin Eames, on behalf of the primates meeting.

The full text of the statement follows:

"I think we wanted to give you an update on how things are going. We are now seven hours into the meeting. The meeting has combined worship, prayer, bible study and discussion and, at the present time, the Primates are all here, bar one who just has a problem unrelated to the subject or anything like that.

"We are telling the story of how the Provinces of the Anglican Communion have reacted to the developments that the Archbishop of Canterbury thought necessary to bring to our attention. Those stories represent the cultural differences right across our Communion, the reaction the Primates have had in their own countries and nations, and also the opportunity to show that there is an underlying anxiety right across the board to maintain the Anglican Communion.

"I have to say that in all my experience of these meetings, I have never attended or been involved with one where there is such openness, frankness and honesty. And also, one where each and every Primate has been given the opportunity to respond in his own way to the question that has brought us together. I have also to say to you, that the anxiety to maintain the Anglican Communion, contrary to many of the predictions which your profession may well have shown to us earlier on, I have to say to you that that was unfounded because there is a tremendous anxiety to maintain the Anglican Communion on a basis of collegiality, cooperation and the common faith.

"Now, as I say, we are seven hours into the meeting. The programme is permitting the telling of those stories, as we put it. And I cannot tell you any more at this stage of the agenda, simply to say that we are still at that point. How long it will take, I wish I could tell you, because seven hours is quite a long time of intensity and I am sure you will understand, having waited out here in the wind, that seven hours is seven hours! But I would like to stress once more, that the Archbishop of Canterbury who is chairing this meeting is very anxious indeed that every possible opportunity is given to individual Primates to express the concerns that they have, which are varied, which in some cases are totally coloured by the culture of that country. But above all else, it is a very open and a very, very serious meeting.

"Now, I want to get back to what is happening. I'll take three questions and I'm not having any favourites!"

Question: Will this eventually come to a vote? How will this be resolved?

Answer: I can't honestly answer that, because at the moment, it's a case of telling the reactions, telling the stories. But if I were to hazard a guess, I would say it's moving towards a consensus situation. Now what form that consensus will take obviously won't become obvious - if it is to become obvious - until tomorrow. But certainly, at the moment, it's very, very much an honest expression of concerns.

Question: Are you a betting man? Could you let us know what you think the odds are of coming to a consensus that keeps the Church together?

Answer: In Northern Ireland terms, I'm known quite simply as the divine optimist! And I don't know whether that classifies me as a betting man or not, but I would say I am optimistic that the Anglican Communion will emerge from this stronger than it has ever been. What I would also like to predict is that there will be much greater honesty than perhaps we have had up until now.

Question: What is the next stage once you have heard the stories and the reactions.

Answer: Well I can answer that. The next stage is to reflect on what we have heard from the various Provinces. The process has simply been one after the other going through the 37 or so provinces. And obviously we want now the chance to reflect on what we have heard from our colleagues. So the next stage will be building on the current session that we are having.

Now can you be good enough to let me go back because, as I said it's a very, very open session and I would like to thank you for your patience.