The leaders of Anglican Churches around the world have today called for “an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.” The call was made by senior archbishops, bishops and moderators in a communiqué issued at the end of a Primates’ Meeting in London.
Primates’ Meetings are one of four “instruments of unity” of the global Anglican Communion – the world’s third largest Christian denomination. The primates had been due to gather in Rome this week, but Covid-related travel restrictions resulted in the meeting being transferred to Lambeth Palace in London – the official residence and offices of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In their communiqué, the church leaders said that: “we were conscious that, as we gathered in London, many people in the world are in a time of turmoil. We are particularly aware of the humanitarian crisis and other catastrophic effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. We call for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.
“We know, from our experience in the different parts of the world we are from, that conflict causes lasting damage. The longer a war goes on, the longer it takes to heal shattered relationships and bring about reconciliation.”
They added: “we are also aware of conflicts in many other parts of the world, including Afghanistan, Eritrea, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Mali, Congo, the Holy Land, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Central America, South Sudan, and many others; and terrorism in Mozambique. These have forced many people to flee their homes. We recognise the plight of refugees, migrants, and displaced people around the world as one of the major tragedies of our time. We pray for peace and urge those with the ability to do so to bring about justice, sanctuary, and reconciliation.”
In their communique, the primates also addressed other issues, including climate change, saying that they were “also aware of the worsening disaster of climate change and its effects on millions of people around the world – not least the thousands of people in Madagascar and Mozambique, where four cyclones in two months have resulted in thousands of people being made homeless, and infrastructures and crops destroyed.
“Environmental damage affects the most vulnerable people in the world, including indigenous peoples who are affected by the exploitation of forests and others natural resources. We urge an end to the destruction of the Amazon from mining and logging.”
They included a message of support for the Archbishop of Alexandria and his Diocese of Egypt, which continues to face attempts by a protestant group to forcibly subsume them. “We reiterate that the Episcopal / Anglican Province of Alexandria, spread across 10 countries in North Africa and the Horn of Africa, is a full member Church of the Anglican Communion”, they said. “The Diocese of Egypt is an integral constituent part of this Church. We stand with Archbishop Samy Fawzy Shehata and support him and the Diocese of Egypt in their efforts to maintain the legal recognition in Egypt of the Episcopal / Anglican Province of Alexandria.”
The Primates also addressed “the unilateral decision to construct the Grand Ethiopian Dam” and the potential for water shortage in Egypt and Sudan that may result from it. They said: “we strongly believe the Blue Nile is God’s gift to the countries through which it flows and should therefore be a reason for cooperation between Ethiopia, Sudan, and Egypt to achieve sustainable development. We wish to appeal to the three countries to resume, with good will, their negotiations immediately to ensure a fair distribution of the water of the Blue Nile.”
They also referred to the continuing abuse of Pakistan’s blasphemy laws in ways that “unfairly target religious minorities, including Christians.” The primates said: “the laws are being used to defend malicious prosecutions, beatings, and the forced conversion and ‘marriages’ of young girls. We appeal to the government of Pakistan to bring about legislative change to outlaw these abuses.”
Other issues referenced by the primates include “the increasing use of ‘fake news’ and false reporting.” They said: “such practices have a dangerous impact on democratic processes and can be used to defend unjust wars and conflicts. We call on everyone – especially politicians, campaigners and all Christian people – to reflect on the commandment not to bear false witness and to adopt this commandment when making public statements.”
The primates described the “post-covid and war-generated rise in prices of basic necessities” as “a great concern . . . in its impact for the poor.” They said: “we are alarmed by increasing levels of hunger in the world. Eating is a human right and it is a Christian duty to ensure that all are fed. We call on governments and civil society organisations around the world to prioritise food security and distribution to ensure that all have access to food. The need is urgent. Hungry people can't wait.”
There were 31 primates from 30 of the Anglican Communion’s 42 provinces gathered in London. A further nine primates, who were unable to travel to London because of Covid-related travel restrictions in their own country, joined the business sessions of the meeting online. In their communiqué the primates expressed solidarity with people affected by Covid. They said: “we are particularly aware of the situation in the Province of Melanesia, where Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands are experiencing, for the first time, a severe outbreak of Covid. We pray for them and all who have suffered and who continue to suffer or grieve as a result of the pandemic.”
They also referred to those primates who choose to absent themselves from Anglican Communion Primates’ Meetings, saying: “we continue to lament the absence from our meetings of three primates who choose to stay away. Our reflections, deliberations and fellowship are diminished by their absence. We miss them and their prayerful wisdom, and we long for the time when we will all meet together.”
They began their communiqué by stressing that their primary calling “as primates in the Anglican Communion . . . is to follow Jesus’ command to the church to ‘go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’”
They described the prime purpose of their meeting as being “to pray and reflect together on our identity in Christ in an attitude of pilgrimage.” The primates held Bible studies on 1 Peter, the biblical theme of the Lambeth Conference, a gathering in Canterbury in July and August this year to which every bishop in the Anglican Communion has been invited.
“After a two-year delay due to Covid restrictions, we are excited about gathering together in person with more than 700 other bishops of the Anglican Communion for prayer, Bible study, fellowship, and encouragement,” they said. “Our hope and prayer is that our time in Canterbury will produce fruit that will enable the Anglican Communion to live as ‘God’s church for God’s world’”.
They said: “we were deeply disappointed not to meet in Rome, but we leave London refreshed and spiritually renewed, thankful for the opportunity to connect again with each other. As we return to our home Churches, we do so knowing that we will gather again, soon, with our brother and sister bishops at the Lambeth Conference. We encourage all bishops in the Anglican Communion to attend this important gathering.
During the past week, the primates attended worship at Southwark Cathedral and Westminster Abbey (see photo above) as well as the chapels within Lambeth Palace. They heard from Dr Marion Watson, Head of Operations at the Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine at the University of Oxford, who has overseen a wide range of clinical trial research and development activities on vaccines for malaria, TB and Covid.
They also visited the Houses of Parliament and observed question session in the House of Lords before briefings from the Speaker’s Chaplain, the Revd Patricia Hillas; the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP; and the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief. They were also addressed by James Cleverly MP, a minister in Britain’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.