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The meeting, to be held in January 2016, would be an opportunity for Primates to discuss key issues, including a review of the structures of the Anglican Communion.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has called on all 37 Anglican Primates to gather next January, for what has been described as a “high-risk” attempt to hold the Anglican Communion together.
Archbishop Justin Welby has written to Primates, inviting them to attend a special meeting from the 11-16 January 2016 in Canterbury, to reflect and pray together concerning the future of the Communion.
In the letter, he also asked them to “consider recent developments, but also look afresh at our ways of working as a Communion”.
In an attempt to persuade Primates to attend the January meeting, Archbishop Welby is inviting them to set the Sexuality is expected to appear, but also religiously motivated violence and the environment agenda.
In June, Welby expressed “deep concern about the stress for the Anglican Communion”, after US Bishops voted to enable its clergy to solemnise same-sex marriages. But he has also criticised Bishops who support the criminalisation of gay people.
The Archbishop believes successful discussions may allow him to maintain relations both with the liberal churches of North America, which recognise and encourage gay marriage, and the African churches, led by Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria, who are asking for the recriminalisation of homosexual activity in their countries.
“UNITY WITH SPACE FOR DISAGRREMENT AND CRITICISM”
Some expect Justin Welby to propose the creation of a two-tier Anglican Church. That was compared by some to “moving into separate bedrooms” rather than divorcing. It is said to be part- inspired by the structure of the Orthodox Church.
“Our way forward must respect the decisions of Lambeth 1998, and of the various Anglican Consultative Council and Primates' meetings since then", declared Welby. Lambeth 1998 passed a resolution which set a traditionalist biblical standard over human sexuality.
But, according to Welby: “it must also be a way forward, guided by the absolute imperative for the Church to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, to make disciples and to worship and live in holiness, and recognising that the way in which proclamation happens and the pressures on us vary greatly between Provinces. We each live in a different context.”
"The difference between our societies and cultures, as well as the speed of cultural change in much of the global north, tempts us to divide as Christians: when the command of scripture, the prayer of Jesus, the tradition of the church and our theological understanding urges unity," wrote Welby.
But he also affirmed that a 21st-century Anglican family "must have space for deep disagreement, and even mutual criticism, so long as we are faithful to the revelation of Jesus Christ, together."
Welby´s press statement has already caused some controversy.
The Guardian ran an article under the headline, "Archbishop of Canterbury urges breakup of divided Anglican Communion," to which Lambeth Palace responded by tweeting "Just to clarify, the Archbishop of Canterbury is NOT planning to break up the Anglican Communion." The headline has since been changed.
The meeting is the first to be hosted by Welby since he was enthroned in 2013.
The primates' meeting is one of the three instruments of communion in the Anglican Communion, the other two being the Anglican Consultative Council and the Lambeth Conference of bishops.