The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has written to the Primates of Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda to tell them that his invitation to bishops from their provinces to attend the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops remains open. In a joint letter with the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Archbishop Justin said: “God calls us to unity and not to conflict so that the world may know he came from the Father. That is the very purpose of the church globally.”
“Boycotts do not proclaim Christ”, the two Anglican leaders said. “Those who stay away cannot be heard, they will lose influence and the chance of shaping the future. All of us will be the poorer spiritually as a result of your absence.”
His letter was in response to a joint statement issued by the three Primates – Archbishop Henry Ndukuba of Nigeria, Archbishop Laurent Mbanda of Rwanda, and Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba of Uganda – in response to the Communiqué from the Primates’ Meeting at Lambeth Palace, London, in March, which they did not attend.
In his letter, Archbishop Justin asks the three primates to cease making inaccurate statements about the position of the Church of England, telling them that “the Church of England, has not in any way changed its teaching on marriage or the place of sexual relations.”
They also criticise the three Primates’ rejection of some of the topics to be discussed at the Lambeth Conference, saying: “we are distressed to read that you consider matters of the environment, poverty and economic disadvantage to be ‘peripheral’. These are matters of life and death for large parts of the Communion. They are the result of human sin of despoiling and ruining God’s creation and it is anticipated that the world will see devastating wars and the displacement of up to one billion people as a direct result of climate change.
“Not to care for God’s creation and for the poor and destitute is in direct contravention of the teaching of scripture and the words of Jesus Christ.”
The Communiqué from the Primates’ Meeting made reference to the Primates of Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda, 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.”
In their letter, Archbishops Justin and Josiah said: “We stand by the statements in that communiqué, not least that which laments the absence of Your Graces from that meeting and of your churches from other instruments of the Communion’s life.”
On the question of disagreements within the Anglican Communion, Archbishops Justin and Josiah said: “The Bible is at the heart of Christian life. Anglicans hold to Scripture as the ultimate authority in matters of faith, as the Church has down the centuries.
“There have always been disagreements on matters that affect the faith and life of the church and, from the Council of Jerusalem (see Acts 15) onwards the way that the Church has dealt with disagreement has been by prayerful discussion and listening to the views of those who differ.
“Questions of human identity and sexuality will undoubtedly be discussed at the Lambeth Conference but bishops from Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda have indicated that they will not be there. Therefore they will have neither voice nor the opportunity to listen.”