They will be on their planes now, winging to Dublin for the Primates' Meeting due to begin 25 January. Those going might ponder the articulate, careful case presented to explain the absence of those not going, just published on Global South.
Those not going might ponder the insights Archbishop Fred Hiltz of Canada has shared about the likely progress of the meeting. It will be the first facilitated by a facilitator. Key questions faced under facilitation will include "What do you think is the most pressing challenge or issue facing the Anglican Communion at this time? What do you think is the most pressing challenge or issue facing your own province?" Given that ++Fred then proceeds in interview to downplay any thought that the pressing challenges for the Communion have anything to do with what the absenteeing primates are concerned about, it is difficult to see those primates, should they read his insights, losing any sleep through second thoughts about not attending.
Unfortunately for the future of the Communion, if ++Fred Hiltz's remarks are anything to go by, the Primates' Meeting may be an exercise in collective delusion.
First up, we have this view of what is going on in the Communion's crisis: according to ++Fred, the absence of the boycotting primates "does nothing to model for the church what it means to try and live with difference."
We are trying to live with disagreement, with dispute, with division. Please, dear primates attending, move from delusion to reality. The Communion is not in crisis because of 'difference.' It is not about whether you wear a chasuable and I do not, or you prefer the old prayer book and I the new. There is a huge chasm of disagreement going on about how we understand and use Scripture, about whether or not the church is privy to new revelation through the Spirit, and about whether or not a common doctrine of marriage is part of the common theology which binds Anglicans together in a global Communion.
Expect absolutely nothing to change if the primates go with the 'difference' explanation!
Secondly, having consulted senior Canadian bishops, ++Fred is going to the meeting with this view of what is really troubling the Communion:
"Three of the four metropolitans were available for consultation and “not one of them raised sexuality or the [Anglican] Covenant” as real challenges facing the Anglican Communion, said Archbishop Hiltz. The “real issues,” they agreed, are combatting disease, access to clean water, security, peace, and reconciliation with indigenous peoples."
Let's get this straight. Once and for all. Combatting disease, providing access to clean water, etc, are vital signs of the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth. And on these matters church leaders may certainly contribute from time to time a prophetic voice inspiring and urging those in authority to get on with their responsibilities. But, funnily enough, church leaders have responsibilities which are not solely confined to matters on which God asks politicians, engineers, soldiers, physicians and the like to act responsibly and justly. Such responsibilities include shepherding their flocks, leading their churches well, and working on reconciliation of disputes and disagreements among the people of God. The primary responsibility of the primates of the Communion meeting en masse with the Archbishop of Canterbury is to build up the Communion. Not one whit of difference will be made to, e.g., access to clean water by discussing it. But, with the grace of God, a whit of improvement may be made to the sad state of the Communion if it is fearlessly and honestly discussed.
That last sentence above, by the way, is why, despite my sympathetic reception of the absent primates' explanation of their absence, I still think they should go!
But I am almost without hope that the Primates' Meeting will make one whit of difference. Between the boycott and the possibility that discussions will take place full of baloney, I see few signs of the reality of the Communion's crisis being faced.
'Dublin' is almost an anagram of 'delusion.'