Living Church—Primate of Uganda: Episcopal Bishops Were Coached

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s participation in the evaluation of the House of Bishops’ response to the primates was a “gross conflict of interest,” according to Archbishop Henry Orombi, Primate of Uganda.

The archbishop said the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates inserted themselves uninvited into a process the primates originally devised.

“Our Dar es Salaam communiqué did not envision interference from the Communion in the American House of Bishops while they were considering our requests,” Archbishop Orombi said in a written statement provided to a reporter for The Living Church. “Yet, members of the Joint Standing Committee met with Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori in the course of the preparation of their House of Bishops’ statement in order to suggest certain words, which, if included in the statement, would assure endorsement by the Joint Standing Committee.”

At their meeting in Texas in March, the House of Bishops adopted a resolution inviting Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the members of the primates’ standing committee to attend the House of Bishops’ meeting in New Orleans. It is unclear at what point or how the members of the ACC standing committee were included.

Archbishop Orombi and Bishop Jefferts Schori are two of the five primates on the joint standing committee. Archbishop Orombi said he was suspicious that the joint standing committee presence would prevent an honest response from the Episcopal bishops, and therefore he declined to attend.

The joint standing committee report was released this week without endorsement from four of the 13 members who attended. Bishop Mouneer Anis, Primate of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, has subsequently issued a minority report, objecting to the process by which the report was developed and its conclusion that the bishops’ response was acceptable.

“The report is severely compromised and further tears the existing tear in the fabric of our beloved Anglican Communion,” Archbishop Orombi wrote. “It is gravely lamentable that our Instruments of Communion have missed the opportunity in this moment to begin the healing that is so necessary for our future.”

Archbishop Orombi said the primates never asked the House of Bishops to make new policy for The Episcopal Church. Given that General Convention would not meet again for three years, he said the primates wanted the Episcopal bishops to clarify parts of two General Convention resolutions which the primates believed could be interpreted several different ways.

“TEC has lost the right to give assurances of their direction as a church through more words and statements,” Archbishop Orombi said. “They write one thing and do another. We therefore cannot know what they mean by their words until we see their meaning demonstrated by their actions.”

Steve Waring