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Press Conference With Church of Canada

Monday 16th April 2007

The Archbishop of Canterbury made the following responses to questions asked during a press conference on 16th April 2007 in Toronto, Canada. The Archbishop was due to address the Canadian House of Bishops.

Q: On the current divisions within the Anglican Communion:

"These are difficult days, because the Communion in recent years has had to face the fact that the division on certain subjects, especially sexuality, has been getting much more deep and bitter and threatening to divide us. My aim is to try and keep people around the table for as long as possible on this, to understand one another and to encourage local churches not only on this side of the Atlantic but elsewhere; to ask what they might need to do to keep in that conversation, to keep around the table."

Q: On relations within the Communion:

"There's a deeply global political element, a sense that others are making decisions for them; in a way that the West or the North has always made decisions on behalf of other people and that's got to be in the understanding of the situation very deeply ... Both in ecumenical relations and inter faith relations, the decisions of the Episcopal Church have had complicating consequences. If you're a Christian, an Anglican Christian, in Sudan or in South Korea or the Pacific or wherever, you may very well feel that you are, without any decision on your part, associated with a decision made by somebody else that's having consequences for you locally that you haven't chosen and I think there's a great deal of resentment and uncertainty arising from that."

"... Because we are a very dispersed Church - we don't have a single central executive - then of course it takes that much longer and the lack of that central executive (which is just a fact about who we are and the kind of Church we are) makes it slower and more complex. I don't want to see a situation where there is a powerful central executive but the cost of that is patience and it bears particularly heavily on those who feel that they're the objects of prejudice and exclusion in the Church and that's a cost that is hard to talk about because I'm not the one who bears it; others do and I'm very much aware of that. So it'll take time."

"We are, I think, trapped by questions about sex at the moment. If you ask almost any of our Primatial colleagues 'Is this the subject you want to be talking about?' they will say no."

Q: On his own role in the Communion:

"I'm not like a prime minister elected with a manifesto to implement; nor am I like a Pope who can end a discussion by fiat; my job is like that of a bishop in any diocese I think, which is trying to explain people to one another, to create an atmosphere of prayer in which it's possible to make a discernment which isn't just a reaction to prejudice or whatever, and to see how the Church moves forward. I know that it sounds like a very modest description of the Archbishop's job and in that sense I have to be a servant of the churches and put into the discussion whatever I can of qualification, alternative perspective, which can of course look like time-wasting, but in God's timetable, isn't. I say that in faith."

Q: On authority within the Communion:

"First of all, it's not a question of a central authority; the Primates do represent their churches and although people have said that this is prelacy as opposed to democracy, the fact is that every Primate works within a Synodical and consultative system. ... The Primate's meeting cannot make decisions for any province, but where we've come to I think is the point where the Primates meeting felt it needed to spell out possible consequences of continuing division or diversity in practice and has suggest some ways in which the unwelcome consequences might be avoided. Those proposals are there on the table but they can't be imposed of course."

Q: On change

"If there is to be any change on the Church's attitude on gay and lesbian behaviour, then I would hope that it would be a change of attitude on the part of the Church as a whole; moving together in step, ... otherwise it just becomes one group saying 'well it's alright with us', and that doesn't really move things for the Church as a whole. [This is a] question on which there is real principled disagreement. It's not just about 'nice people' who want to include gay and lesbian Christians and 'nasty people' who want not to include them; it's about the question ...'what are the forms of behaviour that the Church has the freedom to bless if it wants to be faithful to scripture?' - that's the question that is tearing us apart at the moment because there are real differences of conviction."

Q: On giving advice to the Canadian Church:

"There's a touch of catch-22 on this; if I give a very strong steer people will say I'm being a colonial bully; if I don't, people will say other things; it's a difficult one. But what I would say is the obvious thing: ask the question 'what is for the health of the Body of Christ, both locally and globally?' And there are people who will answer that question in different ways, but that is the question; what is for the health of the body of Christ, both globally and locally?"

Q: On his visit to the USA in the autumn:

"I look forward to some sharing of our experiences as pastors as well as discussion of the business of the communion. These are complicated days for our Church internationally and it's all the more important to keep up personal relationships."

"My sense was that the reaction from The Episcopal Church was very strongly worded protest against what was seen as interference and I can understand where that's coming from, though it wasn't the intention of the Primatial communiqué. So the next question is 'if not that, then what? Is there another possibility on the table?' I've spoken privately to people in the US about this and wait to see what emerges there."

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