The Archbishop of Canterbury, the spiritual leader of the world-wide Anglican Communion, spent part of his first day at the Episcopal Church’s General Convention learning about the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and other dioceses where former bishops are seeking to form an alternative Anglican province.
The Archbishop, Rowan Williams, held separate meetings with Pittsburgh Assisting Bishop Robert H. Johnson and Standing Committee President, the Rev. Dr. James Simons. They were joined in their respective discussions by representatives of the three other U.S. dioceses where bishops have left the Episcopal Church.
“I’m very happy that we had the opportunity to discuss our situation in Pittsburgh and the other dioceses with the Archbishop,” said Dr. Simons. “We wanted him to understand how we view our place in Anglican Communion and how important it is to us. I found the Archbishop’s response to what we told him was both sympathetic and supportive.”
The discussions took place during a lunch with the bishops and an early afternoon meeting with the President of the House of Deputies Council of Advice, of which Dr. Simons is a member. Both sessions were private.
“He listened to our stories with rapt attention and said to tell our people that he keeps them in his prayers,” said Bishop Johnson afterward. “That he took the time to listen to us, to pray with us, and encourage us, we’re very grateful for that.”
The Anglican Communion represents 38 provinces around the world that are in communion with the Church of England, headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Historically, only one Anglican province represents the Communion in a given geographical area. In the United States, that is the Episcopal Church.
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the most prominent of dozens of Anglican leaders invited to observe the Episcopal Church and its General Convention. The 70-plus international visitors include nearly half of the Anglican Communion’s 38 primates.
"It is important to help leaders of the other parts of the Anglican Communion understand how we come to decisions as a church," the Rev. Chuck Robertson, canon to the Presiding Bishop, told the Episcopal News Service.
Archbishop Henri Isingoma, the newly elected primate of the Anglican Church of the Congo, spent several days visiting the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh before arriving at General Convention. "Sometimes we pick up on a final stage and don’t understand the process," he said.
The Archbishop of Canterbury will spend two days at TEC’s General Convention before returning to England for his own church’s legislative assembly.