The Primates (can we not find a better word?) of the Anglican Communion have been meeting in Egypt and have issued a number of statements during the course of their deliberations. These won’t necessarily come as good news to those who wish to see the Communion fall apart. It seems the big guys have been doing the Christian thing and relating to each other as Christians and adults.

The full Communique can be read on the Anglican Communion website. The Communique reinforces what many people ignore which is that we are preoccuppied with more than sex and conflict. Look at the common statements on Gaza, Sudan (Darfur), Zimbabwe, climate change and Anglican Relief and Development work. These don’t diminish the importance of the divisive matters, but they do put them into context. They also counter the image that all we are interested in is sex and conflict.

One bit that intrigued me, though, was the part of the Communique that reads as follows: ‘The role of primate arises from the position he or she holds as the senior bishop in each Province.  As such we believe that when the Archbishop of Canterbury calls us together “for leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation”, it is intended that we act as “the channels through which the voice of the member churches [are] heard, and real interchange of heart [can] take place”.’ From conversations during the Lambeth Conference (July last year) with bishops from a number of provinces (especially one or two who formed Gafcon), their primate doesn’t confer with them at all. In one case they were surprised that the primate could speak in their name without consulting them or knowing what their views on certain matters are.

So, I would be interested (simply out of curiosity) to know how the primates can be confident that they do indeed represent their bishops accurately. I guess such an inquiry would lead to the same conclusion as the Lambeth experience itself: what it means to be a province, a diocese or a bishop differs significantly from province to province – that we use the same language to mean different things. I don’t see this as a problem, but I do think it should be acknowledged.