Canterbury: The Primates’ meeting and statement
Canterbury responds to the African HIV/AIDS crisis
The annual meeting of the Archbishops and Presiding Bishops of the Anglican Communion was held in Canterbury, England, in April 2002, hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd and Right Honourable George L. Carey. The Archbishop of Canterbury is spiritual leader of the world's 70 million Anglicans.
At the previous annual meeting, held in March 2001, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane was asked by the Primates and the Archbishop of Canterbury to develop a consensus report on the nature and scope of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa. This plan was to be reported on at the Primates’ meeting in Canterbury in 2002.
The All Africa Anglican Conference on HIV/AIDS was held in August 2001 during which a strategic planning programme to develop objectives and strategies for combating HIV/AIDS was presented. In December that year, the Archbishop hosted the AIDS Commission of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) and committed itself to implementing the strategic planning process across Africa. All 12 Provinces and their Archbishops approved of the All Africa Statement, “Our Vision, Our Hope: The First Step.”
The purpose of the Archbishop’s Canterbury presentation was to report on progress made and persuade the Anglican leadership of the critical situation caused by the pandemic in Africa, to eliminate stigma and to call for the creation of a global Anglican response to HIV/AIDS.
The reaction to the HIV/AIDS Ministries strategic planning process and the results it produced were striking. In April 2002, after reporting to his fellow Archbishops, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane not only received praise and support from the Primates of the Anglican Communion, but was also re-commissioned to continue leading the worldwide Communion in tackling this catastrophe.
The enormity of the crisis was so apparent that, for the first time since the pandemic began, a global religious body stated:
We raise our voices to call for an end to silence about this disease – the silence of stigma, the silence of denial, the silence of fear. We confess that the church herself has been complicit in this silence. When have raised our voices in the past, it has been too often a voice of condemnation. We now wish to make it clear that HIV/AIDS is not a punishment from God. Our Christian faith compels us to accept that all persons, including those who are living with HIV/AIDS, are made in the image of God and are children of God.
The Primates also commended to the Communion the six building blocks of HIV/AIDS which had been defined by participants at the All Africa Anglican Conference. The Primates also endorsed the planning framework for churches beyond Africa, urging strategic planning and policy development to confront the HIV/AIDS crisis. Finally it called on the whole church to minister among those infected or affected by the disease.