The next Primates Meeting will be held from January 25-31, 2011, at the Emmaus Retreat & Conference Centre in Dublin, Ireland, an announcement from the Anglican Communion Office has confirmed.
Primates are the senior archbishops and presiding bishops elected or appointed to lead each of the 38 autonomous provinces of the Anglican Communion. They are invited to the Primates Meetings, which are held every two or three years, by the Archbishop of Canterbury to consult on theological, social, and international issues.
Since they last met in February 2009 in Alexandria, Egypt, nine new primates have been elected in Congo, Kenya, Korea, Melanesia, North India, Pakistan, Scotland, South India, and the West Indies.
The Primates Meeting is one of the three instruments of communion in the Anglican Communion, the other two being the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference of bishops and the Anglican Consultative Council, the Communion's main policy-making body. The Archbishop of Canterbury, as primus inter pares, or "first among equals," is recognized as the focus of unity for the Anglican Communion.
Each province relates to other provinces within the Anglican Communion by being in full communion with the See of Canterbury. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams calls the Lambeth Conference, chairs the meeting of primates and is president of the ACC. The Rev Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, serves as secretary to the instruments of communion.
In some Anglican provinces the primate is also called archbishop and/or metropolitan, while in others the term presiding bishop -- or as in Scotland, primus -- is used.
The united ecumenical churches of North India, South India and Pakistan are led by moderators, who also are invited to the Primates Meetings by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Primates Meeting was established in 1978 by Archbishop Donald Coggan (101st archbishop of Canterbury) as an opportunity for "leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation."
Since 1979, the primates have met in Ely, England in 1979; Washington, USA in 1981; Limuru, Kenya in 1983; Toronto, Canada in 1986; Cyprus in 1989; Ireland in 1991; Cape Town, South Africa in 1993; Windsor, England in 1995; Jerusalem in 1997; Oporto, Portugal in 2000; Kanuga, United States in 2001; Canterbury, England in 2002; Brazil, May in 2003; London, England in October 2003; Newry, Northern Ireland in February 2005; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in February 2007; and Alexandria, Egypt in February 2009.
-- Matthew Davies is editor and international correspondent of the Episcopal News Service.