ANNEX 1 of GS 1661 THE ANGLICAN COVENANT PROPOSAL is reproduced below. For context read this.
There has already been much discussion about the idea of an Anglican Covenant in recent months, including some preliminary discussion by the bishops of the Church of England. The House of Bishops welcomes this debate by the General Synod as part of a longer process of reflection across the Communion. No-one expects a definitive verdict at this stage; but it is important to think through whether the whole idea of a Covenant for the Communion is of value, and the papers circulated will greatly assist such thinking. The plans for the Lambeth Conference have made provision for a full discussion there in the light of responses from the Provinces.
As the papers collected here make plain, the Covenant is not meant to be a new creed or code, dictated by some authoritarian body divorced from the real life of the Communion’s member provinces. It is, of course, in some degree a response to a crisis – and we are all rightly cautious about creating lasting structures in reaction to temporary crises. But our present troubles in the Communion have raised the question, ‘What is the nature and extent of the responsibility we have to and for each other as Anglican provinces, and how is it grounded in the mutual responsibility of members of the Body of Christ?’ This entails deeper questions about our responsibility to and for the whole of our heritage of reading Scripture intelligently in the context of living tradition, and about how that is to be transmitted to those who follow us. And, arising from all that, there are issues about what sorts and levels of consultation and shared decision-making would be an appropriate expression of such responsibility. The Covenant is not an attempt to create an international executive; but if something like a Covenant does come into effect, it may be easier to express and explore the consequences of developments proposed in one province or another, so that decisions may be better informed, and more adequate strategies for dealing with conflict may be created.
Inevitably, this implies that we have to recognize that there are some limits to Anglican ‘diversity’. It is a simply a matter of fact that some questions – not only the debates over sexual ethics – are experienced as fundamentally Church-dividing issues. It could be that a well-structured Covenant would help us not to treat every divisive matter with the same seriousness and enable us to discern what was really – theologically and ecclesially – at stake when disagreements arose. It is not a tool for promoting schism or canonizing heightened intolerance, but an element in the continuing work of handling conflict without easy recourse to mutual condemnation.
And that is the point that we hope will be considered carefully. Whether or not a Covenant is adopted, the question of handling conflict will not go away. In the age of instant global communication, this question is likely to be sharper than ever. If we do not have a Covenant in the Communion, we shall not be absolved from the imperative to manage our conflicts and tensions better than we have been doing. Unless we can do better, the future of the Communion is going to be more and more fragile and uncertain, and we can’t just appeal to some imagined traditional Anglican way of handling things without fuss. That is why many of those who have been engaged in dealing with the fallout from recent conflicts – in particular the Primates of the Communion and the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council – have concluded that something like a Covenant is a constructive path for the future, and why the hope has been expressed that the bishops attending the Lambeth Conference will be ready to work with the concept and with the proposals already outlined. We hope the Synod will consider their arguments with sympathy.
+ Rowan Cantuar: + Sentamu Ebor: