Wednesday, 24 November 2010

General Synod: Anglican Covenant debate

updated Wednesday afternoon

General Synod is debating debated the Anglican Communion Synod this (Wednesday) morning. We will update updated this article as the debate proceeds proceeded.

There is a briefing paper (GS Misc 966) available, which includes the text of the Anglican Covenant. The text of the draft Act (GS 1809) is reproduced below the fold.

The Bishop of Bristol (The Rt Revd Michael Hill) moved

504 ‘That the draft Act of Synod adopting the Anglican Communion Covenant be considered.’

After much debate Mrs Mary Johnston (London) proposed that the debate be adjourned to July 2011. The proposal was defeated on a show of hands. Synod then immediately agreed to close the debate and move to a vote. The voting was by houses and motion 504 was carried in all three houses with the voting figures below.

Bishops 39 for 0 against 1 abstention
Clergy 145 for 32 against 11 abstentions
Laity 147 for 25 against 8 abstentions

Mr Justin Brett (Chichester) moved as an amendment [to the draft Act of Synod]:

505 In recital (1) after “the Anglican Covenant” insert
“, subject to the exception referred to below,”; and
After “GS Misc 966” in paragraph 1, insert
“, with the exception of section 4.2,”; and
Before “solemnly covenants” insert
“subject to that exception”.

Item 505 was defeated on a show of hands.

Dr Brian Walker (Winchester) moved as an amendment [to the draft Act of Synod]:

506 Insert as new recital (3) —
“The Church of England understands the Anglican Communion Covenant as a means for maintaining continuous inclusive relationships between all covenanting Churches.”; and
At the beginning of paragraph 1, insert
“Subject to paragraph 2.”; and
After paragraph 1. insert
“2. The Church of England will not participate in or support any limitations or suspensions of the kind provided for in Section 4.2.5 or sanctions effected under Section 4.2.7.”.

This amendment lapsed, since fewer than 40 members stood to ask for debate to continue.

The Revd Canon Robert Cotton (Guildford) moved a following motion.

507 That this Synod, recognising and affirming the difficult issues addressed by the Anglican Communion Covenant:
(a) request that the date determined by the Presidents for the reference of the draft Act of Synod to the dioceses under Article 8 should be no earlier than November 2011;
(b) direct the Business Committee to ensure that the documents circulated to diocesan synods for the purposes of the Article 8 reference include a range of briefing material, properly reflecting the diversity of views on the Covenant within the Church of England; and
(c) invite the House of Bishops to encourage in the dioceses a process of widespread education about, and engagement with, the substance and text of the Covenant.

The motion 507 was defeated on a show of hands.

Here is the official summary of the morning’s business: General Synod - Summary of business conducted on Wednesday 24th November 2010 AM.

GS 1809



Affirmed and proclaimed an Act of Synod - ***
Ratified and confirmed by the Presidents of the General Synod - ***


(1) It is intended that the Church of England should enter into and adopt the Anglican Communion Covenant and that effect should be given to that intention by resolution of the General Synod of the Church of England; and

(2) It is desired to give formal publication to the same as the embodiment of the will of the Church of England as expressed by the whole body of the Synod by its affirmation and proclamation as an Act of Synod

IT IS RESOLVED by the Archbishops, Bishops, Clergy and Laity of the General Synod of the Church of England, assembled in their Synod at [Westminster], as follows—

1. The Church of England hereby enters into and adopts the Anglican Communion Covenant as set out in Annex 1 to GS Misc 966 and solemnly covenants with the other Churches which enter into and adopt it in making the affirmations and commitments that it contains.

2. This resolution shall come into force upon being affirmed and proclaimed an Act of Synod and ratified and confirmed for their respective provinces by each of the Presidents of the General Synod.

Posted by Peter Owen on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 10:47am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England | General Synod

I have been reflecting this morning on the scripture reading for today from the daily office I follow, 'Celebrating Common Prayer'.

These thoughts come to me in the silence and the peace, after reading and reflecting on Ezekiel 37:24-28

"I will make a covenant of peace with you," says God. "It will be an everlasting covenant. My dwelling place will be with you. I will live within you and make a sanctuary of your souls. I will be your God, and you will be my people. I will dwell with you and make my sanctuary with you forever. You will be one people and I will be your sovereign and your God. Never again will you be divided. I will call home people from far off. I will return those who were far from me. I will restore you in my love, and make you clean, and make you whole."

"I will make a covenant of peace with you," says God. "It will be an everlasting covenant. My dwelling place will be with you. I will live within you and make a sanctuary of your souls. I will be your God, and you will be my people."

Posted by: Susannah Clark on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 3:08pm GMT

So, please remind an American where the process goes from here?

And, one wonders what will come in general, and in English discussions, of the statement of the GAFCON primates that they cannot adopt the Covenant as presented.

Posted by: Marshall Scott on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 3:23pm GMT

Is it possible to know how the vote broke down according to diocese, parish, and/or individual?

Posted by: eponym on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 3:35pm GMT

And the response to the GAFCON "Oxford" statement?? How long will Rowan Williams be able to maintain leadership after this rejection of the Covenant by Gafcon??

Posted by: ettu on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 4:04pm GMT

@Marshall Scott: My guess is that the Anglican Covenant has now acquired the kind of status possessed by certain international treaties. That is, many nations will sign on, in order to express the correctness of their sentiments, but in the knowledge that the treaty is utterly without effect, because a core group refused to ratify.

Posted by: Charlotte on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 4:33pm GMT


General Synod has voted to send the Covenant proposal to all Diocesan Synods, thereby giving a much wider number of people the chance to look at it and to vote on it.

Diocesan Synods must approve it with a 51% majority by 2012 when General Synod will vote on it again.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 4:48pm GMT


Apologies, I made a mistake there.
The draft Act of Synod now goes to the 44 diocesan synods, 51% of them must approve it.
Then General Synod votes again.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 4:49pm GMT

Well the GAFCON Primates timed their press release pretty well. We know the United Churches of N and S India have said they cannot sign up to the Covenant. We have yet to hear from the "liberal " provinces but it is quite likely that TEC and Canada wont sign.nor Scotland probably, nor NZ.Just how many will? And even those who do ( eg Mexico) are never going to see their signing the Covenant as involving breaking communion with TEC.As a way of bringing coherence to an ever fragmenting Communion it simply isnt going to work...yet the Abp et al soldier really is sad.It must be obvious now that GAFCON sees itself as the "true" Anglican Communion rooted in a confession of faith that would seem to drag the Communion back to the 16c and anchor it there..despite decades of ecumenical endeavour between Anglicans/RC's/Lutherans/Orthodox/ Reformed which has tried to get behind these 16c divisions..where do we go from here folks? any suggestions for possible Anglican scenarios in 2020????

Posted by: Perry Butler on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 5:21pm GMT

"It is RESOLVED that the Church of England hereby enters into and adopts the Anglican Covenant - and
solemnly covenants with the other Churches which enter into and adopt it in making the affirmations and commitments that it contains."

Di this resolution happen BEFORE or AFTER the statement from the Provinces of the Global South that they would not sign up to it? For my, the timing is important because, if the answer is
AFTER - then the Church of England is willing to make a Solemn Covenant with everyone in the Communion - except the Global South Provinces!

That might just be a Covenantal Relationship of a different colour - from that of the original intention, which was, presumably to keep the Global South Churches IN, while keeping TEC the A.C,of C. and the Rest of Us OUT.

This new Communion Fellowship would have much more chance of ensuring that the gospel of OLJC is preached to ALL, than any sodality which includes the puritanical, sola-Scriptura Provinces of the Global South.

Another thing: Does this mean the parting of the ways between the Anglican Diocese of Sydney and the Anglican Province of Australia? That could be quite beneficial, methinks, for all concerned.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 9:24pm GMT

That's all beautiful. Thanks. Especially 'and make a sanctuary of your souls'.

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 9:37pm GMT

So the Covenant's being "considered." But that's not the same as "adopted" is it? (Or does one basically guarantee the other? O_o)

Simon, help an Ignorant (and Confused) Yank out!

Posted by: JCF on Wednesday, 24 November 2010 at 9:43pm GMT

To answer a number of queries above.

There are several stages before the Church of England adopts the Covenant.

1) The draft Act of Synod (the means by which the covenant is to be adopted) is considered by General Synod.

2) If Synod votes to consider the draft Act, it then votes on any proposed amendments.

[Synod completed stages 2 and 3 today.]

3) The draft Act of Synod then goes to diocesan synods. A majority must vote in favour in order to proceed to stage 4.

4) The House of Bishops must then agree to return the business to Synod.

5) The Convocations* and the House of Laity may require the business to be referred to them, and it is possible for the Convocations or the House of Laity to stop further consideration until a new Synod has come into being.

6) A motion can then be put to General Synod to finally approve the Act of Synod. If this is passed then the CofE will have adopted the Covenant.

To answer JCF, consideration starts off the procedure above. Voting to consider a draft does not commit anyone to vote for final approval.

To answer Ron Smith, the GAFCON rejection of the Covenant became known towards the end of this morning's debate. It is likely that few members were aware of this when they voted. Certainly nothing was said about it in the debate.

*The two Convocations are the bishops and clergy of the provinces of Canterbury and York.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Thursday, 25 November 2010 at 12:07am GMT

Howdy to Perry Butler. Will Canada sign on? To date, there is no clear process mapped out here for a transparent process to study and consider the covenant diocese by diocese with feedback to Canada's next General Synod in 2013. Unless one is developed, then I suspect there will be some dioceses that study the covenant in depth, others that will banter it about, and some that will do nothing. Feed back will be undifferentiated, a top down resolution will be developed, and in the end Canada's GS may will sign. There will be some sort of spin about how on the one hand it changes nothing but is of the Spirit notwithstanding. I'm lighting a novena lamp and praying that I am wrong. Despite the criticism of the ABC, there does appear to be an actual process in England to move the issue into diocesan forums. The fatal flaw appears to be, that as in all things that are primarily political, votes tend to be about loyalty over substance. On a related note, It was good to see Her Majesty open your synod. She seemed to be something of a non-anxious presence in the wake of the hysteria over defections to Rome.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Thursday, 25 November 2010 at 2:01am GMT

Whatever the Church of England decides, whether to accept or to reject the Covenant - after the due consideration by the dioceses is completed - it may be that the Covenant Document will still not be what other Provinces of the Communion really want. Now that the Global South is out of contention, perhaps it would be best to just let each of the Provinces carry out the work of the Gospel in situ - as we have done (in the case of New Zealand), fairly successfully, for 160 years!

Each of the Overseas Provinces of the Communion has their own Statutes and General Synods, so why can we not just continue doing what we have been pretty good at doing over the last 150 years; and without having to run to 'Mummy' for funds to help us survive and grow. We now have our very own bishops and archbishops, and we all have our own 'mission areas' for which we have made ourselves responsible for most of the time we have been in existence; and although we have enjoyed (and still do enjoy) our filial relation-ship to the See of Canterbury, and to other fellow anglicans around the world, we do have to rely on God to locally equip us for the mission in our own respective parts of the world.

We do not need a disciplinary Covenant to help us to be God's Children where we are!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 25 November 2010 at 10:13am GMT
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