Sunday, 19 June 2011

Canada reports on the Anglican Covenant

The Anglican Church of Canada has produced further material, in addition to its excellent study guide and linked materials which were mentioned earlier.

see the press release: Governance Working Group analyzes Covenant.

…This GWG report is one step in the Anglican Church of Canada’s ongoing consideration of the Covenant. A resolution at General Synod 2010 (A137) requested several actions to advance this work. First, the Anglican Communion Working Group was asked to prepare materials for parishes and dioceses to study the Covenant and give feedback. These materials were released June 9 and are available online.

Both the GWG and the Faith, Worship, and Ministry Committee were asked to assess the Covenant by “providing advice on the theological, ecclesiological, legal, and constitutional implications.”

The resolution also requested that “conversations, both within the Anglican Church of Canada and across the Communion, reflect the values of openness, transparency, generosity of spirit, and integrity, which have been requested repeatedly in the context of the discussion of controversial matters within the Communion.”

After this period of consideration, the Council of General Synod will bring a recommendation regarding adoption of the Covenant to General Synod 2013.

The report itself is here as a PDF. There is also an Executive Summary, also a PDF.

I have reproduced below the fold those parts of the Executive Summary which are of most relevance outside Canada. A read of the full report is highly recommended, as many of the issues raised by it should be of concern to all Anglicans worldwide.

The Anglican Church of Canada Governance Working Group

Executive Summary

…The GWG’s Memorandum identifies four broad areas of concern:

1. Lack of Definitional Clarity

Because the Covenant is intended to bind those Churches which adopt it, there are concerns about the imprecision or ambiguity of important terms used in the Covenant, which makes it difficult to know with certainty the meaning, scope and operation of the Covenant:

  • communion
  • The Anglican Communion
  • Church
  • Faith
  • a shared mind
  • relational consequences
  • incompatible with the Covenant
  • controversy and controversial action
  • commissions and councils of the Communion

2. Procedural concerns

The procedures contained in section 4 of the Covenant raise a number of concerns:

The multiple roles of the Standing Committee creates uncertainty about the authority and jurisdiction granted to it under each role and cumulatively.

There is a lack of both substance and detail in the rules of process to be followed.

There are no criteria for actions or decisions which are deemed to be “controversial”, which is what initiates the procedure under section 4.

The Covenant does not contain the normal procedural fairness that is fundamental in Canadian jurisprudence.

The rules around the establishment, application and length of moratoria are ill-defined or absent.

The proposed Covenant does not provide rights for appeal.

The outcomes for a Church declining to implement recommended “relational consequences” are unspecified.

3. Constitutional Issues for the Canadian Church…

4. Consequences of Non-Adoption

Not adopting the Covenant does not affect the membership of the Anglican Church of Canada in the Anglican Communion.

How do non-covenanting churches relate to the actions of the Standing Committee?

Apart from section 4.2 of the draft text, are there any substantial consequences to the Canadian Church if it chooses not to adopt the Covenant.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 19 June 2011 at 7:25am BST | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Anglican Communion | Canada

A very interesting document.

In a way it is just a long series of probing questions that help one conclude (in the first place) that the Covenant does not in itself begin to understand the communion it is attempting to fix.

I still think that it was highly significant that the first thing we heard about the Covenant was that India could not sign up.

I know what those who drafted the Covenant might say, I have heard them say it before in relation to the problems of getting it accepted in England:
"Where there is a will, there is a way."

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Sunday, 19 June 2011 at 8:49am BST

The GAFCON provinces are unlikely to sign up to the Covenant, but one wonders if any of them would be capable of producing study material or theological reflection of this order. Or be prepared to allow such widespread consultation within their churches at all levels. Well done the church of Canada!

Posted by: Perry Butler on Sunday, 19 June 2011 at 9:09am BST

The report is even-handed and fair, and makes no recommendations but rather provides a serious analysis of the proposed Covenant from a canonical perspective. Although section 3 is decidedly from a Canadian perspective, there is much in it that would be enlightening for non-Canadians.

Further commentary on my blog.

Posted by: Alan T Perry on Sunday, 19 June 2011 at 12:12pm BST

It is impressive to note the positive determination in the Anglican Church of Canada to facilitate a 'fair hearing' for the Anglican Covenant Process among the constituent dioceses of the Province.

However, from the preamble, it would seem to question the need for a 'doctrinal commission' status for the new Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. Considering that the Provinces of the Communion are a group of independently governed Churches in their own right; what is being questioned is the perceived need by the ACO of a disciplinary body (vis a vis Section 4 of the Covenant document) to regulate and control the life of the Provinces in matters of local pastoral initiatives - such as the perceived need - in Canada - of a Blessing rite for Same Sex Unions.

It will be most interesting to see the response of the individual Dioceses of the A.C.of C. to the prospect of a magisterial role for the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion - and that's only for starters!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 19 June 2011 at 12:29pm BST

The full text of the amended resolution passed by Canada's GS is available in the link below. I note that the group which is tasked with reporting to GS 2013 is the Council of General Synod. Let's hope that the current CoGS is up to the task. CoGS was asked by General Synod 2007 to bring forward an amendment to the Marriage Canon, but failed to do so.The form and manner in which the Covenant is dealt with by GS 2013 is also something to look for. Hopefully delegates will be trusted with an open debate.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Sunday, 19 June 2011 at 4:04pm BST

Magesterium type rule is a relic of another century that has never really served the People of God but instead the "princes" or bishops in that it gave them more power over others. This system has proven unacceptable on just about every level. This is of course the Roman imperial model of being Church. It is a failed concept because it EXCLUDES rather than INCLUDES others of diverse views and backgrounds. The last thing any branch of the Holy Catholic Church should try to foist on the People of God, especially Anglicanism, is a Magesterium model.

Posted by: Chris Smith on Sunday, 19 June 2011 at 5:46pm BST

Right on Chris Smith re the notion of magesterium in the covenant debate--which has not come about in a political vacuum. The proposed "covenant" is a product and promotion of creeping hierarchicalism.
Canada may be asking insightful and poignant questions about the document; but one should not conclude from that a Canadian context that is unaffected by hierarchy creep. The various statements released by the Canadian house of Bishops, for example, are very thin with regard to how "The House" relates to the whole people of God.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 20 June 2011 at 1:47pm BST

@Rod Gillis:

I think the two recent releases from the General Synod, the study guide and the legal analysis, suggest that the leadership is committed to a full and fair debate on the prposed Covenant. Yes, it remains to be seen what CoGS will propose in 2013, but I'm prepared to give them a chance, and the benefit of any doubt.

It seems to me that the most straightforward proposal for CoGS to make would be to present a motion to General Synod resolving to adopt the Anglican Covenant. Failing to do so would be a case of CoGS making the decision for General Synod. Doing so would put the final debate and decision where they belong: in the hands of the General Synod.

Posted by: Alan T Perry on Monday, 20 June 2011 at 1:52pm BST

Re Alan T Perry in reply, I agree that the study materials are balanced. Perhaps those of us who lobbied for the same can take some satisfaction in that. I suppose CoGs could put forward a resolution recommending adoption, but doesn't that pre-judge the kind of feedback and study received leading up to GS 2013? Perhaps there may be a motion to adopt the covenant but with qualifications? After all, if the study process asks poignant questions which produce critical insights, would not the responsible move be to put that into the motion? Or, are we already required to accept the thing as is without changing a jot or title for fear of "relational consequences"? Perhaps, we will be ushered into the "comfy chair" for example? As for giving CoGS the benefit of the doubt, I would suggest that after the failure of the previous CoGS to follow though on directions from GS 2007, it is up to CoGS to demonstrate a transparent willingness to adhere to the direction given it by the Act of GS. Finally, your suggestion, which is a friendly one, really assumes the presentation of a resolution and the ability of delegates to openly debate the same. Without open debate, it will be difficult for those opposed to the change the covenant brings to the social contract implicit in the Communion as it is,to move amendments, for example.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 20 June 2011 at 5:10pm BST

Does anyone else speak Canadian? grin.

I read Canadian-speak for "make sure due process is duly gone through, so that there can be no procedural or professional questions on any side -- then let's bury the sucker."

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 5:54pm BST

Randal, your post is something of an epiphany for me. Here I am thinking that national is thinking thoughts and considering strategy to get the covenant accepted in order to keep the peace. I had not thought of the passive aggressive use of bureaucracy you suggest as a possible scenario. Dieu merci!

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Friday, 24 June 2011 at 11:38pm BST

Rod, What, Canadians doing a passive aggressive use of bureaucracy? Que Dieu nous protège!

That aside, I'd even be tempted to add, "let's heap such process on the evaluation that when the sucker is buried, it stays buried for good."

I'll put a pre-1964 silver canoe dollar on it :} you?

I note particularly the first point of #4: there are no consequences in saying no. I.e. there's no harm in doing nothing, or delaying until it's all blown over (and the zealots on all sides have dialled it all back.)

Posted by: Randal Oulton on Saturday, 25 June 2011 at 8:00am BST

Randal, what do you make of point number 4? I saw that claim and I'm dumbfounded by it!

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Saturday, 25 June 2011 at 4:23pm BST
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