Inclusive Church is grateful to the Archbishop of Canterbury for his reaffirmation of the breadth and diversity of the Anglican tradition.
His recognition of this fundamental principle and mark of Anglicanism – the catholic, reformed and liberal strands of the Communion – offer a sound basis for our journey forward together.
But we have profound concerns about the process of agreeing any Covenant. The quick response of some of the more conservative parts of the Communion indicates that they see a Covenant more as an instrument of division than an instrument of unity.
The terms and wording of any document will need to â€œrenew our positive appreciation of the possibilities of our heritageâ€ in the Archbishopâ€™s words. A Covenant must therefore give value to the strands in our tradition, not excluding reason from our theological method but finding a new way of expressing the Anglican approach to the faith in todayâ€™s world.
If we are to approach the process of agreeing a Covenant with honesty and integrity we must as Provinces and local churches be willing to be open about our own present situations. Many provinces have practices which other parts of the Communion may not support. For example, the blessing of same-gender relationships happens regularly in this Province even if not officially acknowledged. There are ongoing issues around the world over the tacit acceptance of lay presidency and polygamy.
The possibility of a two-tier Communion should not therefore be seized upon as a way to exclude those who support the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church. The Church of England is in various ways very similar to the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Church of Canada and many of us would hope to strengthen our links in the future. It is likely that any wording designed to exclude TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada would also exclude the Church of England.
We are also uncertain whether a Covenant would affect the unilateral activities the Windsor report hoped to end â€“ for example the election by the Province of Nigeria of Revd Martin Minns as bishop for a missionary initiative in North America.
We have serious concerns about the way a Covenant might be applied locally in the future. Proposals before the Church of Englandâ€™s General Synod for the ordination of women as bishops are specifically designed to avoid parallel jurisdictions. How can we reconcile that with the proposal to have â€œconstituentâ€ and â€œassociateâ€ members of the Communion? Is there not potential for division even at Deanery level?
Ultimately we believe that we are already brought together by the covenant of Baptism. An Anglican Covenant, to reaffirm the bonds of unity for our Communion, will have to reflect the essential inclusiveness of the Baptismal Covenant.
Revd Dr. Giles Fraser, President, InclusiveChurch
Revd Giles Goddard, Chair, InclusiveChurch 07762 373 674