The Archbishop of Dublin John Neill has written an article in the Church of Ireland Gazette entitled Drafting an Anglican Covenant which is now available in full. Part of what he says:
…In working with the Covenant Design Group, I learnt a great deal, but I would mention one or two insights that I gained, or gained afresh.
The first was that, in spite of the hyping of differences within our Communion, there is a deep determination to stay together, and that we really experienced a deep unity around prayer, the Bible and sharing in the Eucharist.
The second was that the role of Synods comprising bishops, clergy and laity varies greatly around the Communion. In some parts of the world, what the Primate says on almost any question is regarded as the voice of the Church, even though there has been no work done on the question at synodical level, whereas, in America and Europe, the voice of the Church requires a great deal of consultation before it is articulated.
This explained for me part of the reason for the entirely different perceptions of the power of the Primates’ Meeting, and, indeed, of the Lambeth Conference itself. Those Churches which have a high regard for the role of Synods (such as our own) are very reticent to cede power to a Primates’ Meeting.
The third thing that I discovered when we examined all the responses to the Covenant was that, sadly, there were few responses from those Churches which have been most outspoken about threats to the Communion. Many of them have other very important agendas of their own, but the sad thing is that if a Covenant is there to restore the fractures in the Anglican Communion, everybody needs to own the process, and especially those who feel alienated…
Last week’s Church Times contained a further article by the Bishop of Dudley David Walker. (See also his earlier article here.) The new article is titled Why the new Covenant creates hope. Here is his concluding section:
…A number of commentators focus on the workability of the procedure, and try to determine its acceptability according to how it would apply to the presenting issues of sexuality and territorial incursions. Both poles of the debate take a pessimistic stance: liberals feel it would exclude them; conservatives call it toothless.
Some commentators try to explore how the Covenant procedures would work to prevent new disputes reaching the impasse of the sexuality debate. The Design Group needs to decide whether its proposals are essentially about avoiding future conflicts, or if it intends them to be able to resolve matters that are already rancorous…
In keeping with the spirit of the St Andrew’s Draft, it is worth ending on an upbeat note. I believe that the Covenant is less a reaction to a particular divisive issue than a natural consequence of the Anglican Communion having grown beyond being the Church of England writ large.
The challenge is for us to see this as a sign of maturity rather than a symptom of failure, and to use the text in the first part of the draft as a positive tool for our mission. Slowly, the Design Group is edging towards a confident statement of what Anglicanism strives to be, for God and the world.