Thinking Anglicans

Anglican Covenant: two views on the new draft

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.

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Pluralist
13 years ago

John Neill makes this entirely unsupported statement that: …it has been proposed and fairly generally accepted throughout the Anglican Communion that there should be a Covenant produced. One might contrast it with this statement also made: …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…. 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. I don’t see how these… Read more »

Cheryl Va.
13 years ago

“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. “ God’s chosen priests don’t have to justify themselves to us lower mortals. We simply should accept and submit to their divine decrees. Nor should we have delusions about free will, conscience or accountability. If they tell us to do something, then it must be their god’s will and we are to do it, no matter the consequences to others or consistency with biblical exhortations.… Read more »

Jim Pratt
Jim Pratt
13 years ago

Pluralist, I think the reason those pushing hardest for a covenant failed to comment was that they considered the first draft a received text, authoritative without need for discussion. In the same manner they took the Windsor Report not as a document for study, discussion and response, but as holy writ. Some of this can, as Archbishop Neill points out, due to different ecclesial culture. Whereas in the West we are used to debate and discussion in the synodical processes, in many countries of the Global South, word comes from someone in authority (the primate, a special committee) and is… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
13 years ago

The Archbishop of Dublin wrote: “…and that we really experienced a deep unity around prayer, the Bible and sharing in the Eucharist.” How? You do not share the Sacraments. They are merely Supper and individual Signs/Pledges/Proofs to some of you. The Archbishop of Dublin wrote: “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.” You can say that again. The Bishop of Dudley wrote: “Both poles of the debate take a pessimistic stance: liberals feel it would exclude them; conservatives call it toothless.”… Read more »

Pluralist
13 years ago

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…

Yes: you’d think they’d know the answer to this one by now.

Prior Aelred
13 years ago

I am puzzled at the conjoining of Bishop Walker’s insights with his conclusion that an Anglican Covenant is a “good” thing — I would have thought an objective analysis of the points he raises would have lead in exactly the opposite direction. It is also interesting that he sees the increasing centralization of Anglicanism as a consequence not of gay people in the church refusing to stay in their closets, but of Anglicanism ceasing to be the Church of England writ large — The Episcopal Church has never been the C of E (one of the reasons it is “Episcopal”… Read more »

Martin Reynolds
Martin Reynolds
13 years ago

I find both of these pieces rather disappointing.

The inherent problems are only hinted at, the alternatives not even mentioned.
The opportunities for the Anglican Communion to offer something old and exciting are slipping away in the desperate attempt to satisfy certain egos and please a small few.

It’s all rather sad and I think the Archbishop of Dublin thinks so too!!

Bosco Peters
13 years ago

I have just added my latest reflection – the adding of the essential (worship in Anglicanism) to the draft covenant:
http://www.liturgy.co.nz/worship/matters.html

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