Updated yet again Friday afternoon
Back in October 2007, Rowan Williams answered a question from John Howe, Bishop of Central Florida. See the full text of his letter here.
I would repeat what I’ve said several times before – that any Diocese compliant with Windsor remains clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the Communion, whatever may be the longer-term result for others in The Episcopal Church. The organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such. Those who are rushing into separatist solutions are, I think, weakening that basic conviction of Catholic theology and in a sense treating the provincial structure of The Episcopal Church as if it were the most important thing – which is why I continue to hope and pray for the strengthening of the bonds of mutual support among those Episcopal Church Bishops who want to be clearly loyal to Windsor. Action that fragments their Dioceses will not help the consolidation of that all-important critical mass of ordinary faithful Anglicans in The Episcopal Church for whose nurture I am so much concerned. Breaking this up in favour of taking refuge in foreign jurisdictions complicates and embitters the future for this vision.
Almost two years later, there has been further correspondence between the same two people. We do not yet have the full text, but there is this report for the Living Church by George Conger Archbishop: Covenant Adoption Limited to Provinces.
Update This report has now been revised and republished at the same URL under the new headline Archbishop Says Central Florida Act a Positive Step. An explanation by Christopher Wells appears as a comment on TitusOneNine.
A further explanation by Dr Wells appears as a comment below the revised article in the Living Church.
As originally published:
In a Sept. 28 letter to the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, Bishop of Central Florida, Archbishop Williams called the diocesan bodies’ endorsement a step in the right direction. However, he stated, “as a matter of constitutional fact, the [Anglican Consultative Council] can only offer the covenant for ‘adoption’ to its own constituent bodies (the provinces).”
The archbishop added that “I see no objection to a diocese resolving less formally on an ‘endorsement’ of the covenant.” Such an action would not have an “institutional effect” but “would be a clear declaration of intent to live within the agreed terms of the Communion’s life and so would undoubtedly positively affect a diocese’s pastoral and sacramental relations” with the wider communion, he said.
In a Sept. 28 letter to the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe, Bishop of Central Florida, Archbishop Williams called endorsement from the diocesan bodies a step in the right direction. “As a matter of constitutional fact, the [Anglican Consultative Council] can only offer the covenant for ‘adoption’ to its own constituent bodies (the provinces),” the archbishop noted. But “I see no objection to a diocese resolving less formally on an ‘endorsement’ of the covenant.” Such an action may not have an immediate “institutional effect” but “would be a clear declaration of intent to live within the agreed terms of the Communion’s life and so would undoubtedly positively affect a diocese’s pastoral and sacramental relations” with the wider Communion, he said.
As John B. Chilton noted elsewhere (before the Living Church revision took place) :
In his post General Convention Reflections, Rowan Williams wrote, “But in the current context, the question is becoming more sharply defined of whether, if a province declines such an invitation, any elements within it will be free (granted the explicit provision that the Covenant does not purport to alter the Constitution or internal polity of any province) to adopt the Covenant as a sign of their wish to act in a certain level of mutuality with other parts of the Communion. It is important that there should be a clear answer to this question.”
Has he now provided a clear answer? Or is his latest to Howe merely a statement about the meaning of a diocese signing while a province has neither accepted or declined but instead is in the process of deciding? Or in his reflections did he never mean to be saying that when a diocese endorses the covenant it would have ‘institutional effect.’ What is institutional effect anyway?
Another report on the same subject filed by the same reporter for the Church of England Newspaper has been titled Dioceses ‘can adopt Covenant,’ says Archbishop of Canterbury. Also available on Religious Intelligence.
Note: this is NOT the article which appears today in the paper edition of the CEN.
Dioceses and other ecclesial bodies may endorse the Anglican Covenant, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams said this week, but noted the current process is geared toward adoption of an inter-Anglican agreement by the provinces of the Anglican Communion.
The Anglican Communion Institute has issued its statement of approval, see Dioceses’ Endorsement of the Covenant.