On Monday the General Synod is due to hear a presentation on the Anglican Consultative Council meeting held recently in New Zealand. A great many documents from that meeting are now available online here.
Of particular interest for the other agenda item tomorrow, concerning the Anglican Covenant, is this report on Provincial Reception of the Anglican Covenant (PDF).
This paper contains three kinds of information.
The first (Category A) is from member churches which have taken action in their governing body with respect to the Covenant, and which have communicated their decision to the Anglican Communion Office. The second (Category B) is from member churches which have taken action along the way to a decision, but which have not yet made a formal decision. The third (Category C) is from member churches whose actions have not been communicated to the ACO, but about which there is information through the media or on their own websites.
Wherever possible the exact wording of resolutions as adopted or defeated is given…
At the time this document was discussed at the ACC, Mary Frances Schjonberg of ENS filed this report: Council considers status of Anglican Covenant in small groups.
The Anglican Consultative Council spent an hour in private conversation on Oct. 31 (local time) considering the status of the Anglican Covenant but took no action.
Those reflection group conversations, preceded by a short plenary session open to the public, has been the pattern of this 15th meeting of the ACC.
Before the Oct. 31 reflection conversations began, New Zealand Diocese of Christchurch Bishop Victoria Matthews asked the members to consider “why [the covenant] is a cause of fear and why is it a sign of hope for others?”
The results of the reflection conversations were to be given to the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) and the Anglican Communion Standing Committee “as they discern the ways to take the matter forward,” according to a handout on the process…
And the previous day, in this digest report (scroll down for item) she had reported that Members get covenant status update.
While the ACC is not due to discuss the current status of the Anglican Covenant until Oct. 31, a document handed out today shows that nine provinces have made a final decision on the covenant with one rejecting the covenant, six accepting it as is and two making modifications as part of their acceptance.
Those in the so-called Category A that have approved the convent are Ireland, Mexico, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, Southern Cone of America, and the West Indies. In addition, according to the document, South East Asia adopted the covenant with an added preamble of its own and the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia has subscribed to the covenant’s first three sections but said it cannot adopt section 4, which outlines a process for resolving disputes.
And, also in Category A, is the Scottish Episcopal Church, which has refused to adopt the covenant.
The U.S.-based Episcopal Church is one of eight provinces sorted into Category B, which is described as including provinces that have made “partial decisions” about the covenant…
The Church of Ireland Gazette also reported on all this, and interviewed Malcolm French of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition. The full text of the Gazette report is available below the fold.
Church of Ireland Gazette report, 9 November
A tale of two Anglican Covenants – one in the mind, another on paper, Bishop Victoria Matthews tells ACC-15
The Bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand, the Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, last week told delegates at the 15th Anglican Consultative Council meeting (ACC -15), being held in Auckland, that she thought there were two Anglican Communion Covenants: “One is the document that people have in their mind and the other is the Anglican Communion Covenant on paper.”
For that reason, she said, she wanted people “to read the Covenant and be focused on that” because often, when people start talking about the Covenant “ what they describe in their mind as the Covenant is unrecognisable”.
Bishop Matthews, as a member of the Inter-Anglican Standing Committee on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCU FO), was introducing an ACC -15 session on the history and progress of the Covenant.
She observed that the questions behind the Covenant were: ‘What is the best way?’, ‘Is there a way that will keep us together safely?’, ‘What is our deepest fear when we consider decision-making processes?’.
“I believe that in the original idea of the Anglican Covenant, there was a desire to allow the Anglican Communion to be a safe place for conversation and the sharing of new ideas,” she said. “The actual document of the Anglican Covenant does not achieve that for all the Churches of the Anglican Communion, and that is why some Churches have declined to adopt it.”
Bishop Matthews added: “There are those who say [the Covenant] is punitive, and those who say it has no teeth. Both [these comments] tell me that it is not yet perceived, let alone received, as a truly safe way in which to encounter one another.”
While stressing that it was not the work of IASCU FO to promote the Covenant, but rather to monitor its reception, she asked delegates – in advance of a video shown to them on the history and detail of the Covenant – to reflect on “what there is in the Covenant that offers a possible way for us to talk to each other”.
“Remember most of the Covenant reminds us who we are in Christ,” she added.
NO ANGLICAN COVENANT COALITION RESPONSE
The Moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, the Revd Malcolm French, of the Anglican Church of Canada, has told the Gazette that he agrees with Bishop Matthews that there is a ‘disconnect’ between the Anglican Covenant that is on paper and the Anglican Covenant that some people are discussing.
However, he added that, when the body of literature on the Covenant, on both sides of the debate about it, is examined, “it is far more often the Covenant’s critics who examine the text of the document itself”.
Mr French added that “most of the material written in support of the Anglican Covenant avoids any serious engagement with the text, reducing the Covenant to a notional construct, an empty vessel into which its advocates may pour whatever pretty rhetoric they believe will appeal to whichever audience is being addressed”.
The NACC Moderator told us that he also agreed with Bishop Matthews that IASCUFO’s mandate is not to promote the Covenant, but rather to monitor the process of its reception, but asked why a body mandated to monitor reception of the Covenant felt it was appropriate “to produce a series of videos clearly designed to promote its adoption”.
Mr French concluded: “Whatever the intent of its authors, it is clear the Anglican Covenant has become a cause of division rather than a means of unity. Scotland has said no. New Zealand has said no. The Philippines has said no. Despite the spin, England has said no.
“Despite the growing chorus of noes, the Communion continues to muddle along, showing once and for all that we are bound together by grace, not by law.”