Covenant matters

Anglican Provinces struggling to steer in the same direction in Cambridge.

The Covenant Design Group will meet March 29-April 2 in Cambridge, England. Come to think of it I'm going to Cambridge some time in the next week or two. Perhaps I'll call in and listen to one of the design Group's open session. I wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall.

The group will report to the ACC meeting in May in Jamaica. When the next draft of the Covenant will be released is not clear but my guess would be when the papers go out for that meeting. It's too large a group to keep everything quiet.

A two-thirds majority is required for ratification, but since the Primates inserted themselves into the ACC that's less of a hurdle than it should be.

Living Church reported that

As the Covenant Design Group readies its handiwork for deliberation by the Anglican Consultative Council, the group’s chairman acknowledges that selling a unity document to a divided communion will be neither automatic nor easy.

Retired West Indies’ Archbishop Drexel Wellington Gomez identified current Episcopal Church attitudes as a danger to ratification of the proposed Covenant.

Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori already has said General Convention this summer should decline to take up for consideration the design group’s yet-to-be perfected recommendations for measures aimed at respecting local autonomy while providing accountability for divisive actions.

“The Episcopal Church has its own agenda,” Archbishop Gomez said in Dallas March 22, “and that agenda does not have much accommodation with the rest of the Communion.”


Archbishop Gomez said a new fourth section of the now-three-section covenant will address the question of “how we get agreement on how we stay together and work together.” He noted that many Anglicans are “not fond of being told they are wrong.

“That’s our biggest fight, and that fight is not over,” he said. Nonetheless, he said in answer to a question, “The bigger body has to take precedence over the lesser.”


The Scottish Episcopal Church has published its formal response to the St Andrew's Draft (pdf), just before the Design Group meets. (Oddly this is not on the SEC site yet but has come to Thinking Anglicans via Kelvin Holdsworth's blog. Just shows the difficulties of managing information release in a wired aged.) We can expect a number of these reponses which the group have had for some time to be made public in the next couple of weeks.

I'm pleased to say that the Covenant Design Group ordered copies of my own booklet Who Steers the Ship? The poverty of the Draft Anglican Covenant, for distrubution to its members as part of their preparatory reading. (Available from this page, or directly as a pdf here.)

Pluralist, who has been playing with new software, thinks the Scottish document is a holding document. It is cautious.

They reiterate their uncertainty about not only the wording but also the very idea of a covenant.
While they don't think there are any extensive changes necessary to enable the process of adoption (a little too broad brush in my opinion, given their later comments) they do point to possible legal difficulties.

As a general principle, however, the more a proposed Covenant moves into considerations of proscription and sanction, the harder it will be to reconcile it with existing canonical structures (and, possibly, with the requirements of the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, for which the Code of Canons is the Constitution of the Scottish Episcopal Church).
It does not suggest that these are insuperable, just a matter of the time the process will take.

They raise again concerns which have been raised repeatedly before:

  • The term 'Covenant' (raised and dismissed in the Introduction to the St Andrew's Draft).

  • Concentration of powers and consequences for representation and the manner of appointment.

  • The meaning of 'common mind' and 'matters understood to be of essential concern'.

  • The efficacy of a Covenant: will it really stop cross-border intrusions?

  • Unseemly haste at the cost of consultation.
These are not peripheral issues. They go to the heart of what the Covenant is, its conceptual frame, and its application. But they are expressed in Anglican-speak. Perhaps because, as Gomez said, many Anglicans are “not fond of being told they are wrong."

The Scots have also issued a Response to the Anglican Primates' Letter of February 2009 (pdf).

MadPriest is very annoyed with them:

What is the point of being Scottish if all you are going to do is behave like the English?
The paper is leery of the idea of moratoria - it's not clear how and when the moratoria will end, and suggests a suspension of a practice that was previously acceptable. Nonetheless they almost say they will not consecrate as bishop someone in a same-sex partnership, but not quite. They say they are internally divided over the issue with the strong implication (as MadPriest observes) that when a sufficient majority of Scottish Anglicans think such an appointment would be acceptable they could they get on with it.

This is normal. Churches have always followed public opinion (while simultaneously clinging to a fond belief in their own counter-cultural qualities).

Equally they say it would be 'premature' to formally authorise a liturgy for blessing same sex unions, with the implication that, when they are mature, the Scots will take this step. In the meantime 'informal pastoral responses to individual situations' will carry on: don't ask, don't tell - This Is Not A Policy.

Finally, like everyone else excpet those doing it, they deprecate cross-border incursions. It's not them.


1 comment:

  1. The Episcopal Church has its own agenda,” Archbishop Gomez said in Dallas March 22, “and that agenda does not have much accommodation with the rest of the Communion.”


    Ah, another stroke of evenhanded opinionated pontificating from the ever-illbalanced-officiating Chairman of The Covenant Design Group...I suggest +Gomez add a line or two about the deadly HATE CRIMES that are often initiated at The Anglican Communion...they are MOST NUMEROUS, at the Western Hemisphere, in Jamaica, Province of The West Indies.

    That violent ¨Jamaican Agenda¨ against LGBT Anglicans and others MUST STOP NOW!

    Let´s stop with the playing of PRETEND!