Where the Covenant came from

Rev Dr Caroline Hall
I commend an article on the history of the Covenant by Caroline Hall at the Walking with Integrity site.

She sets out a number of things I had not previously known, especially that
In fact, the concept of an Anglican Covenant was first suggested in the Dallas Statement in 1997. This was the statement from a conference attended by 45 conservative bishops and 4 conservative archbishops from 16 nations to develop an anti-gay strategy for the 1998 Lambeth Conference. They outlined what they saw as “a shared and coherent orthodox Anglican framework” and called for discipline as a “necessary corollary of accountability” in keeping to the “bounds of eucharistic fellowship within the Anglican Communion”.
I also hadn't realised that To Mend the Net was 'considered by the Primates Meeting and, in 2003, the InterAnglican Theology and Doctrine Commission.'

There is, however, another strand to the history of the Covenant which she omits - and which now makes more sense to me in the context of the story Hall sets out.  

This from an article I wrote in 2004 called What has law got to offer the Church published in Modern Believing, Summer 2004.
In April 2002 the Anglican Primates stated that the ‘… unwritten law common to the Churches of the Communion and expressed as shared principles of canon law may be understood to constitute a fifth ‘instrument of unity’ …’ adding, ‘Given that law may be understood to provide a basic framework to sustain the minimal conditions which allow the Churches of the Communion to live together in harmony and unity, the observances of the ministry of Word and Sacrament call us all to live by a maximal degree of communion through grace.’1 In October 2003, as storm clouds seemed about to break, the Primates established a commission whose mandate included an examination of the canonical understandings of impaired and broken communion2. The old order, in which Anglican churches were ‘… bound together not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference.’3, having been eroded, now seems to be slipping away. A new legislative order with centralised structures appears to be growing.
1 Report of the Meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion, Canterbury 10-17 April 2002, ACNS 2959, 17 April 2002. The other instruments are the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lambeth Conferences, Primates Meetings, and the Anglican Consultative Council. They are supplemented by a range of informal linkages.  Canon law encompasses constitutions, statutes, canons, quasi-judicial regulation and codes of practice, as well as ecclesiastical courts, judgements and their enforcement.
2 Commission announced. Statement from Lambeth Palace, 28th October 2003, ACNS 3652. The Commission included Professor Doe.  Members of the Anglican Communion have been in varying degrees of communion with one another since their differential responses to the inauguration of the Church of South India in 1947, as well as over the ordination and consecration of women. It has not required a legal framework to date.
3 Resolutions of the Lambeth Conference 1930, London, SPCK, p. 53.  
Professor Norman Doe
It would seem as though it was that 2002 Primates' Meeting which took the fateful turn that the Communion's leaders have since followed.  It may be well worth re-visiting the reports of that meeting.

Norman Doe has continued to contribute to the Covenant since then.  He was the primary author of the Appendix in the Windsor Report and, I believe, of the Appendix to the St Andrew's Draft.  Both were widely rejected as 'over' legalistic.  He was a member of the group which produced Towards an Anglican Covenant, and thereafter an adviser to the Covenant Design Group.

Doe has, I believe, the small-c conservative instincts of a lawyer but not the radical conservatism of those who wish to reject secular values.  To some degree his programme of harmonisation of canon law through the Communion is furthered by the Covenant; the Covenant we now have, however, is so deeply political in its operation I suspect that the goal of unity through canonicity may still be a long way off.

1 comment:

  1. Pity the Covenant wasn't strangled at birth.

    Still I was most impressed by Bishop John Saxbee of Lincoln at what will be his last general Synod as he'd retiring. "I entirely support the process – so long as it doesn’t end'.

    As I understand him Anglicanism as we understand it is a covenant which constantly seeks to bring together different views.

    If this is so, he's right!