The Covenant in (some) other Provinces


Archbishop Barry Morgan
The Covenant will almost certainly be endorsed in the coming Governing Body meeting in April (Agenda and papers). It went to Dioceses with the blessing of the previous Governing Body meeting and, to the best of my knowledge, has returned with no significant opposition.

The briefing paper (.doc) refers to advice received from the "Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Governing Body, and ... the Doctrinal Commission of the Church in Wales." and
... concludes that no new questions are raised for the doctrine or discipline of the Church in Wales in the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant, so that the adoption of the Covenant can be best addressed directly by a motion of the Governing Body rather than requiring a Bill.
This is despite the objections raised by the Church in Wales to the whole ethos and character of the Covenant in previous submissions. Few of its criticisms and suggestions have been answered, at least not publicly and not in the Covenant as promulgated.


The Rt Rev David Chillingworth (second left) congratulated by the other
Scottish Episcopal Bishops on his election as Primus
In Scotland the mood is rather different. However some voices have been raised suggesting that Scotland might follow the Irish Church by "subscribing" to the Covenant rather than adopting it.

In my view this would be utterly foolish. The General Secretary of the Anglican Communion makes no such distinction. As far as he is concerned the Irish have signed on (as have South East Asia which made different reservations in their adoption of the Covenant).

The ACNS report of the decision says that in debate it was stressed that "this would leave the Covenant subordinate to the the Preamble and Declaration of the Church [of Ireland] and does not affect the sovereignty of the Church of Ireland or mean any change in doctrine." But what is said in debate is not necessarily the same as the terms of signing up to the document.

The US

At the last general Convention, 2009
As the General Convention approaches the dominant worry is how to manage shrinking budget. But the Covenant gets a look in too. Mark Harris compares and contrasts resolutions setting out the differing routes open to TEC.
Here in The Episcopal Church there are now three resolutions that have been publicized, one from Executive Council and two from members of the House of Bishops. The Executive Council resolution is perhaps the least supportive of the Anglican Covenant, although even that one is clear that it is not the Covenant as an idea that is a problem (although for some of us it is) but rather "its current form." The two other resolutions, one from Bishops Douglas, and others, and the other from Bishop Bauerschmidt and others, are more affirmational to varying degrees.


And a point to which I had not given enough weight became clearer recently. John Milbank's article After Rowan: the Coherence and Future of Anglicanism, included the sentence:
It is important for Catholic readers to realise that Rowan Williams had sought this covenant, in part, for ecumenical reasons. The Vatican signalled to him at the start of his primacy that conversations leading to further unity could only be re-commenced if the Catholic Church could be sure that the Anglican Church was truly capable of acting as one body.
The Vatican: projecting Christian power in
a post-Christian world
That the deal had been so explicit was news to me. It has been evident that Rowan was particularly exercised about relations with Rome, sometimes to the apparent detriment of relations with other denominations. It has also become clear that what Rowan means by 'church' is more nearly realised in Catholic or Orthodox structures than in any other.

But the Covenant has not been argued for by direct reference to this precondition to negotiations (however gently expressed). It's been referred to in the general terms that it would make ecumenical discussion easier as our ecumenical partners want to know where we stand as a communion.

Furthermore this signal clearly also communicates that, if discussions were to recommence, they would do so on terms set by the Vatican. So the Covenant, and the reconstruction of Anglicanism as a single, centrally governed denomination, was to be  (in part) for the benefit of the Pope as much as for Anglicans.

I wonder whether many of the more Evangelical Anglican Churches would have been happy with this, and I'm pretty sure Henry VIII and Elizabeth would think we'd missed the point.

But it's always been about power. That's what makes Churches.


  1. Regarding the section on the Milbank article. It's a bit of an eye opener but we shouldn't be surprised. It's what all that 'papal ring kissing' that Rowan Williams was prone to do was about.

    The Williams' 'take' on Anglicanism is the old fashioned Anglo Catholic one that the C of E and latterly the Anglican Communion are but a temporarily separated branch ultimately accountable to the Latin Patriarchy. In this view the Papacy comprises the universal pastorate and Anglicanism's vocation is to move steadily back under its wing, being a bit naughty on the way, what with women in holy orders, etc.

    ARCIC in its various manifestations has followed a similar line where the most fundamental Reformation principles have been almost magically put to one side or mutated into agreeable Roman ones.

    Hence it is perfectly plausible to concede that from Williams' point of view the Covenant has been part of that larger ongoing process.

    However, for those who do not see the vocation of Anglicanism as an ever centralising one and who value what has emerged from a long-drawn-out post Reformation evolution, the failure of the Covenant in England is a good thing. This English result may well also have a positive influence (to reject the Covenant) on the other autonomous Provinces of the Communion.

    I guess that as Paul has implied Henry VIII and Elizabeth wouldn't have been very keen on the Covenant either, they preferred another less subtle kind of autocracy!

  2. Observer, thank you for your comment. You are, of course, right about Henry and Elizabeth: my point was that they would be unlikely to endorse the subservience of the Church of England to Rome, not to seek to co-opt them as proto- liberal democrats.

    Furthermore I guess they would be disdainful of the Covenant process as an attempt at realpolitik with no possibility of enforcement in the (predictable) absence of assent.