Source: Living Church
The formulation and adoption of a covenant will not resolve the current division in the Anglican Communion, but could assist the process of reconciliation in the “post-Windsor” period, according to a report which has been adopted for discussion and reflection in the Communion. The report, titled “Towards an Anglican Covenant,” was accepted by the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) at a recent meeting in London.
A common covenant could help reconcile opposing factions “by focusing on that which unites us, reaffirming our commitment to one another, and thereby helping to heal and strengthen the bonds of affection that have been damaged in recent years.
“Any covenant also has the potential of providing what is currently lacking – an agreed framework for common discernment, and the prevention and resolution of conflict,” the report states. “It could do this by bringing together and making explicit much that until now has been a matter of convention with the Communion’s common life.”
The report proposes a five-phase implementation process, and it estimates that it would require six to nine years to be adopted depending on whether the text was submitted by the central assembly of each province or incorporated into the constitution of the ACC “subject to confirmation by the Provinces.” Other methods of adoption are also possible, according to the report. A draft could be brought to the full meeting of the ACC in conjunction with a meeting of the primates in 2009.
For the covenant to work, it would have to consist of a single formulation “which is not subject to negotiation and opt-outs by each Church or Province … there comes a point at which Provinces and Churches will have to say about the Covenant that they will ‘take it or leave it’.”
An Anglican covenant offers dangers as well as benefits, according to the report. “Some worry that a covenant might be seen to alter the nature of the Communion towards that of a narrowly confessional family, with the attendant danger that preparedness to sign up to the covenant becomes a test of authentic membership,” the report states. “Others might see a potential danger in establishing a bureaucratic and legalistic foundation at the very heart of the Communion; putting at risk inspired and prophetic initiatives in God’s mission and threatening Anglican comprehensiveness. There is also a fear that the Anglican Communion might become a centralized jurisdiction.”
Any covenant which includes some ceding of jurisdiction to the Archbishop of Canterbury, “or to one or more of the Instruments of Communion, would prove to be a “sticking point.” Provinces and churches which do not adopt the covenant would not immediately cease to be Anglican, but over time a deeper relationship probably would develop among those which did adopt the covenant.
“What might emerge is a two (or more) tiered Communion, with some level of permeability between churches signed up to the Covenant, and those who are not,” the report said.