Is the Covenant really gone?

A majority of the synods of the Church of England have spoken and are agreeing not to return to the discussion of further supporting the proposed Anglican Covenant. But this doesn't make the Covenant a dead letter.

An odd possibility discussed by Café editor Jim Naughton on his Facebook page, as well as by Tobias Haller in a comment to a Wounded Bird article, describes the potential for who might pick up the ball and in what general direction it might be run.


I'm not so sure the thing is quite completely dead in England yet. However, it's rejection at this point may well lead Southern Africa not to give final approval later this year. I don't think TEC is going to adopt. The English action may well have a chilling effect -- but it may inspire some of the Gafcon folks who were against it to sign on, and then amend the thing to their liking. I think that may have been in their minds all along, and Ephraim Radner suggested as much not too far back.

Now, what that means is that there will be a new group of "Covenant Anglicans" who will more or less go their own way once they've amended the Insturments out of the Covenant and turned over decision making to the Primates of the Covenant group. Thus the plan to bring unity will have accomplished exactly the opposite.

Mark my words.

That seems plausible in the ear of this blogger.

If it turns out to be the case, the Covenant could become not the imagined ground for ecclesial unity articulated by its promoters, but rather the fundament of further, deeper schism. Perhaps some sanity could be injected into the process of administering the Covenant by those provinces that have already signed on (however provisionally), but in the hands of those declaring other provinces out of communion, what are the chances cooler heads would prevail?

Or would the provinces that have already signed/assented/joined with/affirmed the Covenant like to rethink their positions on it?

Comments (9)

This discussion makes me wonder if GAFCON refused to sign on because it was not conservative enough, how many non-GAFCON dioceses and provinces have also refused for the same reason. For instance, are there any dioceses in England that voted no because the covenant was not "orthodox" enough?


@Eric, Good question. The answer is "no".

After noting that the ACI puched the amendment issue in their response to the English action, I've reviewed the amending clause and find that the signatories cannot amend on their own. They require the Standing Committee, Primates and ACC to reflect on and possibly revise any amendment they propose prior to the signatories alone voting on it -- and then by a 3/4 majority. So unless the signatories gain a majority in all the bodies, and the bodies go their way, they cannot "coopt" the Covenant to their own ends. I've reflected on that a bit more here.

"....will be a new group of "Covenant Anglicans?"

GAFCON pretty much is the new group. The Jerusalem Statement is pretty much the covenant they wished was given to all the provinces to begin with, correct?


Ugh! Ignore my last post. Totally read Tobias' post wrong and commented in a completely different direction. More coffee please......


Within a few days of the news coverage from England about the fate of the covenant, pro-covenant voices here in Canada were posting damage control info on local chat sites. The message is "this is not the end". Hopefully other provinces that have yet to vote, will do so, and vote no. I remain concerned that here in Canada, where avoidance remains the strategy of choice for contending with controversy, that the situation in England will create a false sense of security. Now that the Covenant is on the ropes over there, isn't it time the no-covenant forces turn their gaze to the Canadian church? Is this not the time to seize an opportunity?


Thank you for doing the due diligence to put rest some concerns.

I'm inclined to think the most likely outcome is that the Covenant is dead as a document having any future application -- as opposed to something like the Windsor Report which was never supposed to be more than a, uh, report but has become juridical.

But let's suppose it's not dead. There's still room for mischief in the wrong hands even it can't be amended. Afterall, there was wide disagreement about its meaning. And a document of this kind only takes on its bite through its application and development of precedence. No?

Amen, John. In short, I'm not counting any chickens at this point. My hope is that S.A. will reconsider, but ++Thabo just wrote a very warm letter to ++York urging him to urge that diocese still to vote Yes as a sign of solidarity with S.A. This is, sadly, what the Covenant process has become: it has almost nothing to do with what the text actually says, but is all token, or worse, totem. It is the Bronze Serpent instead of Jesus!

We rarely heard references to the text itself from the pro-covenant folks. I wondered if they were ashamed of it, but perhaps the words didn't matter, and the document was a totem to ward off the wayward churches and push them to sign themselves out of the Communion.

June Butler

Add your comments

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Reminder: At Episcopal Café, we hope to establish an ethic of transparency by requiring all contributors and commentators to make submissions under their real names. For more details see our Feedback Policy.

Advertising Space