During Anglican Covenant Week at Episcopal Café, we are featuring three essays from The Genius of Anglicanism, a study guide produced by the Chicago Consultation. This is the second of three articles. The full study guide, which includes eight essays, each followed by study questions, is available here.
By Gay Jennings
So, it appears the Anglican Communion already has a covenant!
The 77th General Convention meeting in Anaheim, California in 2009 adopted Resolution D027 titled “Five Marks of Mission.” 1 (to see the footnotes and appendices, click Read more at the conclusion of this essay)
Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 76th General Convention adopt the following “Five Marks of Mission” as articulated by the Anglican Consultative Council and addressed to the Anglican Communion:
– To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
– To teach, baptize and nurture new believers
– To respond to human need by loving service
– To seek to transform unjust strutures of society
– To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth; and be it further
Resolved, That the 76th General Convention recommend the Five Marks of Mission as the five top strategic priorities for the Episcopal Church, and request Program, Bud- get, and Finance and the Executive Council to center the budget for the 2013-2015
triennium around these strategic priorities; and be it further
Resolved, That Convention recommits The Episcopal Church to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ with the provinces and churches of the Anglican Communion in keeping with “A Covenant for a Communion in Mission” commended by the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC13-2005); and be it further
Resolved, That the Secretary of the General Convention communicate the substance of this resolution to: The Archbishop of Canterbury, the General Secretary of the Anglican Communion, the Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and Primates, and the leadership of the churches and provinces of the Anglican Communion.
Resolution D027 adopted the Five Marks of Mission for The Episcopal Church and recommitted The Episcopal Church to mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Anglican Communion in keeping with the Covenant for Communion in Mission.
So where did this covenant, which seems to have hidden in plain sight, come from, and what would it mean if the Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion truly embraced the Five Marks of Mission as their top priorities?
The Five Marks of Mission were developed by the Anglican Consultative Council between 1984 and 1990 and promulgated to the Anglican Communion. 2 The five marks are intended to lay a foundation and promote a common understanding of what it means to participate in God’s mission to a world desperately in need of Good News.
Shortly after the Five Marks of Mission were distributed to the Anglican Communion, MISSIO, the Standing Commission for Mission of the Anglican Communion, which met between 1994 and 1999, reviewed the marks as part of its work. Its report, Anglicans in Mission, urges provinces and dioceses to develop or revise their own scriptural understandings of mission:
“Whatever words or ideas each local expression of our Church uses, MISSIO hopes that they will be informed by three convictions:
• We are united by our commitment to serving the transforming mission of God.
• Mission is the bedrock of all we are, do and say as the people of God.
• Our faithfulness in mission will be expressed in a great diversity of mission models, strategies and practices.” 3
Several years later, in preparation for the 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-13), the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism4 (IASCOME) developed the Covenant for Communion in Mission to build on the Five Marks of Mission. The covenant was commended to the provinces and churches of the Anglican Communion by the Anglican Consultative Council at its meeting5.
The text of the Covenant for Communion in Mission is printed below in bold with IASCOME’s commentary in plain text.
A Covenant for Communion In Mission6
This Covenant signifies our common call to share in God’s healing and reconciling mission for our blessed but broken and hurting world.
In our relationships as Anglican sisters and brothers in Christ, we live in the hope of the unity that God has brought about through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The preamble recognises that the world is one that has been graced by God but that God’s work through Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, is to seek to heal its hurts and reconcile its brokenness. The preamble reminds us that as Christians we are called to share our relationships in the mission of God to the wider world, bearing witness to the kingdom of love, justice and joy that Jesus inaugurated.
The nine points of the covenant are predicated on Scripture and the Sacraments providing the nourishment, guidance and strength for the journey of the covenant partners together.
Nourished by Scripture and Sacrament, we pledge ourselves to: 1) Recognise Jesus in each other’s contexts and lives
The nine points begin with Jesus Christ, the source and inspiration of our faith and calls for those covenanting for mission to look for, recognise, learn from and rejoice in the presence of Christ at work in the lives and situations of the other.
2) Support one another in our participation in God’s mission
Point two acknowledges that we cannot serve God’s mission in isolation and calls for mutual support and encouragement in our efforts.
3) Encourage expressions of our new life in Christ
Point three asks those who enter into the covenant to encourage one another as we develop new understandings of our identities in Christ.
4) Meet to share common purpose and explore differences and disagreements
Point four provides for face-to-face meetings at which insights and learnings can be shared and difficulties worked through.
5) Be willing to change in response to critique and challenge from others
Point five recognises that as challenges arise changes will be needed as discipleship in Christ is deepened as a result of both experience in mission and encounters with those with whom we are in covenant.
6) Celebrate our strengths and mourn over our failures
Point six calls for honouring and celebrating our successes and acknowledging and naming our sadness and failures in the hopes of restitution and reconciliation.
7) Share equitably our God-given resources
Point seven emphasizes that there are resources to share–not just money and people, but ideas, prayers, excitement, challenge, enthusiasm. It calls for a move to an equitable sharing of such resources particularly when one participant in the covenant has more than the other.
8) Work together for the sustainability of God’s creation
Point eight underscores that God’s concern is for the whole of life–not just people, but the whole created order–and so we are called to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth.
9) Live into the promise of God’s reconciliation for ourselves and for the world
This last point speaks of the future hope towards which we are living, the hope of a reconciled universe–in which ‘God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ for which Jesus taught us to pray.
We make this covenant in the promise of our mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ.
The conclusion provides a strong reminder that we need each other. We are responsible for each other and we are mutually interdependent in the Body of Christ.
Thus, the five marks are not intended to be static, but rather to provide each church of the Anglican Communion with a framework for “developing or revising its own understanding of mission which is faithful to Scripture.”7
In keeping with the Covenant for Communion in Mission, The Anglican Church of Canada did a masterful job in using the Five Marks of Mission as the foundation for its church wide strategic plan, “Dream the Church Vision 2019: A Plan for the Anglican Church of Canada.” The Most Rev. Fredrick J. Hiltz, Archbishop and Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, stated “These marks speak to our true vocation as evangelists, storytellers, caregivers, advocates for peace and justice, and good stewards of God’s creation.” 8
The Anglican Church of Canada’s explication of the marks is found in its entirety at the end of this essay, and is offered as an example of how to use the Five Marks of Mission as a frame work for understanding mission that is informed both by the Anglican Communion’s common understanding and the cultural context of a particular church and its people. Congregations, dioceses and provinces can particularly profit from the way in which the Canadian church customized the marks to define mission in a way that encompasses evangelism and service, as well as work for systemic social justice and environmental sustainability.
So, if the Anglican Communion already has a covenant, what are the differences between the existing Covenant for Communion in Mission and the proposed Anglican Covenant currently circulating among the various provinces and churches? First, while the proposed Anglican Covenant has an internal focus, the Covenant for Communion in Mission looks outward to the world:
“We believe that a Covenant enshrining the values of common mission that could be used as a basis for outward-looking relationships among the churches, mission organisations and societies, and networks of the Communion would provide a significant focus of unity in mission for the Anglican Communion.”9
Second, the Covenant for Communion in Mission in based in mutual relationships. In developing the covenant, IASCOME spent significant time deliberating about the nature and characteristics of covenants and contracts. When introducing the covenant, the committee wrote:
IASCOME considered in depth the nature of covenant. We recognised that within our cultures a covenant is a serious and significant agreement. Covenants are fundamentally about relationships to which one gives oneself voluntarily, while contracts can be seen as a legally binding document under a body of governing principle. Covenants are free-will voluntary offerings from one to another while contracts are binding entities whose locus of authority is external to oneself. Covenants are relational: relational between those who are making the covenant and relational with and before God.10
Indeed, IASCOME was bold enough to say, “We believe the Covenant for Communion in Mission can provide a focus for binding the Communion together in a way rather different from that envisaged by the Windsor Report.”11
While the proposed Anglican Covenant formalizes relationships among Anglican
provinces according to tiers of membership and consequences for deviating from rules, the Covenant for Communion in Mission urges Anglican provinces to form relationships through mission partnerships and collaborations. This covenant calls provinces and churches to be equal covenant partners and to have their common life in Christ shaped by joint participation in God’s mission. By recognizing that God’s work in one province may be radically different from God’s work in another, this covenant honors new understandings of our lives in Christ. Most importantly, the Covenant for Communion in Mission eschews uniformity, punitive action and centralized authority in favor of our love for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ and belief that we are all called to do God’s work in the world.
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, associate director of CREDO, is the Episcopal Church’s clergy representative to the Anglican Consultative Council, a eight-time General Convention deputy from the Diocese of Ohio, and a member
of the church’s Executive Council.
Dream the Church Vision 2019: A Plan for the Anglican Church of Canada, p. 5
1. To proclaim the Good News of the King- dom God calls the church, the Body of Christ, to proclaim what Jesus proclaimed: the Kingdom of God characterized by justice, healing, forgive- ness, reconciliation, and hospitality. We do this in the context of a post-Christian culture where the church needs to engage in primary evan- gelism—sharing the good news and inviting a response.
2. To teach, baptize, and nurture new believ- ers In this post-Christian culture, the church is called again into the work of evangelism—mak- ing new believers. In baptism, new believers take up citizenship in the Kingdom and membership in the Body of Christ. The church is responsible for shaping our common life in such a way as to nourish each person’s awareness of the mission of God and to strengthen our capacity to participate in that mission.
3. To respond to human need by loving ser- vice In three gospels, the evangelists’ account of the Last Supper focuses on the bread and wine, invit- ing us to know that as we take, bless, break and share bread, we find ourselves in the presence of Jesus. In the fourth, the focus shifts to the basin and towel—and Jesus’ challenge to his disciples and to us to kneel with him in serving.
4. To seek to transform the unjust structures of society Throughout scripture, and particularly in the prophetic tradition, God’s transformative pur- pose is not limited to changing individual lives. God acts to change the conditions that constrain, distort, and oppress the lives of persons and com- munities. Through the prophets we hear that God is attentive to structures—the royal court, the temple, and the marketplace among them— that contradict God’s compassion and distribute God’s abundance unjustly. As a people follow- ing Jesus in mission in our age, God invites us to work with him to bring about change in such structures.
5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth In Vision 2019 we witness a new appreciation of the vital connection between the place where we live and the embodiment of our faith. The church is being awakened to the gift of the land and
our God-given living relationship with the earth. Assisted by the prophetic values and ideals of our Indigenous members, we recognize and affirm the compelling, urgent, and absolute character of our moral obligation to live in right relationship with God’s creation. This will be, in the time between now and 2019, a defining issue for the authenticity of our faith and practice.
ACC-13 (Nottingham, England in 2005) adopted the following resolution commending the Covenant for Communion in Mission to the churches of the Anglican Communion:
Resolution 27: The Covenant for Communion in Mission This Anglican Consultative Council:
a. commends the Covenant for Communion in Mission to the churches of the Anglican Com- munion for study and application as a vision for Anglican faithfulness to the mission of God.
b. forwards the Covenant for Communion in Mission to those bodies of the Anglican Communion tasked to consider an Anglican Covenant as commended by the Windsor Re- port and the Statement of the February 2005 Primates’ Meeting c. requests the next Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism to monitor responses to the Covenant for Com- munion in Mission and evaluate its effectiveness across the Communion. 12
1 http://gc2009.org/ViewLegislation/view_leg_de- tail.aspx?id=981&type=Final 2 Bonds of Affection-1984 ACC-6 p.49 and Mission in a Broken World-1990 ACC-8 p.101.
3 Anglicans In Mission (MISSIO report 1999). 4 The members of IASCOME are appointed by
the Anglican Consultative Council. IASCOME is accountable to the ACC or its Standing Commit- tee. 5 ACC 13 met June 19-28, 2005 in Nottingham, England. See the end of this essay for the text of the ACC Resolution commending the Covenant for Communion in Mission to the worldwide Anglican Communion.
6 http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/ mission/commissions/iascome/covenant/covenant_ english.cfm 7 Anglicans In Mission (MISSIO report 1999).
8 Dream the Church Vision 2019: A Plan for the An- glican Church of Canada, p. 1. 9 http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/ mission/commissions/iascome/covenant/covenant_ english.cfm
10 Ibid. 11 Ibid. 12 http://www.anglicancommunion.org/commu- nion/acc/meetings/acc13/resolutions.cfm#s27