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Communion Secretary-General thinks the Anglican Covenant is still the best way forward

Communion Secretary-General thinks the Anglican Covenant is still the best way forward

Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion sat down with with the Church of Ireland Gazette editor, Canon Ian Ellis recently for a wide-ranging interview.  In it, he stated his belief that a revived Anglican Covenant is the best way forward for the future of the Anglican Covenant.

IG        What is the future for the Windsor report and the Lambeth commission is it still a way forward, the idea for the covenant

JIF       Oh yes, yes

IG        You think it is still a way forward

but if the Church of England doesn’t accept it

JIF       But the Church of England is not the communion, Church of England is one province

IG        Well it’s pretty key

JIF       Yes yes, very key

IG        Well all provinces are key provinces

JIF       Of course, that is the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury

However, I’m sorry the Church of England is not the communion but Canterbury is an essential part of the Communion

IG        Could you see a covenant without the Church of England?

JIF       Why not? Why not?   You see the thing is, the last ACC, from the soundings we received from the Order Faith and Unity part here

the problematic section is section 4 (some call it section D).  That is, the administration, that is the problematic thing.  What we are trying to do now…

IG        That would be the including, excluding piece?

JIF       Right, yes.  What we want to do now is to actually test within the Communion; if we all agree on sections 1, 2, and 3 that talk about

what it means to be a communion…  if we agree on this description on what it means to be a Communion; we can move on to the second stage –  how do we therefore relate together as a Communion?

IG        Are you saying that section D, or part 4, might be renegotiated?

JIF       Oh yes.  Because the majority of those who’ve turned it down is based on that.  And if…

IG        So we could have another time, a Lambeth Commission part 2 looking at this section again?

JIF       Yes!  If we do that; I’m hoping between now and 2019 well be able to go around..

IG        Is this part of the Anglican task force?

JIF       Well, it’s been passed on…

The standing committee passed it on to the Archbishop of Canterbury and its part of what we expect the task force to do

IG        And of course the archbishop of Armagh is part of the Task Force

JIF       uhhh…

IG        Archbishop Richard Clarke

JIF       Oh yes

IG        So that’s one of the things that the…

JIF       We shouldn’t throw the baby  away…    You see, without the covenant there is no Communion the way things are going now.  At
least, we need to agree, are we a Communion?  If we all agree we are a Communion then how do we relate together?


There hasn’t been much enthusiasm for or action on the Covenant in several years.  Idowu-Fearon suggested much the same at the most recent meeting of the Anglican Consultative Commission in Zambia, where it apparently made little headway.  It seems likely that it will continue going nowhere for the time being, while serious strains still affect the bonds of the Communion.




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Marshall Scott

While it is true that the fourth section (4 or D – the section on “relational consequences”) was the area of the most contention, it was not really the only area. To reopen the Covenant conversation (if it happens) at all will, I expect, reopen conversations again on defining what it means to be “a communion.” That’s not a reflection on “what should or shouldn’t happen.” There may well be less interest once it’s reconsidered, or there may be so significant a difference in “consequences” as to change the interest of those who have signed. I’m more reflecting that human nature will lead some to say, “While we have this on the table, there are more areas than one we have thoughts about.”

Prof Christopher Seitz

I know Josiah well and believe he wants a genuine communion because he believes in it as the Christian church’s way. He comes from a very poor and troubled region of Nigeria. He was involved in the Windsor process. He does not believe national independent denominations is Anglicanism. Many agree with him and would happily covenant together. Others have said No and no one is faulting them. They have voted their mind.

David Allen

He does not believe national independent denominations is Anglicanism.

Someone who would feel that way misunderstands how Anglicanism came about, a national Church telling Holy Mother Church to take a hike and going its own way.

If one truly wants conciliarity and subsidiarity then it may be best to follow the schismatic groups back into Holy Mother Church through the Ordinariates.

As for me and my house, we will take the Anglicanism that we have and the Communion that we have; a federation made of autonomous national/regional churches.

Prof Christopher Seitz

“You see, without the covenant there is no Communion the way things are going now.”

Prof Christopher Seitz

It is Josiah who is proposing a covenant as a modus vivendi intended to clarify and to embrace the catholicity of Anglicanism. He isn’t saying without influence from NA in Africa all would be well in a functional communion. If that was his position, there’d be no need of a covenant undertaking to proceed.

David Allen

I find that the Communion that we have is plenty of Church Catholic. And it has worked fine, until as Josiah mentions, US conservatives started messing with the minds of authoritarian African bishops & primates.

Prof Christopher Seitz

Anglicanism isn’t a moment frozen in time, stripped of missional expansion and the existence of a communion itself with 80M members. What Josiah continues to refer to as a church catholic.

TEC decided against the covenant and would likely always object to one of any kind — but that is fine. “You and your house” would not be constrained. If a majority of provinces were to agree a covenant, as Josiah is envisioning one, you and your house could advocate for your own understanding of national denominations. That was always ingredient in the covenant process. The very fact that he speaks of the non-necessity of the CofE agreeing a covenant for one still to make sense and have force for the communion says a lot. Obviously there would be those in the CofE who would want a relationship with those covenanting. There could even be a few here and there in TEC! — though not “you and your house.”

Advent blessings.

Jeremy Bates

Of course the Secretary-General of an organization might have a personal interest in making his organization more powerful.

Prof Christopher Seitz

Those who would view a covenant in this way (“bonds” and “dominion”) would not want to join such a fellowship anyway. Others can be free to do so. That was always the case. Conciliarity and subsidiarity are true communion features.

Cynthia Katsarelis

Better not to create new “bonds” that will be strained from Day 1. We’ve been fine as a family of churches without dominion over one another.

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