Latest draft covenant available


Updated at 4:55 p. m. with statement from Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church. To read the statement, click Read more at the end of this entry.

The Covenant Design Group has issued its latest draft, the Ridley Cambridge Draft [RCD], along with responses it received to the St. Andrews Draft. It has also issued its commentary on the RCD.

Anglican Communion News:

The CDG has worked with the twenty or so Provincial responses which have been received to the St Andrew’s Draft, and which are listed in Appendix One of this Report. We also received a large number of responses from individuals, diocesan synods and other institutions, including ecumenical partners, which were also circulated among the group. All these responses are in the process of being published now on the Anglican Communion website. [Here are the responses.]

The Ridley Cambridge Draft (RCD) of the Covenant text follows the pattern established in the St. Andrew’s Draft, of an Introduction, a Preamble, three Sections (to which a fourth is now added), and a Declaration. “We recognise the importance of renewing in a solemn way our commitment to one another, and to the common understanding of faith and order we have received, so that the bonds of affection which hold us together may be re-affirmed and intensified.”

Read all of the ACN report all.

The Ridley Cambridge Draft is here.

One of many sections to attention could be drawn:

4.2 The Maintenance of the Covenant and Dispute Resolution

(4.2.1) The Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and of the Primates’ Meeting, or any body that succeeds it, shall have the duty of overseeing the functioning of the Covenant in the life of the Anglican Communion. The Joint Standing Committee may nominate or appoint another committee or commission to assist in carrying out this function and to advise it on questions relating to the Covenant.

(4.2.2) If a question relating to the meaning of the Covenant, or of compatibility to the principles incorporated in it, should arise, the Joint Standing Committee may make a request to any covenanting Church to defer action until the processes set out below have been completed. It shall further take advice from such bodies as its feels appropriate on the nature and relational consequences of the matter and may make a recommendation to be referred for advice to both the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting.

(4.2.3) If a Church refuses to defer a controversial action, the Joint Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.

(4.2.4) On the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, the Joint Standing Committee may make a declaration concerning an action or decision of a covenanting Church that such an action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant”. A declaration of incompatibility with the Covenant shall not have any force in the Constitution and Canons of any covenanting Church unless or until it is received by the canonical procedures of the Church in question.

(4.2.5) On the basis of the advice received, the Joint Standing Committee may make recommendations as to relational consequences to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion. These recommendations may address the extent to which the decision of any covenanting Church to continue with an action or decision which has been found to be “incompatible with the Covenant” impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion. It may recommend whether such action or decision should have a consequence for participation in the life of the Communion and its Instruments. It shall be for each Church and each Instrument to determine its own response to such recommendations.

(4.2.6) Each Church undertakes to put into place such mechanisms, agencies or institutions, consistent with its own Constitution and Canons, as can undertake to oversee the maintenance of the affirmations and commitments of the Covenant in the life of that Church, and to relate to the Instruments of Communion on matters pertinent to the Covenant.

(4.2.7) Participation in the processes set out in this section .shall be limited to those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption.

Emphasis added.

The CDG’s Commentary on the RCD should also be read. Regarding Section 4, the group says in its commentary,

It is clear that one of the main fears attached to the idea of a Covenant is that it would limit Provincial autonomy. In the responses, this fear worked itself out in two directions. In the first place, there was substantial resistance to the idea that there should be any development of a body which could be seen to be exercising universal jurisdiction in Anglican polity. Anglicans wished to keep the autonomy of their Churches. Secondly, it became clear that the processes of adoption of the Covenant would be immensely complicated if the Covenant were seen to interfere with or to necessitate a change to the Constitution and Canons of any Province. The surrender of any legislative autonomy would in itself prove a stumbling block to the implementation of Covenant.

Section Four of the RCD is therefore constructed on the fundamental principle of the constitutional autonomy of each Church. The Covenant of itself cannot amend or override the Constitution and Canons of any Province. The Instruments of Communion cannot intervene in any jurisdictional way in the internal life of any of the Anglican Churches. The Covenant can only speak to the relationship between the Churches, and of the relational consequences of internal autonomous actions by a Church.

The draft text of Section Four therefore explicitly reaffirms that the Covenant and the Instruments of Communion of themselves do not impose or have any jurisdiction or authority to alter the internal governance of any Church of the Communion.

Addendum: Coincidentally, the full debate of the covenant by the General Synod of the Church of England is now available.


Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church:

On first reading it appears that the covenant design group demonstrates a faithfulness to the discussions at Lambeth and to the comments made by TEC on the St. Andrew’s draft. The most recent draft underscores, in Section Four, that the covenant does not undercut canons and constitution (read “local authority”) of churches. That is reassuring.

While Section Three begins to canonize and empower the “Instruments of Communion”, Section Four demonstrates the structural focus of, what many of us would prefer to see as a relationship-based, covenant rather than a covenant based on institutional structures.

Section Four institutionalizes, in a new way, the Primates meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council by providing for their acting, with the Joint Standing Committee, in “overseeing the maintenance of covenanted life”.

While the drafting group has moved forward with great care and has listened to the concerns raised by the Provinces, the draft covenant remains much too structurally focused. Why is there such emphasis on strengthening the “Instruments” and “institutions”?

God calls us together into a more relational and missional, way of being the body of Christ. We do not need structures to determine relationships.

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18 Responses to "Latest draft covenant available"
  1. This has come a long way. On first reading, there isn't too much in the first three sections that we might argue with.

    I noted the parts hightlighted, but I also noted this in 4.2.4: "On the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meeting, the Joint Standing Committee may make a declaration...." (amphasis mine) If both bodies must act in concert in giving such advice, that would establishes a more appropriate role for the Primates' Meeting, and defines out the sense some have wanted to have of the Primates' Meeting having authority to dictate one its own. That "and" also suggests that any determination of advice would take two to three years to gather.

    I also note through the new draft, including in section 4, a much clearer affirmation of the autonomy of individual churches in the Communion. In this Covenent, a body can't be forced to act against its own Constitution and Canons, nor even be forced out of communion with one or more of the Instruments. This is emphasized in

    (4.3.1) Any covenanting Church may decide to withdraw from the Covenant. Although such withdrawal does not imply an automatic withdrawal from the Instruments or a repudiation of its Anglican character, it raises a question relating to the meaning of the Covenant, and of compatibility with the principles incorporated within it, and it triggers the provisions set out in section 4.2.2 above.

    (emphasis mine)

    I would still agree with our Presiding Bishop that we still need a full triennium to consider this through our canonical processes, and especially the fourth section. Still, this is a very different tone from previous drafts.

    Marshall Scott

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  2. I definitely agree that we need the trienium to study it. One of my concerns throughout this process has been whether strengthening the instruments of unity amounts to giving them quasi-canonical status through the backdoor. These instruments currently have no official status, and this entire process has begged the question of whether such status is deserved. My particular concern is that in strengthening the instruments one marginalizes the laity.

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  3. I concur that the draft has come a long way. However, I believe that communion does not signify conformity nor unanimity but those who seek to walk in Jesus’ way freely embracing diversity. If an Anglican Covenant endorses freely embracing diversity, then the draft language still seems too strong. The repeated desire of some in the Anglican Communion to establish firm boundaries for who is and is not an Anglican, based upon conforming to consensus understandings of belief and practice, contravenes the radical inclusivity Jesus modeled. In Imitating Jesus, Richard Burridge consistently emphasized that radical inclusivity is foundational for a Christian ethic based on Jesus.

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  4. I too think this goes a long way, but probably not far enough. So long as it is clear that we retain full autonomy and are not bound by decisions of any of the instruments of unity I think this might be where we end up. Still, I would refuse to sign on to any document that implied that we had even a moral obligation to step backward a single inch on the clear implications of our baptismal covenant or the Gospel. I am still holding out hope that there will be a period of "gracious restraint" before rushing headlong into a covenant of this kind. I would like to see a formalized process of consultation without such a punitive character.

    I would recommend putting off adopting any covenant as long as possible, certainly one triennium but perhaps a decade or two. Time is on our side. The whole movement toward covenant was based on flawed ecclesiology and a misrepresentation of history.

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  5. A Response to the

    Proposed Anglican Covenant

    I would hope that General Convention will take 30 minutes or so to thoughtfully dispatch a response to this proposed Covenant. The brief time is all that is needed because that which makes the proposed Covenant (AC hereinafter) semi-palatable also makes it highly problematic. So let’s run through the problems.

    1) It defines judicatory structures into being. Dr. Radner’s long push to make his fiction of Instruments of Communion real could be realized in the AC. Despite the Anglican Communion website’s adopting the Instruments of Communion for reportage purposes, they continue to exist as any sorts of world-wide authority only in the imaginations of the wishful thinking. Long before we can agree to increase their authority in the ways proposed here, we need to carefully decide if we want to change their natures from tea parties to star chambers.

    There has been no process world-wide to affirm the claim that these are Instruments of Unity (remember when they were called that) or of Authority or Communion or anything. So the AC fails first because it circumvents any real process to affirm the Instruments of Communion.

    2) Section 1.2 leaves out two sources of revelation that Anglicans have affirmed since Richard Hooker. Completely missing is our long tradition of bringing the laws of Reason to bear on matters not pertaining to salvation. Also missing is the source of Revelation within God’s creation, that is, the Laws of Nature. Ignoring these two and relying totally on Scripture and tradition for all things simply is not Anglican and never has been. But more importantly, the section is so vague despite its evangelical and catholic leanings that it cannot even resolve the current impasse about how Scripture and catholic tradition speak to the presenting issue of homosexuality! I know that Dr. Radner and ++Gomez believe they are making a firm declaration of the “reasserter” position, but frankly the words allow for plenty of wiggling.

    None the less we must reject this section of the AC as presenting too narrow a set of revelatory sources for the exercise of our common life. Scripture and tradition are not the measure of “all things simply” and never have been.

    3) Section 3.1 is an unacceptable way to define in the Instruments of Communion. Sorry I would never vote to affirm this. Section 3.2 is so vague that for my money TEC and the Church of Canada have more than fulfilled the requirement of slow and long discernment in consultation on this issue. We must realize the having some parts of the Communion say “never” does not fit within the parameters of this section.

    4) Section 4 is both toothless and dangerous to Communion. Please note that is allows petitioners to pick their Instrument of Communion and then allows each Instrument of Communion to fashion its own response. I am sure that this is born of the Primates’ frustration at not being able to dictate the life of the Communion. In fact, the behavior of the Primates as a group during these first years of us playfully imagining Instruments of Communion has completely eroded any reasonable person’s confidence that they are anything but a sham – as authorities. The Primates are currently working to devour the Anglican Consultative Council and I trust more than one third of the provinces will vote down the proposal to add them to the ACC. But the behavior of some with respect to Lambeth 2008 and the entirety of their misadventure in the Mideast (commonly called GafCon) show us the weakness of this section. It proposes and will lead to havoc all the time; it is the ultimate form of organizational triangulation.

    For all these reasons we should reject this version of the AC.

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  6. I've taken some more time for further reflection. I'm a bit more optimistic than either Bill or Michael that reactions from the Episcopal Church and non-Global South Churches have been heard. I'm still not sure that, even with three years reflection, this is something we would want to sign on to; but I disagree with Michael that it should be dispatched so summarily.

    Marshall Scott

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  7. I think that referring it out to an interim body would be the best possible response of General Convention and that there should be a wide variety of voices in the conversation at the hearings. Again, how do we handle the anxiety produced in us by these suggestions? I suggest we resist the quick fix and be as slow, patient, and deliberative as we can.

    As a political strategy, I would focus on reaffirming the non-discrimination canons, repudiating B033, and making sure that nothing looking like even a partial affirmation of the covenant gets passed. We should make it clear that this is a major step, we remain unsure of the implications, and that we want the Communion to take some time to digest what is at stake. We should also make it clear that such a polity altering step should not be taken lightly, especially when there is good reason to think that it would be used to pressure us to compromise our witness to the Gospel.

    My own sense is that no covenant is necessary but that if the powers that be are determined to have one, it will better the longer we can delay.

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  8. I left the Roman Catholic church 12 years ago and became an Episcopalian precisely because I could not remain a good catholic in my heart when I disagreed and outright opposed so much of the doctrine that surrounded me.

    The Episcopal church provided a warm, welcoming safe haven for me where I did not have to check my reason and my experience at the door in order to be welcomed at the table of Jesus.

    This document subtly moves towards a pseudo-orthodoxy litmus test for membership in good standing and a scriptural inerrancy/supremacy foundation that I find repugnant and off-putting.

    I do not know how many might share my concerns and fears but I know they are valid just from perusing the blogosphere and reading the concerns and comments about the AC.

    It seems wise to urge caution, slow deliberation, and open discussion that actually involves real, person-to-person listening rather than talking about, talking at, and talking to, if talking at all, which has comprised much of the "listening process' of the last 20+ years in regards to LGBT members of the church.

    Priscilla Cardinale

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  9. In some respects our conversation is premature, since the ACC may well send it back for more revision. This would be the ideal solution for the time being.

    Section 4 is unworkable and will not resolve any of the current issues in any way. It will have people appealing to the body most likely to hear them favorable. Frankly I TEC should make it clear we will appeal any adverse action against us to the next Lambeth!

    Ms Cardinale is quite right to be worried about having tyranny slip in through the back door with this document. Its flavors are all biblical and tradition "supremacist" and grow from the conservative evangelicals and anglo catholics pushing this initiative.

    As long as ++Gomez, or anyone who has engaged in jurisdictional violations is on the panel we should reject the document on principle since they have a conflict of interest (and behavior) and should be excluded/recused from the drafting committee.

    Frankly, delaying it or deferring it will just make the situation worse. Better to make a clear, thoughtful response and indicate that since there is no body with the authority to enact such a covenant we will be happy to keep the process going until some clarity about international forms of collaboration are more consensually worked out.

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  10. ¨These instruments currently have no official status, and this entire process has begged the question of whether such status is deserved. My particular concern is that in strengthening the instruments one marginalizes the laity.¨ JN

    Various ¨Primate Instruments¨ have not earned a promotion of any kind. Their desire for ¨strengthening¨ of leadership is a upside down egodriven wrong lacks basic humility and self-understanding.

    Perhaps when Provincial ¨ministries¨ stop initiating REAL and dangerous actions of fear and hate against fellow Anglicans/Christians and others their request for expaneded leadership can be considered more seriously...they have many problems to face and help solve in their corrupt cultural environments.

    Learning how to ¨listen¨ and ¨learn¨ and stopping with the persecuting of others IS a essential, and a expected, requirement for persons in positions of trusted leadership (anywhere) is unthinkable to ignore the abuse that several Primates continue to initiate on millions of Christians at The Body of Christ.

    Unthinkable and unsuitable.

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  11. "Improvement counts" in evaluation, yet it is very far from being the most important assessment. The underlying major assumption in these Covenant drafts all along the way is that there is an "ecclesial deficit" in the Anglican Communion. In short there is not enough power "at the top."

    Richard Hooker thought (as new scholarship now affirms)that bishops were useful at best and then when they were dealing with their own "local experiments" (i.e. local experience).

    I do agree with in large measure with Michael Russell's response about "reason's loss" in this text which turns toward a more Roman Catholic understanding of authority. Hooker's method as originally stated depended in order on "scripture, reason (2nd)and then tradition."

    The blunt fact is that understandings of "power" are contextual at base.

    Power is exercixed in wide and diverse ways power within the "local church's" (i.e. various Provinces)in the Anglican Communion.

    I served on a prior (1990s) IATDC which produced,alas, in its unreviewed appendix, an affirmation of the "four instruments of unity." "The Virginia Report" has not to date been approved by A.C.C. Still this current draft text ups the ante by canonizing these "instruments" and by focusing power within the "Joint Standing Committee" which both decides what is "controversial" and structures and instutionalizes a response.

    The Convenants I affirm --and that I believe would welcome strengthing -- are relational Covenants, experienced liturgically and drawn from traditional biblical and theological foundations.

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  12. No, no, no, no, no! When the words in the covenant sound as if they come from Jesus, I'll say, "Sign it."

    What is the point? We already have the New Covenant and the Baptismal Covenant. Can we improve on those? I think not.

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  13. The whole thing should be rejected. It is complete nonsense! The primates don't seem happy that TEC is more democratic their most provinces.

    Why would one to be in communion with a C of E which is very unpopular even among the English?

    Gary Paul Gilbert

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  14. The basic strategy is stay true to ourselves and don't give away the store. The Communion can choose to accept us as we are or to throw us out. The latter isn't likely. What needs to be resisted are anxious efforts to appease, which cause us to be less faithful to the covenants we have already accepted, i.e. the New Covenant and the Baptismal Covenant.

    I don't think referring the document to an interim body precludes the kind of response Michael is hoping for. I am personally hoping for a long, thoughtful conversation to take place at General Convention with no up or down votes on the covenant. The interim body would sustain the conversation over the next triennium. Nothing precludes General Convention making a statement about what is deeply troubling to us about the process leading to the present covenant or the substance of the latest form. I am hoping that deputies and bishops, especially LGBT deputies and bishops (all of them), will seize the opportunity to be talked with rather than to. Rowan Williams needs to hear directly from these folks, while he is here, and not in closed meetings. My hope is that those in charge of General Convention agenda will adopt a process that ensures this happens. But far more important than what we say to Rowan is what we say to one another and ultimately to a watching world.

    I still think that slowing things down will tend to make the covenant we finally get more relational and less exclusionary and juridicial. But nothing prevents us from saying something with content. I do think that General Convention could make some real mistakes if we try to do things too fast.

    So far as it depends on me, I don't want to be cut off from the Anglican Communion. But I also don't want to excuse the bigoted and violent behavior of an Akinola or to reimpose the closet, which seems to be what Williams would have us do. If we have to compromise our integrity in any way to buy our place at the table, we should say no.

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  15. Just to keep conversation going, let me share one item from the Draft that concerned me, along with my comment.

    (4.1.5) It shall be open to other Churches to adopt the Covenant. Adoption of this Covenant does not bring any right of recognition by, or membership of, the Instruments of Communion. Such recognition and membership are dependent on the satisfaction of those conditions set out by each of the Instruments. However, adoption of the Covenant by a Church may be accompanied by a formal request to the Instruments for recognition and membership to be acted upon according to each Instrument's procedures.

    One wonders who these “other Churches” would be. This would suggest the possibility that the Anglican Church of North America could also adopt the Covenant, and request recognition by one or more Instruments of Communion. One wonders what the consequences would be of ACNA adopting the Covenant, even if not recognized by any of the Instruments; especially as one of the commitments in Section One is “to seek in all things to uphold the solemn obligation to nurture and sustain eucharistic communion….” How would that prepare the ground, as it were, for a challenge from ACNA to some action of the Episcopal Church, whether or not ACNA was recognized by Instruments of Communion?

    Marshall Scott

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