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The Anglican Convenant: Where does it go from here?

The Anglican Convenant: Where does it go from here?

Canon Alan T. Perry takes a comprehensive look at which provinces have adopted the Anglican Covenant, which have rejected it, and which ones have given qualified and even ambiguous assent. He writes:

According to the No Anglican Covenant Coalition website, five Churches have definitively adopted the Covenant: Mexico, the West Indies, Burma, Papua New Guinea and the Southern Cone. Meanwhile, three Churches have pretty definitively rejected the Covenant: Scotland, Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia, and the Philippines. I say “pretty definitively” because the Philippines haven’t actually had a vote on the Covenant, to my knowledge. Rather, it is the House of Bishops that has rejected the Covenant in that Church.

Three Churches are said to have reported some progress along the way to adopting the Covenant. The Province of Southern Africa has adopted it provisionally on first reading and expects to ratify that decision at its next General Synod meeting in 2013. The Church in Wales has indicated that it is willing to adopt the Covenant, but first wants clarification about its status given the uncertainty in the Church of England. And Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Japan) has agreed to soldier on in spite of a recommendation to the contrary from its House of Bishops’ Theological Committee.

Finally there are four Churches whose positions on the Covenant reflect a great deal of uncertainty. South East Asia has chosen to “accede to” (not “adopt”) the Covenant, and in so doing issued a rather detailed statement explaining what they thought the Covenant and its adoption by others means. The Church of Ireland has “subscribed” (not “adopted”) the Covenant, without explaining what that means, though it’s clear that “subscribe” means something different from “adopt”. The Episcopal Church has simply decided not to decide, at least not just now. And the Church of England has had the dioceses reject consideration of the Covenant by the General Synod, in spite of a particularly aggressive hard-sell campaign.

So, five Yeses, three Nos, three Maybes and four Unclear. And next year we may hear from Australia, Canada and Southern Africa, perhaps among others. That’s still less than half the Churches of the Anglican Communion, which hardly suggests much enthusiasm for the project.

So what happens now:

There is some talk that a proposal will be brought forward in November to have the Anglican Consultative Council specify a minimum number of adopting Churches as a threshold for the Covenant to become active, as well as a deadline by which that must happen. Presumably if the threshold is not met by the deadline, then the whole project will simply be binned.

About a year ago, I suggested that there ought to have been just these sorts of provisions in the proposed Covenant text. And so I agree fundamentally with the proposal to do so now, even if it is not actually included in the text itself. After all, at some point in the future someone is going to have to declare the Covenant project an unmitigated success (which would be pretty obvious, anyway) or conclude that we have flogged this dead horse long enough. And I suppose that since the criteria by which such a determination should be made weren’t included in the proposed Covenant text, it’s better for the Anglican Consultative Council to agree to a threshold and a deadline than simply to have the Archbishop of Canterbury wake up one morning and announce he’s decided it’s over.

That said, however, it would be well for the Council to be aware that in determining go/no go criteria they would be in effect amending the Covenant, which we had all been told rather forcefully is unamendable at this stage.

If the covenant is to be disposed of, how should that be done?


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Michael Russell

I agree with Archdeacon Perry’s last post about a move towards mission. Our PB has been pressing this for some time using rainbow graphic to show that we are united in baptism and mission, the colors representing varying paths from one to the other. SO I welcome the GS Primates’ adoption of that notion in Bangkok.

I did go and read his entire blog entry pondering what ifs about parts of the Covenant. But since I expect it to “fail to thrive” because no one really wants to touch it much, I find it more useful to move ahead and live as though it were dead already.

(Of course in all good horror movies the monster is never actually dead the first time you think you’ve killed it, so you need to remain vigilant to kill it again each time it rises. So too with the covenant)

The No Anglican Covenant folks deserve the thanks of the broader Communion for keeping a clear focus on the inadequacies and illegitimacies of the document’s theology, polity and the process of its inception and development.

John B. Chilton

I’m not sure we should layer ad hockery on ad hockery, but there is an argument in favor.

The Covenant was devised ad hoc. Should the ACC ad hoc take up the ad hoc task of designing an ad hoc minimum of participating provinces and a deadline? Would that give the original process greater legitimacy?

Or is it best to preclude the potential for future mischief of signing when it is convenient?

Alan T Perry

I am aware of the waning enthusiasm for the Covenant among the Global South, but I prefer to count chickens that have actually hatched. And I am also aware of the problems in the process to date. But if you read the rest of my blog (start with “Why I Oppose the Anglican Covenant”) you will see that my main focus has been the flaws in the text itself, rather than the politics.

Whether for political reasons or because of the intrinsic problems in the document, the Covenant is clearly heading for the dustbin.

Meanwhile, the Global South have pointed us in a much more helpful direction in Bangkok, as they recently shifted the focus to mission. What would the Communion look like if we simply set aside the political bickering and got on with mission together?

Michael Russell

A thousand pardons Archdeacon, the article titles you “Canon”. I am sure that in some universe the GafCon provinces might speak differently from their Primates, but my money is on this universe and the improbability that they will. But I wait to be surprised.

That said, you none the less put on the shoes of a document that has no grounding in any consentpsual process, that was largely written by the Anglican Communion Institute and its Primatial sponsors (Gomez), and was foisted upon the Communion as fait accompli, even as its authors decided not to sign on.

The document’ has no authority and when the very few yeses decide to enforce section four the ensuing farce will be amusing and embarrassing to witness. So do the “confirmation math” as you wish, it remains Sound and Fury signifying nothing.

And despite the “not now” resolution of GC77, the vote to endorse a provisional rite for SSBs is TEC’s actual vote on the Covenant as we violate the second moratorium for the first time. I wish we had just said no.

Alan T Perry

As a former math major, I assure you that “Canon” Perry (sic) knows how to count. (Archdeacon, actually) But, as Grandmere Mimi points out, I am only counting churches that have made some official statement on the Covenant, normally through its General Synod or equivalent, or at least through a constitutionally recognized body or process.

Who made Gafcon the official spokesman of the several Global South churches?

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