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The Communion & the Covenant

The Communion & the Covenant

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has offered a letter to the Anglican Communion in which he speaks to the question of the Anglican Covenant as it relates to the Anglican Communion itself.

This letter is well-worth a read. We’ve posted an excerpt below from the ACNS article and linked to the full text of the letter. Also our own Episcopal Cafe newsblogger, Andrew Gerns, has a response to the Archbishop’s letter that we believe is spot on and deserving of your attention as well, you can find an excerpt from his blog below the ACNS story:

From Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS):

The Archbishop of Canterbury has used his Advent letter to the Primates of the Anglican Communion and Moderators of the United Churches to reiterate that the “Communion matters” to its members across the world and to the mission of God.

In the letter issued today Dr Rowan Williams highlighted how, over the past year, Anglican co-operation and fellowship has provided real support and encouragement to Anglicans undergoing challenges in such countries as Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan and Zimbabwe.

Referring to his recent visit to the Church of the Province of Central Africa he said, “The experience especially of visiting a Church that felt isolated and exposed in Zimbabwe reinforced powerfully for me the need to stand together with one another. When Archbishop Thabo from Southern Africa announced to the thousands who gathered in Harare for worship that ‘what touches you touches us’, he was giving voice to this.

“This is why the Communion matters – why it matters for a bishop in Jerusalem facing the withdrawal of a residency permit…a congregation in Nigeria facing more interreligious violence, an island in the Pacific facing inundation because of climate change, an urban community in Britain wondering how to respond to rising social disorder as poverty and unemployment increase. The Communion is a gift not a problem to all such people and many more. Only in such a mutually supportive family, glorifying and praising God in Christ together, can we truly make known the one Christ.”

The Archbishop’s letter acknowledged the “numerous tensions” in the Communion, but cautioned Communion members never to say “I have no need of you” to anyone seeking to serve Jesus Christ. He also used the letter to appeal for “more careful and dispassionate discussion” on such issues as the powers of Primates’ Meetings as well calling for “a sustained willingness on the part of all Provinces to understand the different ways in which each local part of the Anglican family organizes its life.”

Dr Williams also commended the Anglican Communion Covenant “as strongly as I can” stressing that it would neither change the structure of the Communion nor give “some sort of absolute power of ‘excommunication’ to some undemocratic or unrepresentative body.”

“It outlines a procedure, such as we urgently need, for attempting reconciliation and for indicating the sorts of consequences that might result from a failure to be fully reconciled,” he said.

Read the Archbishop’s letter HERE.

From Andrew Gerns at his blog, “Communion does matter.

The Covenant is not the same as Communion”:

(Williams) begs the question: since he did all the visits and all these events happened without the Covenant in place, then is it possible to be a Communion without the Covenant? Would these connections cease if the Covenant were to not pass? Would Anglicans stop working together or would our voice be diluted in any way without the Covenant in place?

Put another way, would the voice of Anglicanism be any stronger in Zimbabwe and would it influence Mugabe any more if they had the Covenant in their back pockets? Would having the Covenant stop Polynesian islands from being any more submerged and would the urban parish be any more relevant to it’s neighborhood with a fully empowered Anglican Covenant?

The Covenant certainly cannot exist without the Anglican Communion, but can the Anglican Communion exist without the Covenant? The answer is that it already does.


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Jeffrey L. Shy, M.D.

This is getting to be a depressing and recurrent theme, and I echo all of Priscilla’s comments.

I must say that it is becoming tiresome to have to endure this constant assault. I wonder if we should move Rowan’s see from Canterbury to Alexandria and revive the Patriarchate there as the Afro-anglican church? (I’m not serious of course).

Maybe we should take a different tack? How about we sign on for the covenant, get our “relational consequences” and have done with it? Maybe we should be “crucified” for the sake of the Gospel? It would make our dissenting voice an even purer one, perhaps. I would suspect that the African primates who are encouraging the persecution of LGBT people would be in “seventh heaven” after we are spanked. Who are we to deny their chance to feel so good about endorsing such evil? If the communion really wants to kill LGBT people, then maybe we are better off without it. A formal expulsion would be a good first step. Maybe getting kicked out of the club would be a good thing.

Priscilla Cardinale

Perhaps I am over-reading but it seems clear to me that Rowan ismsaying that TEC and ACofC and even the English Church are unbiblical and lukewarm to the incarnation. Interesting take.

I was also startled by the lavish praise of churches in African countries that actively persecute and seek imprisonment and execution for LGBT Christians and the implication that they are indeed hot with the Incarnation and biblically strong. No Advent hope for those African LGBTs I guess? I especially read this in light of the statements in Scotland and how Rowan’s letter seemed to echo Reform Ireland’s claim the “Only Evangelicals Are Christians” and biblical.

As each year passes I find myself wondering more and more if there is a reason at all to be in communion with people who cleally hate me and those like me. Why bother any more?

Roger Mortimer

The Archbishop states the Covenant does not give “some sort of absolute power of ‘excommunication’ to some undemocratic or unrepresentative body”, but that it indicates “the sorts of consequences that might result from a failure to be fully reconciled”. Am I missing something?


Andrew, your commentary is excellent. Whenever I calm down enough to write about the letter, which infuriates me, I will quote your words.

June Butler

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