The Anglican Covenant will be debated today at General Convention. Passions are running high on this and it will be interesting to follow the developments. While our own General Convention is meeting the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Aoteora, New Zealand, and Polynesia declined to adopt it. Instead, it affirmed the first three sections and added this resolution:
that this church affirms the commitment of the Church of Aoteora, New Zealand, and Polynesia to the life of the Anglican Communion, including the roles and responsibilities of the four Instruments of Communion as they currently operate.
Mark Harris on the background to the revised resolutions coming before General Convention and his own change of heart:
What we realized in the small group, and later in the whole of the Legislative Committee on World Mission, is that we are under no compulsion, save our own, to give an answer to the question of adopting the Covenant. Why, in particular, must we provide an answer now? Now, when we are in the midst of massive efforts to re-structure and re-vision the life of this Church? Why now when we do not need more division? What we may want is definitive answers, what we may need is time to be together at the table.
hird, this whole dynamic seems consistent with one of the major flaws of the Anglican Covenant. It is a very “purple” document – concerned principally (and almost exclusively) with bishops. It seems almost to envision a church which is both episcopally led and episcopally governed, where the concerns of bishops are the principle engine of decision-making and where the role of the laity is, as the old saw has it, “to pray, to pay and to obey.” In the workings of the legislative subcommittee, we see a process that is driven, not by the heartfelt views of deputies, but by the combined anxieties and machinations of bishops.
If I might risk to make an outsider’s observation about process, it appears to me that the committee structure which exists in the Episcopal Church, while providing the appearance of collegial transparency in the development of legislation and resolutions may actually do just the opposite. The subcommittee proceedings seem less a healthy exchange of views than a self-reinforcing echo chamber. The Primus of the Episcopal Church of Scotland referred the other day to the “smoke-filled rooms” of the General Convention. This allusion to the bad old days of political powerbrokers and machine politics should, perhaps, be a clarion call to reconsider the whole approach to “managing” the debates of the Church.
Dare I say, the Episcopal Church’s response to the Anglican Covenant should be determined by those who have been authorized to make decisions on behalf of the Church – the Deputies and the Bishops – and not by a cabal of apparatchiks, however well-intentioned.
005, substitute:Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring, That the 77th General Convention express its gratitude to those who so faithfully worked at producing and responding to the proposed Anglican Covenant(www.anglicancommunion.org/commission/covenant/final/text.cfm); and be it furtherResolved, That the 77th General Convention acknowledge that following extensive study and prayerful consideration of the Anglican Covenant there remain a wide variety of opinions and ecclesiological positions in The Episcopal Church; and be it furtherResolved, that as a pastoral response to The Episcopal Church, the General Convention decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant at this convention; and be it furtherResolved, that the General Convention ask the Presiding Officers to appoint a task force of Executive Council (Blue Book, 637) to continue to monitor the ongoing developments with respect to the Anglican Covenant and how this church might continue its participation; and be it furtherResolved, that the Executive Council task force on the Anglican Covenant report its findings and recommendations to the 78th General Convention.D008 Substitute:Resolved, the House of Bishops concurring that The 77th General Convention express its profound gratitude to those who so faithfully work at encouraging dialogue within the diversity of the Anglican Communion, and be it furtherResolved, That we celebrate the great blessing of the Anglican Communion in its diversity within community as autonomous churches in relationship bound together in our differences in service to God’s mission, and be it furtherResolved, That we hold fast and reaffirm our historic commitment to and constituent membership in the Anglican Communion as expressed in the Preamble of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church, and be it furtherResolved, That The Episcopal Church maintain and reinforce strong links across the world-wide Anglican Communion committing itself to continued participation in the wider councils of the Anglican Communion, and be it furtherResolved, That The Episcopal Church deepen its involvement with Communion ministries and networks using where applicable the Continuing Indaba process: conversations across differences to strengthen relationships in God’s mission (http://www.anglicancommunion.org/ministry/continuingindaba and http://www.continuingindaba.com); and be it furtherResolved, That The 77th General Convention encourage dioceses, congregations and individual members of The Episcopal Church to educate themselves about the Communion as well as promote and support the Anglican Communion and its work.