Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Anglican Covenant

I guess Church of England readers of this blog will have, at some level, taken on board the discussions which are around about the adoption of a Covenant (not to be confused with the Anglican/Methodist Covenant) which is intended to keep the Anglican Communion together (ie. keep all the different provinces within the Anglican Church talking to each other.) Sounds a good idea? Well yes, but Anglicans have never had formal structures of this kind to keep the church together and the worry is that once we start defining who is 'in' and who is 'out' by signing up to fixed statements, there will inevitably arise the frought question of who is 'out' and why and by what means they are kept 'out'. There is also the danger that, despite all the very laudable things the Covenant says about listening, the Communion will then spend more time than it already does arguing about divisions instead of the constituent churches talking to each other and learning from one another. Of course, some existing members of the Communion will undoubtedly refuse to accept the Covenant and so the Covenant will then, in effect, strengthen the barrier between the provinces who do accept it and those who don't. Some people simply think that this way of being church is un-Anglican, while others see it as the only way to save as much of the present Communion as possible and to ensure the continued existence of world wide Anglicanism.

If, like me, you are wondering how to make sense of it all,  you might be grateful to know that the Church in Wales has produced a very helpful and mercifully shortish(12 pages!) commentary on the proposed Covenant and its significance. The Governing Body of the Church in Wales has a very good record of dispassionate, courteous and intelligent debate around difficult issues. The Secretary of the group that produced the proposed Covenant is the current Bishop of St Asaph, so that might also explain their clear approach to the subject. Below are the sites where you can find (first) the proposed Anglican Covenant itself and (second) the Church in Wales' commentary on it.

Do make your views known to your elected members of the General Synod of the Church of England as they, too, will be voting on whether the C of E should sign up to it. This is an important issue and, though complex, it is worth thinking about because the decisions which provinces make will radically affect the shape of worldwide Anglicanism in the future. I have always been very glad to belong to a church which has deep, shared roots with churches in provinces across the world but which allows each province to bring to the table its own unique insight about what it means to be an Anglican Christian in a particular context. I have learned so much from the provinces with whom the dioceses where I have served have had links (Natal, Malawi and Sri Lanka.) And I have also derived a great deal of inspiration from the Episcopal Church in the USA which, itself, has dioceses on several continents. 

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