Distribution of Anglican Covenant delayed

Published June 1, 2009

Kingston, Jamaica
The Ridley-Cambridge draft of the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant will not be sent to member churches for consideration, pending consultation and possible revision of a controversial section dealing with dispute resolution and the definition of which entities can sign on to the covenant.

After a long, drawn-out debate, and what some delegates referred to as a “confusing” process, the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) on May 8 asked that a small working group be appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to “consider and consult with the provinces” on section 4 of the Ridley-Cambridge draft “and its possible revision.” A report will be made to the next meeting of the joint standing committee (JSC) of primates (senior bishops of each Anglican province) and the ACC before the end of the year.

The ACC, by a vote of 47 against, 17 in favour, and one abstention, defeated a section of the resolution that sought to detach the draft’s controversial section 4, Our Covenanted Life Together, “for further consideration and work.”

Prior to the vote, however, Archbishop Philip Aspinall, primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, noting that the process had bogged down, introduced an alternative resolution. Some delegates spoke against his proposal; Rev. Janet Trisk of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa introduced an amendment to include two sections from the original resolution, calling for the appointment of a small working group and for the JSC to “approve a final form of section 4.” The amendment was carried by a vote of 33 for, 30 against, and 2 abstentions. “I am not in principle against section 4, but I am concerned that it hasn’t gone through the process; the question of ‘is it mature enough?’ I don’t think it’s in adolescence yet,” said Rev. Ian Douglas of The Episcopal Church. The draft was sent out to provinces in March.

“My problem is there are too many ambiguities, particularly on the nature of church. Which churches can sign on to it?” he said, adding that this was of concern for his church, “particularly since there are extra-ecclesial entities which have been claiming to be Anglican in the U.S.” (A coalition of churches and individuals from The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada want to be recognized as a new province in North America.)

He was referring to a section of the draft that states, “It shall be open to other churches to adopt the covenant.” While the draft says that adoption of the covenant “does not bring any right of recognition by, or membership of, the instruments of communion,” it adds that the action “may be accompanied by a formal request to the instruments for recognition and membership to be acted upon according to each instrument’s procedures.”
There was a moment of confusion when Bishop John Paterson, ACC chair, declared that a final decision had been rendered on the covenant draft and the delegates went for tea break. When the delegates returned, questions were raised on why parts of the defeated section of the resolution were brought back into the amendments that were approved.

Bishop Paterson maintained, however, that the process that evolved had been in order.


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