U.S. Episcopal Church releases report on Anglican Covenant impact

The current draft Anglican Covenant could substantially change the constitutional and canonical framework of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., says a task force report.
The current draft Anglican Covenant could substantially change the constitutional and canonical framework of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., says a task force report.
Published June 27, 2011

An Executive Council task force [of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.] has released a report it received from the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons outlining the changes that would be needed if the General Convention decides to sign onto the Anglican Covenant.

“The SCCC is of the view that adoption of the current draft Anglican Covenant has the potential to change the constitutional and canonical framework of [the Episcopal Church], particularly with respect to the autonomy of our Church, and the constitutional authority of our General Convention, bishops and dioceses,” says the report.

In a statement June 24, the D023 (Anglican Covenant) task force wrote that it has released the report now because of “legitimate concerns raised about issues of transparency around a decision as important for our Church as the Anglican Covenant.”

Rosalie Simmonds Ballentine, chair of the task force, told the June 15-17 meeting of Executive Council that the group would not yet released the report. “We’re reluctant to have it out there” because some people may assume that decisions have already been made, she told council, noting that the document would eventually form part of the Blue Book report to the 77th General Convention.

In the aftermath of the council meeting, a number of bloggers and other observers called on the task force to release the report before publication of the Blue Book report, a draft of which is expected to be received by Executive Council in October.

“We regret that our initial decision to withhold release of the SCCC report, which was requested as a resource to assist the drafting of the Blue Book Report, caused such distress to some in this Church,” said the task force in its June 24 statement. “There is not and has not been any intent to be secretive, nor was there any intent to imply that Episcopalians are not capable of accurately assessing the information in this report.”

The 2009 meeting of General Convention asked, via Resolution D020, that the church’s dioceses study the proposed covenant and report to Executive Council. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, President of the House of Deputies Bonnie Anderson and Ballentine asked bishops and diocesan General Convention deputations to respond by April 24 so that council could consider their comments as it prepares a report to next year’s meeting of General Convention, as requested in Resolution D020.

Ballentine told council that there were “a few” among the 64 responses the group received from a request for comment on the final draft of the covenant that would approve the covenant in full. “Almost all” respondents objected to Section 4, which contained a disciplinary process, she said.

The Anglican Covenant first was proposed in the 2004 Windsor Report as a way that the communion and its 38 autonomous provinces might maintain unity despite differences, especially relating to biblical interpretation and human sexuality issues.
But some Episcopalians and Anglicans, including Jefferts Schori and the Executive Council, have raised concerns about the covenant being used as an instrument of control, particularly in section 4, which outlines a method for resolving disputes in the communion.

Following years of discussion and several draft versions, the final text of the covenant was sent in December 2009 to the provinces for formal consideration.

Executive Council has predicted that formal approval of the covenant by the Episcopal Church could not come until at least 2015 should endorsement require changes to the church’s constitution; hence the request for the church’s Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons to offer its report. Constitutional changes require approval by two consecutive meetings of the church’s triennial convention.


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