At its recent meeting, the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church received and approved its writing team’s response to the Draft Anglican Covenant the development of which is suggested by the Windsor process. The full text is at
I am actually quite pleased with most of it! Not least, I suppose, because it incorporates most of what I submitted to the committee as my personal response and concerns! See my input below:
Responding to the Draft Anglican Covenant Question:
(1) Do you think an Anglican Covenant is necessary and/or will help to strengthen the
interdependent life of the Anglican Communion? Why or why not?
Depending on the form and substance of such a Covenant, I believe it could be helpful. Just as we have entered into simple covenants ecumenically (the Bonn Agreement, Called to Common Mission, etc.) we should be able to craft one for the Anglican Communion.
“An Introduction to a Draft Text for an Anglican Covenant”
This part of the report presents an initial theological introduction to the Draft Covenant
which is to follow immediately afterwards. Its focus is on the nature of communion that
we Anglicans share.
(2) How closely does this view of communion accord with your understanding of the
development and vocation of the Anglican Communion?
The third paragraph of “An Introduction to a Draft Text for an Anglican Covenant” makes adequate reference to Scripture and Tradition but, once again, omits any inclusion of the third leg of the famous Anglican triad – Reason. The Windsor Report was similarly deficient.
“An Anglican Covenant Draft”
Section one is the Preamble and sets out the rationale for an Anglican Covenant.
(3) Is this a sufficient rationale for entering into a Covenant? Why or why not?
I think so and particularly the phrase maintaining “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
2. The Life we Share
Section two seeks to articulate aspects of the faith and order shared by all of the churches
of the Anglican Communion. Note that Items 2-3, affirm the first three points of the
Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, specifically: the Holy Scriptures, the creeds, and the
sacraments of baptism and Eucharist.
(4) Do these six affirmations adequately describe The Episcopal Church’s understanding
of “common catholicity, apostolicity, and confession of faith”? Why or why not?
Why not simply use the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral in its entirety for this section?
(5) The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (of the
Church of England) are not currently authoritative documents for The Episcopal Church.
Do you think they should be? Why or why not?
No. Both the 39 Articles and the 1662 BCP reflect perspectives and battles of the 16th century Reformation and, as such, are not timeless documents. The Articles are in the right place in our Prayer Book: Historical Documents. The drafters may think this is covered by the phrase “…led by the Holy Spirit, it has borne witness to…” but I think this is not clear.
The Covenant could simply say, “…Christian truth in its historic formularies, the Book of Common Prayer, and the various Ordinals.”
3. Our Commitment to Confession of Faith
Section three posits five specific commitments of each Church in the Anglican
Communion based upon the faith and order described in part 2.
(6) Is each of these commitments clear and understandable with respect to what is being
asked of the member churches and are they consistent with statements and actions made
by the Episcopal Church in the General Convention? Why or why not?
No, Number 1 is very problematic with developments in our understanding of divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, perhaps even the ordination of women.Number 2 is OK.Number 3 is OK in that includes bishops and synods and “building on our best scholarship”Numbers 4 and 5 are OK.
4. The Life we Share with Others
Section four outlines some common elements of the Anglican Communion as we seek to
work together in service to God’s mission in the world. Note the vision articulated here
is consistent with that offered by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission
and Evangelism in their report to ACC XIII “A Communion in Mission” and underscores
the “Five Marks of Mission”5 articulated by the Anglican Consultative Council at their
meetings of 1984 and 1990.
(7) Is the mission vision offered here helpful in advancing a common life of the Anglican
Communion and does this need to be a part of the Draft Covenant? Why or why not?
Yes, I actually think this is very important section on mission. It is the best part of the entire Draft Covenant in my estimation.
5. Our Unity and Common Life
Section five describes some of the structural aspects of an emerging polity (the
organizing of our common life) of the Anglican Communion. Note the first affirmation
picks up the fourth point of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral – the historic episcopate.
The second affirmation, involving paragraphs 2-6 of this section, concerns the “mutual
loyalty and service” to which the several churches of the Communion are called and thus
lays out an understanding of the role of four “Instruments of Communion” (the
Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council,
and the Primates Meeting).
(8) Does this section adequately describe your understanding of the history and
respective roles of the “Four Instruments of Communion”? Why or why not?
No, it does not give attention to the recent development of these “Instruments.”They may be very good, or even essential, but they are still evolving and that needs to be acknowledged. The description of the Archbishop of Canterbury is OK.The Lambeth Conference is a conference – not an instrument to “guard the faith and unity of the Communion.”The Primates’ Meeting is a meeting. Mutual support and counsel, yes. Monitoring global developments, fine. But what does it mean to “work in full collaboration in doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters that have Communion-wide implications?” Too much power here in the hands of a few bishops/primates.The Anglican Consultative Council definition is too weak. If any instrument is to be strengthened it should be the ACC.
6. Unity of the Communion
The churches of the Anglican Communion are mutually responsible and interdependent
but autonomous. To date there has not been an “executive” or “judicial” body for
resolving disagreements or disputes.
The Draft Covenant proposes a new process by which the Instruments of Communion
can be both supported and utilized when areas of disagreement and/or difficulties
between churches in the Anglican Communion arise.
Section six also refers to “a common mind about matters of essential concern. . .”
(9) Do you think there needs to be an executive or judicial body for resolving
disagreements or disputes in the Anglican Communion? If so, do you think it should be
the Primates Meeting as recommended by the Draft Covenant? Explain.
No. There probably needs to be a point of reference outside the Provinces, but it should be the ACC, made up of lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons – not the Primates.
(10) What does the phrase “a common mind about matters of essential concern. . .”
mean to you?
Well, clearly, we all seek the mind of Christ. Corporate discernment takes time and we may need to learn the value of consensus before taking decisions that threaten to be communion-dividing.
7. Our Declaration
The final section is a proposed signatory declaration by which each church of the
Anglican Communion would commit to this proposed Covenant.
(11) Can you affirm the “fundamental shape” of the Draft Covenant? Why or why not?
Yes, with some major tweaking of language as indicated above.
(12) What do you think are the consequences of signing such a Covenant as proposed in
I think we will give up a certain amount of autonomy for the sake of interdependence. However, if we want to be taken seriously as a global communion, something like this will have to happen sooner or later. The devil is in the details and we have to be very careful and consult fully with our closest partners – Canada, New Zealand, Scotland, Ireland, Brazil, etc. However, I think the time has come for something like this.
(13) Having read the Draft Covenant as a whole do you agree with the CDG’s assertion
that “nothing which is commended in the draft text of the Covenant can be said to be
‘new’”? Why or why not?
I do not agree with that statement. There is much that is “new” here for Anglicanism. It may be evolution of the Communion and necessary, but it is new.
(14) In general, what is your response to the Draft Covenant taken as a whole? What is
helpful in the draft? What is not-helpful? What is missing? Additional comments?
The Preamble is helpful.
- The Life We Share – should replace sections (2) and (3) with the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral in its entirety. Section (5) should either be omitted or refer to “historic formularies such as the 39 Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the various Ordinals of the Provinces.”
- Our Commitment to Confession of the Faith is helpful.
- The Life We Share with Others is very helpful.
- Our Unity and Common Life is largely not helpful. Work needs to be done on this. The Primates are given too much authority; the ACC not enough.
- Unity of the Communion is not helpful. I would prefer to see “matters in serious dispute” be taken up by all 4 Instruments of Communion, as a kind of checks and balances system. Again, the ACC should have the central role here – since it is a somewhat representative body and could become more so in the future.
- Our Declaration is helpful.
Additional comments: We should fully engage in this process, consult broadly, and make our contribution to the shaping of this Covenant. Then, if at all possible, we should sign it.