This morning The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops had another session discussing the proposed Anglican Covenant. Neil Alexander, Bishop of Atlanta and former seminary professor, delivered a brilliant paper on Anglican/Episcopal ecclesiology and raised the question about whether this proposed Covenant would substantially alter Anglican ecclesiology, specifically by inaugurating – for the first time – a more centralized authority than we have ever had before.
We were joined by three Primates – Archbishop Henri Isingoma of the Congo, Archbishop Paul Kim of Korea, and Archbishop Fred Hiltz of Canada. All three delivered responses to Neil’s paper and I was surprised to note that all three have serious reservations about the Covenant and whether it will indeed be of any use at all in resolving some of the conflict in the Anglican Communion.
There seems to be general agreement that Parts 1,2 and 3 of the Covenant are an acceptable description of Anglican history and ecclesiology but that Part 4 really does not accomplish its goal of providing a way constructively to manage or respond to disagreements across the Communion and may even perpetuate them. The Primate of Korea expressed his House of Bishops concern about the vestiges of “colonialism” in this section of the Covenant, with decisions being made about a local church (Province) outside that local church about its internal decisions.
Everyone present seems prepared to continue to discuss and work with the proposed Covenant but a number of bishops sugggested finding a “third way” forward since many of us in the West, in Latin Amerca, and Asia are having trouble voting for it and since we have heard that the GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) bishops in Africa have signaled that they will probably not sign on to it because it does not go far enough in “disciplining” churches such as ours and the Anglican Church in Canada with whom they do not agree.
All in all, it was a respectful and thoughtful conversation which should provide much grist for the mill as we move forward.