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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

To Covenant, or not to Covenant?

Wednesday morning’s headlining agenda item is on whether the Church of England should join in with the Anglican Communion Covenant.

Well, who wouldn’t want to be a part of the Anglican Communion? (Only Anglicans of course need bother to answer that question...). Yet, there are some who clearly think the Covenant is not a good thing. Why, and how to vote at this stage?

As the Anglican church spread across the globe, different provinces of the communion started to develop, to make better sense of governing the church more locally (did you know that New Zealand and Australia were both originally included in the diocese of Calcutta, in India!)

So there are many different Anglican provinces, all gathered under the banner of the Anglican Communion. However, what happens when one province does something that other provinces find is un-Anglican, is an innovation that it impairs communion? Like, perhaps, ordaining a bishop in an active gay relationship? Other brands/examples are also available...

Some provinces then asked that there be some mechanism whereby different provinces can: sign up to be a something to be a part of the Anglican Communion. That something to sign up to, is the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant.

However, within the covenant, there are some ‘if this; then there may be a consequence that...’ situations. It is this part of the covenant that some are objecting to, as they feel the Covenant is perhaps being formed in to a stick to beat naughty provinces with. That, some consider is also un-Anglican.

Just as there is a Say No to the Covenant lobby, who feel it is restrictive and inhibiting; there are also other provinces who I understand feel that the lines drawn and sanctions outlined are not strong enough. Some want it less restrictive - some want it more so. That in itself implies the Covenant may have something of the ‘middle way’ about it.

So how to vote on it? Well, it is clear a number of other provinces are watching what the Church of England does about the Covenant before showing their own hand. We should not consider that the CofE is ‘equal, but more equal’ than others. It seems clear though, that without the CofE signing up to the Covenant, it is difficult to see what its purpose might be.

This particular debate is not the General Synod’s final say on the Covenant. Rather, what is proposed today is that the Covenant is then be passed to the dioceses for debate, before coming back to the General Synod for final agreement after that. I have some questions and misgivings about the text; but I certainly want to include the dioceses within the debate. So I will certainly be voting for the motion at this stage.

Alastair Cutting 96 Chichester

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