Stephen Noll: The Future of the Anglican Covenant in the light of the GAFCON

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The call for an Anglican Communion Covenant resulted directly from the Windsor Report (sec. 113-120), and the Windsor Report itself was a crisis response document. It is therefore not possible or desirable to evaluate any document that emerges from a drafting process without asking the question: “Will it address the crisis facing the Communion?”

That said, the crisis has also raised issues of the identity and governance of the Anglican Communion that have lain dormant for many decades. From time to time, the Lambeth Conference began to address these issues, but more often than not it punted them further down the field. Now many of us feel that the conflicts and contradictions of Anglican identity and governance must be squarely faced. A covenant could be just the sort of document to do this. Or not.

It is my contention in this essay that the official Anglican Covenant process under the direction of Abp. Drexel Gomez will not be able to produce an adequate document to meet the requirements of the hour. In the two years since the formation of the Covenant Drafting Group in September 2006, a new team has taken the field, the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. Meeting in Jerusalem in June 2008, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) published a statement of identity – “The Jerusalem Declaration” – and formed a Primates’ Council claiming extraordinary authority to separate from a heterodox Province or to recognize an orthodox Province. It seems likely that this Council will soon recognize a North American Province separate from The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Anglican - Episcopal- Anglican: CommentaryAnglican CovenantAnglican IdentityGlobal South Churches & PrimatesGAFCON I 2008

6 Comments
Posted January 29, 2009 at 12:08 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Paul Nelson, Fort Worth wrote:

Do we lack a document?  Do we lack an identity?  Or do we simply lack the courage to live by what we have already received, and teach it to our children.  We have forgotten the story of Nadab and Abihu from Leviticus when we ordain our priests.  We are willing to follow Paul or Apollos instead of Jesus Christ.  We are too much like Thomas, in the very presence of the Savior, saying “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?”
A document may be nice, but don’t be fooled for a minute into thinking it will fix the mess we are in.  Instead we need to understand “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”  I know who I am and who I belong to.  Now is the time to live by the covenant not written in human weakness, but by Jesus Christ and sealed by His blood.

January 29, 4:33 pm | [comment link]
2. wvparson wrote:

Rather than indulging in speculation I would we wait to see what the Covenant looks like and whether it will bear the weight necessary for its task.

January 29, 5:35 pm | [comment link]
3. Br. Michael wrote:

I think Noll’s analysis is right on.

January 29, 5:43 pm | [comment link]
4. Dilbertnomore wrote:

We really do need to establish an Anglican Covenant so TEC can wipe its feet on it and get on the with really important things without the distraction of a creed to gum things up.

January 29, 8:16 pm | [comment link]
5. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

As an absolute minimum, any putative covenant, to be worth a tinker’s dam, absolutely must include the full intent—perhaps language as well—of GC’03 Resolution B-001. It is the sine qua non of a faithful path forward.

Otherwise we should all walk away from Rowan Williams and his over-fed, over-educated, hormone-focused rump of a white, western, weaselly excuse of a church and move ahead, as Anglicans, without them.

January 29, 8:31 pm | [comment link]
6. Fr. Jack wrote:

Dr. Noll is absolutely correct. The attempt to design a “covenant”, which includes those committed to the faith once delivered and those committed to a faith now experienced, is doomed. No matter how much you shake them, oil and water will not mix.

Further, the Anglican Covenant will be DOA, dead on arrival, for the same reason that the Anglican communion is coming apart today, namely interpretation.

Any final draft of an Anglican covenant, will be subject to interpretation by the participating members. Thus, it will not matter what the covenant says, it will mean whatever “we” say it means.

Given the radical and divergent interpretations of texts found in Holy Scripture - which are clear and concise - how can anyone hold an expectation that a covenant - which is full of ambiguous language - will result in a set of standards for doctrine and practice that will be adhered to in a consistent fashion.

January 30, 1:39 am | [comment link]
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