Church of England General Synod Begins Tomorrow: Anglican Covenant on Agenda. A Pre-Synod Roundup.

Posted by The_Elves

The Church of England General Synod begins tomorrow. One of the central items on the agenda is the proposed draft of the Anglican Covenant. Below is a roundup of links to various background papers and Covenant responses we've seen on various blogs and websites (from various sides of the spectrum) in recent days. We very much welcome input from our CoE readers with additions, corrections, clarifications. Thanks!

I. Simon Sarmiento's Thinking Anglicans blog (reappraising side of the aisle) has been posting quite a number of background papers and responses from different leaders, groups and organizations within the CoE in recent days. You can keep up with Thinking Anglicans CoE General Synod coverage here.

In addition to posting the Fulcrum paper we posted here earlier this week, Simon has also recently posted two entries with statements from Affirming Catholicism here and here.

The first entry from Affirming Catholicism reveals that they are backtracking on support for the Covenant:

Alarm raised over draft Covenant

In the week before the General Synod of the Church of England will be asked to endorse the process to create an Anglican Covenant, Affirming Catholicism has sounded alarm over the current proposed draft. In a commentary on the Covenant design group’s proposal to give the final say on Anglican doctrine to the meeting of the leaders of national churches, the Primates, The Rev’d Dr Mark Chapman, editor of a forthcoming Affirming Catholicism publication on the Anglican Covenant, and Vice-Principal of the Ripon College, Cuddesdon, said:

The emphasis given in the current proposals to the Primates’ Meeting (composed of 38 men and one woman) downplays the importance of synods. There is something disingenuous about giving power to determine membership of the Communion and to decide what constitutes the ‘common mind’ of the Churches to a group who at the moment refuse even to share Eucharistic communion with each other.


II. Also in the lead up to General Synod, Andrew Goddard has published various materials on Fulcrum's site:

In The Anglican Covenant: A Briefing Paper for the Evangelical Group on General Synod, Goddard reaches this conclusion:

There are no solid reasons - either in principle or pragmatically in the current political context - for evangelicals or anyone else to object to Synod making a commitment to positive participation in the covenant process. There are many reasons - theological and political - why evangelicals and others who share our commitments to world mission, to learning from Anglicans around the globe, to safeguarding biblical faith and to facilitating harmony among Anglicans should wish the Church of England wholeheartedly to support the covenant process. Indeed, in terms of our life together as a Communion, the covenant process is - like the Windsor Report in which it originated - now 'the only poker game in town'. If the Communion is to have a future together then the form of this will be discerned in and through this covenant process. For the Church of England to abandon that process through non-participation, or destructive participation, would therefore be for the eye to say to the hand 'I don't need you' and for us as a province to embrace a vision of Anglicanism in which every one does what is right in their own eyes.

Also at Fulcrum is Goddard's The Anglican Covenant: Background and Resources

Fulcrum's news page is here.


III. Anglican Mainstream has also been tracking various responses to the Anglican Covenant. Last week they published a link to the Modern Churchpeople's Union's (MCU) rejection of the covenant draft.

All the MCU materials related to the Anglican Covenant are here. Their 2 page summary of their longer response paper is here.

Here are some of MCU's justifications for rejecting the Draft Covenant:

Communal and theological consequences
The MCU anticipates that the centralisation and authoritarian character of the proposed polity will have a deleterious effect on the life of the Communion. In particular it is likely, over time, to discard much of the richness of the Anglican inheritance, to narrow theological and spiritual life, and to reduce both the diversity of the Communion and the positive valuation of difference. As power moves from synods to Primates it is also likely to diminish further the role of the laity.

We also anticipate that the desire for an ever more centralised and uniform Church is likely to result in greater structural inflexibility and thus to generate more division and schism.

No innovative change of this magnitude should be embarked upon unless it is clear that the proposals are both in accord with the inheritance of faith and will also (to the best of prayerful judgement) positively serve to build up all aspects of the body of the Church. The Draft does not address how its proposed changes will lead to these wider benefits.

The MCU recognises that there are strong reasons for looking again at the future of Anglicanism. However we believe that there is much in the storehouse of classical Anglicanism with which to build hope for a new and vibrant future. We value the existing polity of the Anglican Communion characterised by dispersed authority, responsibility and wisdom. In the absence of adequate reasons for change we would wish to continue to work within and to build on this framework.

We look towards a Communion characterised by diversity and mutual respect, accountability and hospitality. We would value and include all members of the church in decision making. We would refuse the use of power to limit the faithful life of the Church.

For all these reasons the MCU believes that the proposed Draft Anglican Covenant is not appropriate as a foundation for the future of the Anglican Church. The MCU urges its rejection.


Chris Sugden of Anglican Mainstream's personal response on the Covenant is online here. Sugden concludes:

So we must have our eyes open when discussing this matter.

The issue is not about agreement and disagreement, but conformity to the standard of teaching of the faith, expressed in a text – the Covenant - that is accepted by the Communion as a family of churches rather than by individuals.

The issue is about the clarity of what the Communion is committed to which is public and accessible

It is also about what the Communion is committed to being accessible to all, not kept unwritten, vague and therefore only to be interpreted by those in power.


IV. Finally in terms of sites to follow what is happening at the CoE Synod, the Church Society (an Evangelical group) has an excellent and helpful Synod page:

July 2007 Synod Issues

Here is their issue page on the Anglican Covenant. Here's how the Church Society frames the issue of the Anglican Covenant:

On Sunday 8 July the General Synod will be asked to endorse the following resolution.

18. ‘That this Synod:
(a) affirm its willingness to engage positively with the unanimous recommendation of the Primates in February 2007 for a process designed to produce a covenant for the Anglican Communion;
(b) note that such a process will only be concluded when any definitive text has been duly considered through the synodical processes of the provinces of the Communion; and
(c) invite the Presidents, having consulted the House of Bishops and the Archbishops’ Council, to agree the terms of a considered response to the draft from the Covenant Design Group for submission to the Anglican Communion Office by the end of the year.’

The last item refers to the draft covenant drawn up by the Covenant Design Group and circulated to members of the General Synod.

There are three main areas of concern with this motion.

* First, the text of the draft covenant.
* Second, whether the Presidents (Archbishops) and Bishops are capable of addressing the real issues.
* Third, whether the concept of the Covenant, which originally surfaced in the Windsor Report, will really solve the problems in the Anglican Communion, or potentially make them worse.

The full agenda of the CoE Synod is published here.

While Synod is sitting, the Church Society will be posting news here.


Whew. That's a lot of material to try and cover. This elf confesses to feeling in over our head in trying to follow this. We would very much welcome comments, clarification and links from our British readers. Thanks in advance!



The Inclusive Church blog has a commentary posted today linking the Covenant Process to the situation with extra-provincial bishops in North America. We may post this as a top level entry. But in the meantime, here's the beginning of the blog entry:

The growing number of bishops created by African provinces for “pastoral oversight” in North America (and potentially in other provinces), the attempts to create a Covenant that defines Anglican doctrine and ethics, and the apparent intention to organise an alternative to the Lambeth Conference in London next year all point towards one thing. The strategy to destabilise the Anglican Communion is moving into another phase.

I think Kendall may have previously posted an Inclusive Church Covenant response. We'll check and may update this with more links later.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican CovenantAnglican ProvincesChurch of England (CoE)* Resources & LinksResources: blogs / websites

Posted July 5, 2007 at 3:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Simon Sarmiento wrote:

Thanks for the TA plug. We shall try to give near real time coverage during the synod.

It might be helpful to make an advance comment here about the covenant debate.

The view being put to the GS from the HoB is that the debate is about the general abstract principle of having a, i.e. some unspecified, covenant, and NOT about the particular covenant draft already published for review.  But it is proving very hard indeed to separate out opinions about that abstract principle from specific issues to do with the particular draft.

And, there is quite a lot of objection, including from those who favour the principle and (broadly) the existing draft, to the process being proposed, which is to give (effectively) carte blanche to the HoB to make a formal response to the ACO on behalf of the Church of England, without any reference back to the GS, of any draft of that response.  Hence the particular amendment proposed by Jonathan Clark.  If adopted it would mean the CofE response would not be available to the next meeting of the Covenant Drafting Group in ?January, but would first come to the GS session in February. Or alternatively an extra GS session could be held in November, which would cost money etc.

July 5, 7:04 pm | [comment link]
2. Martin Reynolds wrote:

That’s all very well laid out (and comprehensive).
First class!!

July 5, 7:27 pm | [comment link]
3. The_Elves wrote:

You’re welcome Simon, and thank you for the helpful and informative comment.  We’ll be very much counting on your roundup of General Synod since with Kendall taking a break, the work of holding down the fort on so many levels of the blog is really stretching us.  (It makes us even more appreciate Kendall’s incredibly prolific blogging.  Honestly don’t know how he keeps up the pace day in / day out!)

July 5, 7:27 pm | [comment link]
4. Pageantmaster ن wrote:

Yes - very helpful round-up.  I have to say that I was very impressed by the Canadian GS coverage including the video link and helpful blogs.  They set a new benchmark.

July 5, 7:54 pm | [comment link]
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