An international coalition of Anglicans has been created to campaign against the proposed Anglican Covenant, which has been backed by the Archbishop of Canterbury - but which critics say is, ironically, very divisive.
The new initiative includes a range of supporters from the Church of England, the Episcopal Church in Scotland, the Church in Wales, as well as other provinces of the 77 million worldwide Anglican Communion.
Campaigners from all sections of the Church argue that the proposed Covenant constitutes unwarranted interference in the internal life of the member churches of the Anglican Communion, would narrow the acceptable range of belief and practice within Anglicanism, and would prevent further development of Anglican thought.
The coalition, which also entitles itself Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity, has launched a website (http://noanglicancovenant.org) which it says "will provide resources for Anglicans around the world to learn about the potential risks of the proposed Anglican Covenant."
The Rev Dr Lesley Fellows, who is also the coalition’s overall moderator, and convenor for the Church of England, explains: “We believe that the majority of the clergy and laity in the Anglican Communion would not wish to endorse this document."
Dr Fellows continues: “Apart from church insiders, very few people are aware of the Covenant. We want to encourage a wider discussion and to highlight the problems the Covenant will cause.”
The idea of an Anglican Covenant was first proposed in 2004 as a means to address divisions among the member churches of the Anglican Communion on matters ranging from human sexuality to the role of women.
The current draft of the Covenant, which has been unilaterally designated as the “final” draft, has been referred to the member churches of the Communion.
The proposed Covenant establishes mechanisms which would have the effect of forcing member churches to conform to the demands and expectations of other churches or risk exclusion from the Communion.
Critics of the proposed Anglican Covenant, including members of Anglicans for Comprehensive Unity, believe that it will fundamentally alter the nature of historic Anglicanism in several ways, including the narrowing of theological views deemed acceptable, the erosion of the freedom of the member churches to govern themselves, and the concentration of authority in the hands of a small number of bishops.
Two English groups, Inclusive Church and Modern Church, ran anti-Covenant advertisements in last week’s Church Times and the Church of England Newspaper aiming to make more members of the Church of England aware of the dangers of the proposed Anglican Covenant - as reported on Ekklesia.
"If the Anglican Communion has a problem, this is not the solution,” according to former Bishop of Worcester Peter Selby. “Whether those who originated the Covenant intended it or not, it is already, and will become even more, a basis for a litigious Communion from which some will seek to exclude others."
The launch of the No Anglican Covenant coalition website coincides with the commemoration of the sixteenth-century theologian Richard Hooker.
“Hooker taught us that God’s gifts of scripture, tradition, and reason will guide us to new insights in every age,” according to the Canadian priest and canon law expert, the Rev Canon Alan Perry.
“The proposed Anglican Covenant would freeze Anglican theology and Anglican polity at a particular moment. Anglican polity rejected control by foreign bishops nearly 500 years ago. The Covenant reinstates it,” he declared.
The No Anglican Covenant Coalition began in late October 2010 with a series of informal email conversations among several international Anglican bloggers concerned that the Covenant was being rushed through the approval process before most Anglicans had any opportunity to learn how the proposed new structures would affect them.
For more information, go to: http://noanglicancovenant.org/
Also on Ekklesia:
Savitri Hensman, Anglican Covenant ignores the problem of evil (3 November 2010).
Simon Barrow, Richard Hooker and the Anglican Covenant disagreement (3 November 2010).
Richard Hooker and the Anglican Covenant disagreement
Fear or Freedom? Why a warring church must change, edited by Simon Barrow (with a Preface by Desmond Tutu), published by Shoving Leopard and Ekklesia in 2008.