As the Church of England General Synod prepares to discuss the proposed Anglican Covenant, campaigners are pushing hard for a debate about the potential risks involved.
Started just three weeks ago after online conversations among a small number of international Anglican bloggers, the No Anglican Covenant Coalition (http://noanglicancovenant.org/) has built on the work of two English groups, Inclusive Church and Modern Church, to set the shape of the deliberations.
Critics say the Covenant, put forward in the light of serious arguments within the Anglican Communion about authority and sexuality, will make the Church more authoritarian, centralised, exclusive and aloof.
“A month ago, General Synod and the entire Communion were sleepwalking into approving the Covenant without a proper discussion of the issue,” says the Coalition's moderator, the Rev Dr Lesley Fellows.
She continues: “In some places, the Covenant was being presented as a means to punish North American Anglicans. In Britain, the United States and Canada, it was being spun as nothing more than a dispute resolution mechanism. I’ve spoken to many Synod members who were only dimly aware of the Anglican Covenant. An astonishing number of people thought I was referring to the Covenant with the Methodists.”
The week preceding the General Synod debate has seen a flood of articles and comments from senior church sources criticising the Covenant, including an article by Canadian canon law expert Canon Alan Perry, challenging the assertion that the Covenant would have no impact on the constitution and canons of member churches of the Communion.
The former Chancellor of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Hon Ronald Stevenson QC, a former judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench, has also been critical of the lack of clarity regarding the disciplinary procedures in the Covenant.
Meanwhile, the Bishop of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe, the Rt Rev Pierre Whalon, challenges the idea of enhancing communion by excluding those who disagree with the majority.
“We are all strongly committed to the Anglican Communion, but we are not convinced that this proposed Covenant will do anything to keep the Communion together,” according to the Rev Malcolm French, the Coalition’s Canadian Convenor.
“Covenant supporters have hurt their case by being dismissive of critics while failing to make a compelling case for this proposed Anglican Covenant. And no one has been prepared to explain the initial and ongoing costs to implement the Covenant.”
Within the last three weeks momentum has gathered to encourage the Church of England to "wake up", says the No Anglican Covenant Coalition.
The first test will come today (24 November 2010), when General Synod debates the Covenant and votes on a motion for initial approval, the first step towards final approval at a later session.
Although significant decisions such as women in the episcopate normally require a two-thirds majority, questions should be asked about why the English House of Bishops has proposed only a simple majority for the Covenant.
More on the No Anglican Covenant Coalition - http://noanglicancovenant.org/
Also from Ekklesia:
Background: Values of the Anglican Covenant challenged (24 November 2010) - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/13632
Anglican Covenant ignores the problem of evil, by Savitri Hensman - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/13474
Anglicans launch global coalition against 'divisive' Covenant - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/13475
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.