Responding to the vote in favour of the proposed Anglican Covenant by the Church of England General Synod, the No Anglican Covenant Coalition has said that while it is disappointed with the outcome, it believes that the issue is far from resolved and it will continue to push its theological and moral case.
The Moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, the Rev Dr Lesley Fellows, said last night: “The Coalition is disappointed that the Church of England has voted to continue consideration of the Anglican Covenant. [However] the debate made it clear that many members believe the Covenant will undermine the traditional Anglican comprehensiveness."
"We have lost this round. [But] we will continue to oppose the Covenant in the Diocesan Synods and work to defeat it when it returns to the General Synod," she said.
However, Dr Fellows added: “We note that the [conservative] GAFCON Primates have said ‘the current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate.’ A two-tier communion appears to be unavoidable.”
Other observers noted that many speeches were against the Covenant, which critics believe will impose a central authority and restrict freedom of expression in the Church.
But the actual vote, said one, was "not so much a judgement on those issues as a heartfelt wish to find a means of ending the war in Anglicanism."
The three-hour Church of England General Synod debate on 24 November included a broad diversity of opinions about the pros and cons of a covenant, with repeated concerns expressed about section 4 of the document, which outlines a method for resolving disputes in the communion.
Critics of the covenant are concerned that section 4 may be used as a means to discipline certain provinces.
The Rev Miranda Holmes, chaplain at the University of York, urged synod members to vote against the covenant, saying that the church should decline to use such structures to express its relationships.
"Local and global are increasingly blurred and a clash of contexts is something that we need to keep thinking about," she said. But in section 4 of the covenant, "suddenly our contexts are irrelevant," she added. "This text sounds like a couple in marital difficulties asking their wider family about whether they should divorce or not. I ask you to vote against a document that has such negative and legalistic terms."
The Rev Mark Beach from Coventry said he hadn't yet decided how to vote but warned that "if the communion survives it will be because we have conversed in [our] mother tongue, not because we have tried to legislate for unity."
Julie Dziegiel of Oxford compared the Anglican Communion with the situation in Northern Ireland in the 1970s - "two sides entrenched and it doesn't look like a solution can be found."
"The covenant is intended to address these issues," she said, but added that the effect of section 4 "can only be to split the communion further and permanently. What is needed is lengthy and permanent negotiation until both sides agree to respect one another's views and co-exist."
The Rev Simon Cawdell of Hereford spoke in favour of the covenant, which he believes "is trying to find ways where the disagreement in our common life can be resolved in love."
Cawdell said the covenant should not be understood in "judicial terms" and that voting against it "would send a negative signal to the rest of the communion."
Following years of discussion and several draft versions, the final text of the covenant was sent in December 2009 to the communion's 38 provinces for formal consideration.
The covenant first was proposed in the 2004 Windsor Report as a way in which the Anglican Communion and its 38 autonomous provinces might maintain unity despite differences, especially relating to biblical interpretation and human sexuality issues.
The Lambeth Commission on Communion, the group that produced the Windsor Report, was formed in response to the 2003 election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as bishop of New Hampshire, a development that caused some provinces to declare broken or impaired communion with the Episcopal Church in North America.
No Anglican Covenant Coalition: noanglicancovenant.org