Monday, May 22, 2006
From the Joint Standing Committee 'Towards an Anglican Covenant' A Consultation Paper on the Covenant Proposal of the Windsor Report
This Commission believes that the case for adoption of an Anglican Covenant is overwhelming:
1. The Anglican Communion cannot again afford, in every sense, the crippling prospect of repeated worldwide inter-Anglican conflict such as that engendered by the current crisis. Given the imperfections of our communion and human nature, doubtless there will be more disagreements. It is our shared responsibility to have in place an agreed mechanism to enable and maintain life in communion, and to prevent and manage communion disputes.
2. The concept of the adoption of a covenant is not new in the ecumenical context. Anglican churches have commonly entered covenants with other churches to articulate their relationships of communion. These ecumenical covenants provide very appropriate models from which Anglicans can learn much in their own development of inter-Anglican relations.
Adoption of a Covenant is a practical need and a theological challenge, and we recognise the process may lead to complex debate. A Covenant incarnates communion as a visible foundation around which Anglicans can gather to shape and protect their distinctive identity and mission, and in so doing also provides an accessible resource for our ecumenical partners in their understanding of Anglicanism.
3. The solemn act of entering a Covenant carries the weight of an international obligation so that, in the event of a church changing its mind about the covenantal commitments, that church could not proceed internally and unilaterally. The process becomes public and multilateral, whereas unilateralism would involve breach of obligations owed to forty-three other churches. The formality of ratification by the primates publicly assembled also affords a unique opportunity for worldwide witness.
4. A worldwide Anglican Covenant may also assist churches in their relations with the States in which they exist. At such moments when a church faces pressure from its host State(s) to adopt secular state standards in its ecclesial life and practice, an international Anglican Covenant might provide powerful support to the church, in a dispute with the State, to reinforce and underpin its religious liberty within the State.
5. As with any relational document of outstanding historical importance, which symbolises the trust parties have in each other, some provisions of a Covenant will be susceptible to development through interpretation and practice: it cannot predict the impact of future events. For this reason the draft Covenant is designed to allow the parties to it to adjust that relationship and resolve disputes in the light of changing circumstances.