BB NOTE: Here's the section that TEC will find extremely challenging - no longer will TEC be able to walk unilaterally in "matters in serious dispute," but will need to walk alongside with the full Communion (through the Primates) and not charge ahead. I do wonder, though, how TEC can sign much of what is written below. It's a complete cultural shift for how the national church sees itself. I can see individual dioceses signing on, but it is hard for me to envision the national church signing on to this.
Unity of the Communion
(Nehemiah 2.17,18, Mt. 18.15-18, 1 Corinthians 12, 2 Corinthians 4.1-18, 13: 5-10, Galatians 6.1-10)
Each Church commits itself:
- In essential matters of common concern, to have regard to the common good of the Communion in the exercise of its autonomy, and to support the work of the Instruments of Communion with the spiritual and material resources available to it.
to spend time with openness and patience in matters of theological debate and discernment to listen and to study with one another in order to comprehend the will of God. Such study and debate is an essential feature of the life of the Church as its seeks to be led by the Spirit into all truth and to proclaim the Gospel afresh in each generation. Some issues, which are perceived as controversial or new when they arise, may well evoke a deeper understanding of the implications of God’s revelation to us; others may prove to be distractions or even obstacles to the faith: all therefore need to be tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church.
- To seek with other members, through the Church’s shared councils, a common mind about matters of essential concern, consistent with the Scriptures, common standards of faith, and the canon law of our churches.
- To heed the counsel of our Instruments of Communion in matters which threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness of our mission. While the Instruments of Communion have no juridical or executive authority in our Provinces, we recognise them as those bodies by which our common life in Christ is articulated and sustained, and which therefore carry a moral authority which commands our respect.
- To seek the guidance of the Instruments of Communion, where there are matters in serious dispute among churches that cannot be resolved by mutual admonition and counsel:
>By submitting the matter to the primates meeting
>If the primates believe that the matter is not one for which a common mind has been articulated, they will seek it with the other instruments and their councils
>Finally, on this basis, the primates will offer guidance and direction.
We acknowledge that in the most extreme circumstances, where member churches choose not to fulfil the substance of the covenant as understood by the Councils of the Instruments of Communion, we will consider that such churches will have relinquished for themselves the force and meaning of the covenant’s purpose, and a process of restoration and renewal will be required to re-establish their covenant relationship with other member churches.
BB NOTE: So if The Episcopal Church signs this covenant, it will have to cease exercizing those "matters in serious dispute." No longer will General Convention be able to make a decision final or diocesan bishops can just take it on themselves to endorse "matters in serious dispute" - it will have to go before the Primates Meeting. In fact, this has all ready happened for The Episcopal Church and we'll see how the primates are going to handle it now. But they will need to do something or there won't be a Communion to Covenant with.