Isn't it our Anglican understanding that we pray our theology? Our liturgy is our Covenant. Our Covenant lives and breathes in our worship. This is not even mentioned. What's up with that?
Here we have the Anglican Design Group meeting at Ridley, of all places. Ridley is named after Nicholas Ridley, the Bishop of Rochester (now where have we heard that name lately?) who was part of the committee that drew up the first English Book of Common Prayer.
If we can't agree on the theology of our liturgy, enough that we can't even mention the Book of Common Prayer, why do we think a Covenant is going to solve that problem?
Of course, look what happened to Ridley.
One interesting section is this:
It shall be open to other Churches to adopt the Covenant. Adoption of this Covenant does not bring any right of recognition by, or membership of, the Instruments of Communion. Such recognition and membership are dependent on the satisfaction of those conditions set out by each of the Instruments. However, adoption of the Covenant by a Church may be accompanied by a formal request to the Instruments for recognition and membership to be acted upon according to each Instrument's procedures.That opens the door for the Anglican Church of North America (or - as it should be - it's dioceses with elected bishops) to sign the Covenant as what may be a first step to being granted full communion (as opposed to partial communion). If The Episcopal Church by manner of avoidance does not sign the Covenant, what will the Archbishop of Canterbury do about that? Is there any sort of deadline, or is when hell freezes over good enough?
Finally, I had always understood that the Church is the Diocese, not the Province. The Episcopal Church is a group of churches that meet every three years in General Convention. That's what I was taught in Virginia. The Church of Virginia (like the Church of England before her) was made up of parishes with a bishop. That's the Church.
Rowan Williams had said at Lambeth that Provinces would sign the Covenant and his view was that the Church was the Anglican Communion, a catholic view. I would dare say that Bishop Schori would say that the Church is the Episcopal Church (in fact, she maintains that the Communion is The Episcopal Church as well!) and the Episcopal Church in General Convention will not sign the Covenant as long as she is Presiding Bishop.
Yet in a letter to the Bishop of Central Florida from the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams spells out that the "organ of union with the wider Church is the Bishop and the Diocese rather than the Provincial structure as such." I agree with that.
So what is the Church here?
Just in time for the Anglican Communion Consultative Council next month in Jamaica, the Anglican Covenant Design Committee releases the "Ridley Draft" of the Anglican Covenant:
We, as Churches of the Anglican Communion, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, solemnly covenant together in these following affirmations and commitments. As people of God, drawn from "every nation, tribe, people and language" (Rev 7.9), we do this in order to proclaim more effectively in our different contexts the grace of God revealed in the gospel, to offer God's love in responding to the needs of the world, to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and together with all God's people to attain the full stature of Christ (Eph 4.3,13).
Section One: Our Inheritance of Faith
1.1 Each Church affirms:
(1.1.1) its communion in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, worshipping the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
(1.1.2) the catholic and apostolic faith uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation. The historic formularies of the Church of England, forged in the context of the European Reformation and acknowledged and appropriated in various ways in the Anglican Communion, bear authentic witness to this faith.
(1.1.3) the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as containing all things necessary for salvation and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
(1.1.4) the Apostles' Creed, as the baptismal symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
(1.1.5) the two sacraments ordained by Christ himself - Baptism and the Supper of the Lord - ministered with the unfailing use of Christ's words of institution, and of the elements ordained by him.
(1.1.6) the historic episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of his Church.
(1.1.7) the shared patterns of our common prayer and liturgy which form, sustain and nourish our worship of God and our faith and life together.
(1.1.8) its participation in the apostolic mission of the whole people of God, and that this mission is shared with other Churches and traditions beyond this Covenant.
(1.2.1) to teach and act in continuity and consonance with Scripture and the catholic and apostolic faith, order and tradition, as received by the Churches of the Anglican Communion, mindful of the common councils of the Communion and our ecumenical agreements.
(1.2.2) to uphold and proclaim a pattern of Christian theological and moral reasoning and discipline that is rooted in and answerable to the teaching of Holy Scripture and the catholic tradition.
(1.2.3) to witness, in this reasoning, to the renewal of humanity and the whole created order through the death and resurrection of Christ, and to reflect the holiness that in consequence God gives to, and requires from, his people.
(1.2.4)to hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Scriptures in our different contexts, informed by the attentive and communal reading of - and costly witness to - the Scriptures by all the faithful, by the teaching of bishops and synods, and by the results of rigorous study by lay and ordained scholars.
(1.2.5) to ensure that biblical texts are received, read and interpreted faithfully, respectfully, comprehensively and coherently, with the expectation that Scripture continues to illuminate and transform the Church and its members, and through them, individuals, cultures and societies.
(1.2.6) to encourage and be open to prophetic and faithful leadership in ministry and mission so as to enable God's people to respond in courageous witness to the power of the gospel in the world.
(1.2.7) to seek in all things to uphold the solemn obligation to nurture and sustain eucharistic communion, in accordance with existing canonical disciplines, as we strive under God for the fuller realisation of the communion of all Christians.
(1.2.8) to pursue a common pilgrimage with the whole Body of Christ continually to discern the fullness of truth into which the Spirit leads us, that peoples from all nations may be set free to receive new and abundant life in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Section Two: The Life We Share with Others: Our Anglican Vocation
(2.1.1) communion as a gift of God given so that God's people from east and west, north and south, may together declare the glory of the Lord and be both a sign of God's reign in the Holy Spirit and the first fruits in the world of God's redemption in Christ.
(2.1.2) its gratitude for God's gracious providence extended to us down through the ages: our origins in the Church of the apostles; the ancient common traditions; the rich history of the Church in Britain and Ireland reshaped by the Reformation, and our growth into a global communion through the expanding missionary work of the Church; our ongoing refashioning by the Holy Spirit through the gifts and sacrificial witness of Anglicans from around the world; and our summons into a more fully developed communion life.
(2.1.3) in humility our call to constant repentance: for our failures in exercising patience and charity and in recognizing Christ in one another; our misuse of God's gracious gifts; our failure to heed God's call to serve; and our exploitation one of another.
(2.1.4) the imperative of God's mission into which the Communion is called, a vocation and blessing in which each Church is joined with others in Christ in the work of establishing God's reign. As the Communion continues to develop into a worldwide family of interdependent churches, we embrace challenges and opportunities for mission at local, regional, and international levels. In this, we cherish our mission heritage as offering Anglicans distinctive opportunities for mission collaboration.
(2.1.5) that our common mission is a mission shared with other Churches and traditions beyond this Covenant. We embrace opportunities for the discovery of the life of the whole gospel, and for reconciliation and shared mission with the Church throughout the world. We affirm the ecumenical vocation of Anglicanism to the full visible unity of the Church in accordance with Christ's prayer that "all may be one". It is with all the saints in every place and time that we will comprehend the fuller dimensions of Christ's redemptive and immeasurable love.
(2.2.1) to answer God's call to undertake evangelisation and to share in the healing and reconciling mission "for our blessed but broken, hurting and fallen world", and, with mutual accountability, to share our God-given spiritual and material resources in this task.
(2.2.2) to undertake in this mission, which is the mission of God in Christ:
(2.2.2.a) "to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God" and to bring all to repentance and faith;
(2.2.2.b) "to teach, baptize and nurture new believers", making disciples of all nations (Mt 28.19) through the quickening power of the Holy Spirit and drawing them into the one Body of Christ whose faith, calling and hope are one in the Lord (Eph 4.4-6);
(2.2.2.c) "to respond to human need by loving service", disclosing God's reign through humble ministry to those most needy (Mk 10.42-45; Mt 18.4; 25.31-45);
(2.2.2.d) "to seek to transform unjust structures of society" as the Church stands vigilantly with Christ proclaiming both judgment and salvation to the nations of the world, and manifesting through our actions on behalf of God's righteousness the Spirit's transfiguring power;
(2.2.2.e) "to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth" as essential aspects of our mission in communion.
(2.2.3) to engage in this mission with humility and an openness to our own ongoing conversion in the face of our unfaithfulness and failures in witness.
(2.2.4) to revive and renew structures for mission which will awaken and challenge the whole people of God to work, pray and give for the spread of the gospel.
(2.2.5) to order its mission in the joyful and reverent worship of God, thankful that in our eucharistic communion "Christ is the source and goal of the unity of the Church and of the renewal of human community" .
Section Three: Our Unity and Common Life
(3.1.1) that by our participation in Baptism and Eucharist, we are incorporated into the one body of the Church of Jesus Christ, and called by Christ to pursue all things that make for peace and build up our common life.
(3.1.2) its resolve to live in a Communion of Churches. Each Church, with its bishops in synod, orders and regulates its own affairs and its local responsibility for mission through its own system of government and law and is therefore described as living "in communion with autonomy and accountability". Trusting in the Holy Spirit, who calls and enables us to dwell in a shared life of common worship and prayer for one another, in mutual affection, commitment and service, we seek to affirm our common life through those Instruments of Communion by which our Churches are enabled to be conformed together to the mind of Christ. Churches of the Anglican Communion are bound together "not by a central legislative and executive authority, but by mutual loyalty sustained through the common counsel of the bishops in conference" and of the other instruments of Communion.
(3.1.3) the central role of bishops as guardians and teachers of faith, as leaders in mission, and as a visible sign of unity, representing the universal Church to the local, and the local Church to the universal and the local Churches to one another. This ministry is exercised personally, collegially and within and for the eucharistic community. We receive and maintain the historic threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, ordained for service in the Church of God, as they call all the baptised into the mission of Christ.
(3.1.4) the importance of instruments in the Anglican Communion to assist in the discernment, articulation and exercise of our shared faith and common life and mission. The life of communion includes an ongoing engagement with the diverse expressions of apostolic authority, from synods and episcopal councils to local witness, in a way which continually interprets and articulates the common faith of the Church's members (consensus fidelium). In addition to the many and varied links which sustain our life together, we acknowledge four particular Instruments at the level of the Anglican Communion which express this co-operative service in the life of communion.
I. We accord the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the bishop of the See of Canterbury with which Anglicans have historically been in communion, a primacy of honour and respect among the college of bishops in the Anglican Communion as first among equals (primus inter pares). As a focus and means of unity, the Archbishop gathers and works with the Lambeth Conference and Primates' Meeting, and presides in the Anglican Consultative Council.
II. The Lambeth Conference expresses episcopal collegiality worldwide, and brings together the bishops for common worship, counsel, consultation and encouragement in their ministry of guarding the faith and unity of the Communion and equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Eph 4.12) and mission.
III. The Anglican Consultative Council is comprised of lay, clerical and episcopal representatives from our Churches. It facilitates the co-operative work of the Churches of the Anglican Communion, co-ordinates aspects of international Anglican ecumenical and mission work, calls the Churches into mutual responsibility and interdependence, and advises on developing provincial structures.
IV. The Primates' Meeting is convened by the Archbishop of Canterbury for mutual support, prayer and counsel. The authority that primates bring to the meeting arises from their own positions as the senior bishops of their Provinces, and the fact that they are in conversation with their own Houses of Bishops and located within their own synodical structures. In the Primates' Meeting, the Primates and Moderators are called to work as representatives of their Provinces in collaboration with one another in mission and in doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters that have Communion-wide implications.
It is the responsibility of each Instrument to consult with, respond to, and support each other Instrument and the Churches of the Communion. Each Instrument may initiate and commend a process of discernment and a direction for the Communion and its Churches.
(3.2.1) to have regard for the common good of the Communion in the exercise of its autonomy, to support the work of the Instruments of Communion with the spiritual and material resources available to it, and to receive their work with a readiness to undertake reflection upon their counsels, and to endeavour to accommodate their recommendations.
(3.2.2) to respect the constitutional autonomy of all of the Churches of the Anglican Communion, while upholding our mutual responsibility and interdependence in the Body of Christ, and the responsibility of each to the Communion as a whole.
(3.2.3) to spend time with openness and patience in matters of theological debate and reflection, to listen, pray and study with one another in order to discern the will of God. Such prayer, 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 such matters therefore need to be tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church.
(3.2.4) to seek a shared mind with other Churches, through the Communion's councils, about matters of common concern, in a way consistent with the Scriptures, the common standards of faith, and the canon laws of our churches. Each Church will undertake wide consultation with the other Churches of the Anglican Communion and with the Instruments and Commissions of the Communion.
(3.2.5) to act with diligence, care and caution in respect of any action which may provoke controversy, which by its intensity, substance or extent could threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission.
(3.2.6) in situations of conflict, to participate in mediated conversations, which involve face to face meetings, agreed parameters and a willingness to see such processes through.
(3.2.7) to have in mind that our bonds of affection and the love of Christ compel us always to uphold the highest degree of communion possible.
Section Four: Our Covenanted Life Together
Each Church affirms the following procedures, and, reliant on the Holy Spirit, commits itself to their implementation.
(4.1.1) Each Church adopting this Covenant affirms that it enters into the Covenant as a commitment to relationship in submission to God. Participation in the covenant expresses a loyalty grounded in mutuality that one Church freely offers to other Churches, in whom it recognises the bonds of a common faith and order, a common inheritance in worship, life and mission, and a readiness to live in an interdependent life, but does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
(4.1.2) In adopting the Covenant for itself, each Church recognises in the preceding sections a statement of faith, mission and interdependence of life which is consistent with its own life and with the doctrine and practice of the Christian faith as it has received them. It recognises these elements as fundamental to the life of the Anglican Communion and to the relationships among the covenanting Churches.
(4.1.3) The Covenant operates to express the common commitments which hold each Church in the relationship of communion one with another. Recognition of, and fidelity to, the text of this Covenant, enables mutual recognition and communion. Nothing in this Covenant of itself shall be deemed to alter any provision of the Constitution and Canons of any Church of the Communion, or to limit its autonomy of governance. Under the terms of this Covenant, no one Church, nor any agency of the Communion, can exercise control or direction over the internal life of any other covenanted Church.
(4.1.4) Every Church of the Anglican Communion, as recognised in accordance with the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, is invited to adopt this Covenant in its life according to its own constitutional procedures. Adoption of the Covenant by a Church does not in itself imply any change to its Constitution and Canons, but implies a recognition of those elements which must be maintained in its own life in order to sustain the relationship of covenanted communion established by this Covenant.
(4.1.5) It shall be open to other Churches to adopt the Covenant. Adoption of this Covenant does not bring any right of recognition by, or membership of, the Instruments of Communion. Such recognition and membership are dependent on the satisfaction of those conditions set out by each of the Instruments. However, adoption of the Covenant by a Church may be accompanied by a formal request to the Instruments for recognition and membership to be acted upon according to each Instrument's procedures.
(4.1.6) This Covenant becomes active for a Church when that Church adopts the Covenant.
(4.2.1) The Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and of the Primates' Meeting, or any body that succeeds it, shall have the duty of overseeing the functioning of the Covenant in the life of the Anglican Communion. The Joint Standing Committee may nominate or appoint another committee or commission to assist in carrying out this function and to advise it on questions relating to the Covenant.
(4.2.2) If a question relating to the meaning of the Covenant, or of compatibility to the principles incorporated in it, should arise, the Joint Standing Committee may make a request to any covenanting Church to defer action until the processes set out below have been completed. It shall further take advice from such bodies as its feels appropriate on the nature and relational consequences of the matter and may make a recommendation to be referred for advice to both the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meeting.
(4.2.3) If a Church refuses to defer a controversial action, the Joint Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.
(4.2.4) On the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates' Meeting, the Joint Standing Committee may make a declaration concerning an action or decision of a covenanting Church that such an action or decision is or would be "incompatible with the Covenant". A declaration of incompatibility with the Covenant shall not have any force in the Constitution and Canons of any covenanting Church unless or until it is received by the canonical procedures of the Church in question.
(4.2.5) On the basis of the advice received, the Joint Standing Committee may make recommendations as to relational consequences to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion. These recommendations may address the extent to which the decision of any covenanting Church to continue with an action or decision which has been found to be "incompatible with the Covenant" impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion. It may recommend whether such action or decision should have a consequence for participation in the life of the Communion and its Instruments. It shall be for each Church and each Instrument to determine its own response to such recommendations.
(4.2.6) Each Church undertakes to put into place such mechanisms, agencies or institutions, consistent with its own Constitution and Canons, as can undertake to oversee the maintenance of the affirmations and commitments of the Covenant in the life of that Church, and to relate to the Instruments of Communion on matters pertinent to the Covenant.
(4.2.7) Participation in the processes set out in this section .shall be limited to those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption.
(4.3.1) Any covenanting Church may decide to withdraw from the Covenant. Although such withdrawal does not imply an automatic withdrawal from the Instruments or a repudiation of its Anglican character, it raises a question relating to the meaning of the Covenant, and of compatibility with the principles incorporated within it, and it triggers the provisions set out in section 4.2.2 above.
4.4 The Covenant Text and its amendment
(4.4.1) The Covenant consists of the text set out in this document in the Preamble, Sections One to Four and the Declaration. The Introduction to the Covenant Text, which shall always be annexed to the Covenant text, is not part of the Covenant, but shall be accorded authority in understanding the purpose of the Covenant.
(4.4.2) Any covenanting Church or Instrument of Communion may submit a proposal to the Joint Standing Committee for the amendment of the Covenant. The Joint Standing Committee shall send the proposal to the Anglican Consultative Council, to the Primates' Meeting and any other body as it may consider appropriate for advice. The Joint Standing Committee shall make a recommendation on the proposal in the light of advice offered, and submit the proposal with any revisions to the constitutional bodies of the covenanting Churches. The amendment is operative when ratified by three quarters of such bodies. The Joint Standing Committee shall adopt a procedure for promulgation of the amendment.
With joy and with firm resolve, we declare our Churches to be partakers in this Anglican Communion Covenant, offering ourselves for fruitful service and binding ourselves more closely in the truth andlove of Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Spirit be glory for ever. Amen.
"Now may the God of Peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen." (Hebrews 13.20, 21)
2. Cf. The Preface to the Declaration of Assent, Canon C15 of the Church of England.
3. The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordering of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons
4. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886/1888
5. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886/1888
6. cf. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral 1886/1888, The Preface to the Declaration of Assent, Canon C15 of the Church of England.
7. cf. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral 1886/1888
8. IASCOME Report, ACC-13
9. The five Marks of Mission are set out in the MISSIO Report of 1999, building on work at ACC-6 and ACC-8.
10. Church as Communion n26
11. WCC 1954 Evanston, Christ the Hope of the World
12. Moscow Statement, 43
13. IARCCUM, Growing Together in Unity and Mission,118
14. Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, WCC,
15. A Letter from Alexandria, the Primates, March 2009
16. Lambeth Conference 1930
17 Constitution of the ACC, Article 3 and Schedule
18. cf. the Objects of the ACC are set out in Article 2 of its Constitution.
19. Report of the Windsor Continuation Group, 69.
20. cf IATDC, Communion, Conflict and Hope, paragraph 113.
21. Toronto Congress 1963, and the Ten Principles of Partnership.
22. cf. the Schedule to the Dar es Salaam Communiqué of the Primates' Meeting, February 2007
For more on the background of the development of an Anglican Covenant, click here.