“I believe firmly that the Anglican Communion is going to continue by God’s grace and divine providence, but we do have problems,” observed Archbishop Drexel Gomez, Primate of the West Indies and chair of the Covenant Design Group. “What we sought to do was find a mechanism that would redefine the basic tenets of Anglicanism, and call the members of the Communion across the world to rally around who we are and what we stand for.”
When disagreements arise, he noted, “we have no legal framework, no magisterium that says, ‘You have had your discussion, this is it.’” Yet he insisted that a covenant would not steer the Anglican Communion into a more legalistic mindset, and said that the group “did not even think about going a legalistic or contract route.”
Instead, he continued, “our Covenant is founded on a principle of mutual cooperation. We see it as a pilgrimage, and all Anglicans are on this pilgrimage. We are seeking a mechanism to ease this pilgrimage.”
All presenters agreed that at this stage in the design process, there is no clarity about what will happen to provinces who feel they cannot sign a Covenant, and noted that such consequences will be determined as the process unfolds. They also agreed, however, that the design group was not in a hurry and that it would need to allow time and space for provinces to reflect on how they might respond.
The Covenant Design Group will meet again at the end of September 2008 to review the comments of Lambeth Conference bishops. Provinces are to submit their comments by the end of March 2009 so that the Design Group can produce a third draft by April. This will be presented at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Jamaica in May 2009. “We are trying to reflect the views of bishops and provinces rather than the views of the Covenant Design Group.”
Bishop Trevor Mwamba (Botswana) hopes that the spirit of the Covenant is one of friendship. “We need to discover each other and become friends,” he said. “You do not fear friends…But in order to become friends, we all need to get out of our boundaries - our safe zones - and explore the wider world out there. We often look at things or people beyond ourselves as threatening, as enemies. When we do travel to other countries or cultures, we often find that those people have the same needs and aspirations as we do. And we become friends.”
We are not seeking to create a “covenant of enemies with regulations and policies to penalize people in a state of fear,” but rather “a covenant of mutual respect, reverence, honor and cooperation.” The covenant should “enhance the beauty of Anglicanism” and “bring all views together to see what contribution they can make” in order to “create something eventually that will give life and enhance humanity.”