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Section J: The Anglican Covenant (St. Andrew’s Draft)

136. Positive descriptions. There were many positive responses to the idea of a Covenant.  We recognise that any possible Covenant would be grounded in God’s covenant with us.  It would carry horizontal and vertical realities, reflecting the sign of the cross. It is the image of Christ’s deep and faithful covenant made in Baptism and revealed in the Eucharist and is thereby Christ-centred.

137. The covenant could provide historical continuity with the past, creativity in the present and lead us into the future. It could provide a structure within which we can explore relationship, delighting in unity and diversity, rather than imposing uniformity and conformity. It should help affirm our common life and care, rather than restrict life in the churches. A covenant may help heal present wounds and prevent new ones.

138. Relationship must be pre-eminent within the covenant, creating mutuality, care and responsibility, thereby offering a binding voluntary agreement. We recognise that a covenant would be costly and self-limiting, yet would strengthen the bonds of love among us. As such, it would give us a sacrificial way to move forward, for the sake of the other, which would be life-giving. It invites us to be generous to one another.

139. A Covenant could draw more dioceses back into the conversation of the Communion. Any possible Covenant could help small communities demonstrate the power of a world wide body, which could help in dealing with government. A Covenant could be a structure to make incursions unnecessary, but without a Covenant, our continuing relationship with those who chose not to be here at this Conference may be imperilled.

140. Reservations and concerns. There was an overall willingness to enter a Covenant, particularly to help us in the present crisis, conscious that it is critical for some to have something positive to report on their return home. There was a general satisfaction with the first half of the main text of the St. Andrew’s Draft, but there were real concerns with section 3 and even greater concern about the appendix.

In particular:

  • The biblical and theological basis of Covenant need to be clarified and developed in a more profound way.
  • The proposed Covenant is formulaic rather than relational, and could thereby prove punitive, restrictive and limiting, rather than facilitating unity.
  • The Instruments of Communion could become micro-managers.
  • There is concern that this Covenant process could prove expensive to implement and concern as to who would pay for it.
  • There is concern that the Province rather than the diocese might become the local Church. There is also some uncertainty as to how Provinces might relate to the Communion.
  • Our modality is historically the “bishop-in-synod” rather than “episcopally led and synodically governed”.
  • The broad sweep of the text reads as a very western document.
  • The position of the United Churches is not addressed.
  • What happens if the Church of England is the offending Church?
  • The appendix is particularly seen as over-detailed and an instrument of punitive measures.
  • There is a danger that we are simply papering-over the problems, whereas healing needs to take place first.
  • The Instruments of Communion need time to evolve before we can be sure what form a Covenant should take.

141. Suggestions. The Covenant could be a more generous document, couched as invitation. It should be an instrument of listening before anything else. We need to steward ourselves to give attention to the “bonds” as well as the “affection.”  We ought to ask “What can we do for the Communion?” not vice versa.

142. There is a tension between wanting to take time over the process and the need for urgency in repairing the tears in the Communion’s fabric. “Are we being a little quick in trying to heal ourselves?” However, some bishops have stated the need to return home with an agreement of some kind.

143. A number of practical and detailed suggestions were made, which will be reflected back to the Covenant Design Group:

  • A Province might be asked to withdraw after a breach of the Covenant to repair trust.
  • As an immediate response, we should establish a pastoral response group, which could be in operation more quickly than a Covenant and could operate instead of revisions in the appendix.
  • The document needs to have a less Church of England basis, particularly in regard to the formularies.
  • Can we learn about handling conflict from around the world, eg. South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the culture of responsibility and restraint in South East Asia, unity and diversity in the “Three Tikanga” way of working in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia and the Japanese preference for a less statemented way to resolve conflicts?
  • “Better than a covenant would be a theology of abiding, where we can affirm one another in Christ”.
  • Should we explore a missional Covenant?
  • Rather than a Covenant, should we explore an Anglican Rule of Life?
  • Do we need a shorter Lambeth Conference every five years?
  • Would the Covenant be better called a.) “entente”, b.) “memorandum of understanding”, or c.) “communion agreement”?
  • There is a need for better translations of the St. Andrew’s Draft.

144. There is a welcome from many to the idea of a Covenant. We recognise the urgent need to find a workable way forward, particularly for those of us who live and minister in minority or hostile situations. However there is a strong sense that the appendix could be too legalistic and too difficult to implement. Overall, there was a concern that what is proposed in the appendix might prove too punitive. From the experience of this Lambeth Conference and the building and deepening of relationship, there is a willingness to continue exploring a Covenant together.

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