An Anglican Covenant - Consultation Paper
Joint Standing Committee 'Towards an Anglican Covenant' A Consultation Paper on the Covenant Proposal of the Windsor Report
What form of covenant is best suited to the needs of the Communion at the present time?
Models of Covenant
- Considerable thought has to be given to the form of the covenant which is needed in the life of the Communion at the present time. Does it need to be short, rather like the Bonn Agreement, or complex? The content could simply restate a lapidary Anglican formula (such as the Lambeth-Chicago Quadrilateral). If so, then although the process leading to its adoption will be of very great educational importance and symbolic significance, it will have limited impact on the internal structures of the Churches and Provinces, or on their relationship in legal terms with one another. Most Churches and Provinces should have little difficulty in signing up to such a Covenant, so long as the text confines itself to widely-established and respected principles. If, at the other extreme, the content includes some ceding of jurisdiction to the Archbishop of Canterbury, or to one or more of the Instruments of Communion, then there are many Churches or Provinces which for a variety of reasons will have serious reservations about signing up. That has been a sticking point since at least the first Lambeth Conference in 1867. There can be no illusions: the detail of the Covenant will determine the extent of its acceptability.
- The tone of the covenant is also something to be considered. The covenant draft included in Appendix Two of TWR is juridical in style and character. Drawing on the existing statements and resolutions on Communion life, it used a register of canonical language to define the relationship between the churches of the Communion. In contrast, the draft covenant produced by IASCOME is motivational in form, committing the Communion to common action.
- Questions to be addressed include:
- Should the covenant speak of the Communion as it is, or as it wishes to become?
- How far should it speak in aspirational language? Would the use of such language reduce its practical utility?
- Should it adopt a pattern of affirmations and commitments similar to many ecumenical covenants?
- Should the covenant set out the articles of belief of the Anglican Communion?
- Should it speak of the relationships between the Provinces, living in autonomy-in-communion, and the processes by which their common life is nourished and sustained?
- For the purposes of the Communion, it would seem appropriate that our churches build on the idea of a promise from God that we shall be led to truth and unity, so that the covenant becomes a renewal of our commitment to respond to this promise in our life together in the Communion.