5.3.12

Why covenant?





The Covenant asserts that it only reaffirms what has always been so but innovations are discernible. 

Williams insists that 'commitment does not represent submission to any external ecclesiastical jurisdiction.' That the covenant 'should not be thought of as a means of excluding the difficult or rebellious,' (Williams, 2008, Address) is not appeasing those who have already experienced exclusion prior to the Covenant being released for consideration. At its 13th meeting,1 the Anglican Consultative Council passed a resolution endorsing the Primates' request that 'in order to recognise the integrity of all parties, the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada voluntarily withdraw their members from the Anglican Consultative Council, for the period leading up to the next Lambeth Conference.'

Calvani (2008, 108) describes how, 'When we start to discuss the need for legislative instruments for monitoring and punishment, it is because the theological meaning of the word "communion" has already lost out to political interests. 

Adams believes that 'for a national Church to covenant means that it commits itself to ... mandatory caution that denies innovations institutional expression... on pain of “relational consequences”, including provisional or permanent exclusion from Anglican Communion decision-making processes.' (Church Times Guide, 2011, 21).

Calvani would abandon any attenpt to covenant because ...[the] perfect church, containing full unity of thought or even ethics, has never existed...creating instruments for monitoring, coercion, and repression... is the worst alternative possible, because we can never have a forced communion.'


Williams (2010, 3056) insists that the Covenant 'does not invent a new orthodoxy or a new system of doctrinal policing or a centralised authority...' Williams is a pragmatist and the Covenant is put forward as a generous means of asking the Communion he is only a part of, to govern itself in ways that promote accountability to ones neighbours: 'a practical, sensible and Christian way of dealing with our conflicts, recognising that they're always going to be there.' (Williams, (2009, 2687) Is it not however, that instead of a juridicial approach, Anglican Christians are called everywhere to consider their actions before the face of an Almighty God whose justice they will continue to try to understand together against the guiding principles of Scripture, tradition and reason until Kingdom Come! Committee IV of the 1930 Lambeth Conference (The Lambeth Conference, 155) described prophetically how, 'this freedom naturally and necessarily carries with it the risk of divergences to the point even of disruption.' This is the messy church in which we live. Kater (2008, 101) hopes that 'Christians … will be drawn together, not by their ecclesial structures, not by their mode of scriptural interpretation, and much less by documents or conferences or resolutions, but rather by their recognition that just as they themselves are struggling to serve faithfully God's mission, so are these followers of Jesus' Way in other places.'

Like other reports, the Covenant can state only descriptively what holds churches together in the Anglican fold, a fold which remains, by its very nature, voluntary. It is in offering the proposition of Covenant that some are going to volunteer themselves to become accountable to it and as Williams is discovering, the vast majority are not. 

1 Resolution 10: Response to the Primates' Statement at Dromantine, ACC-13, Nottingham, England, June 19-28, 2005, online at http://www.aco. org/acc/meetings/accl3/resolutions.cfm#slO.   

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