Covenant will protect male power, says critic

16 April 2008

by a staff reporter

Critical: Dr Te Paa at the New York conference BRUCE PARKER/ELO

Critical: Dr Te Paa at the New York conference BRUCE PARKER/ELO

A MEMBER of the Lambeth Commission that first proposed an Anglican Covenant has changed her mind.

Speaking at a conference in New York last week, the Dean of St John’s College, in Auckland, New Zealand, Dr Jenny Plane Te Paa, said that events since the launch of the commission’s report had “caused me to reconsider my initial support for the development of covenant”.

Among the events she cited was the behaviour at the Primates’ Meetings, which had gone from being a gathering for “leisurely thought [and] prayer” to being a “quasi-governance body universally perceived as inappropriate, unbidden, and unhelpful”.

Covenant drafts served to “protect and enhance . . . dominant male leadership, privilege, and power”, she said. In her view, the “fussing with and about one another” needed to stop, in order to reaffirm the bonds that already exist within the Communion.

By contrast, the proposed Covenant was defended by the Archishop of the West Indies, the Most Revd Drexel Gomez. “If we can covenant with our ecumenical partners . . . it seems to me to be a pretty pass indeed if we Anglicans decide we cannot covenant with each other.”

And the deputy secretary of the Anglican Communion, Canon Gregory Cameron, said: “In time of distrust, when people feel that boundaries are being manipulated and moved, covenant can be a restatement of where the true roots of Anglicanism lie.”

Lambeth letter
The Archbishop of Canterbury is to challenge bishops who have been dismissive of the Windsor process and the idea of a Covenant, and ask them to clarify their commitment to the Lambeth Conference.

Dr Williams is acting on the reminder in his Advent letter (News, 21/28 December 2007) that attendance at the Lambeth Conference implied a willingness to work on the development of a Covenant.

In the letter, he wrote: “I intend to be in direct contact with those who have expressed unease about this, so as to try and clarify how deep their difficulties go with accepting or adopting the Conference’s agenda.”

Dr Williams’s letter was mentioned in a speech given by the Bishop of Durham, Dr Tom Wright, at the Fulcrum conference in Islington, north London, last weekend.

He spoke of Dr Williams’s declaration that “he would be writing to those bishops who might be thought particularly unsympathetic to Windsor and the Covenant to ask them whether they were really prepared to build on this dual foundation.”

Dr Wright, who was in touch with the Archbishop at the end of last week, went on: “Those letters, I understand, are in the post as we speak, written with apostolic pain and heart-searching, but also with apostolic necessity.”

But a Lambeth spokeswoman said on Tuesday that no letter had yet been sent; nor could she say who might receive one.

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