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Covenant will be ‘only for provinces’

08 October 2009

by Pat Ashworth

CORRESPONDENCE between the Arch­bishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Central Florida, the Rt Revd John Howe, appears to con­firm that provinces, and not individual dioceses, will be able to sign up to the Anglican Covenant.

Bishop Howe has previously sought to clarify Dr Williams’s view on the relative status of province and diocese. In October 2007, the Archbishop’s response to him was that any diocese compliant with the Windsor Continuation Group’s report remained clearly in communion with Canterbury and the mainstream of the Anglican Communion, and that the organ of union with the wider Church was the bishop and the diocese rather than the provincial structure (News, 26 October, 9 November 2007).

A letter to Bishop Howe from Dr Williams on 28 September is not in the public domain. It has, however, been seen by the Revd George Conger, a priest in the Episcopal Church in the United States. He reports the Archbishop as writing: “As a matter of constitutional fact, the [Anglican Consultative Council (ACC)] can only offer the covenant for ‘adoption’ to its own constituent bodies (the provinces).”

Mr Conger reports that Dr Williams also notes: “I see no objection to a diocese resolving less formally on an ‘endorsement’ of the cov­enant.” Such an action may not have an im­mediate “institutional effect”, but “would be a clear declaration of intent to live within the agreed terms of the Com­munion’s life and so would undoubtedly positively affect a diocese’s pastoral and sacramental relations” with the wider Communion.

A spokeswoman confirmed the existence of the letter on Wednesday, but said that Lambeth Palace did not comment on private corres­pond­ence.

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