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Anglican Covenant debate: an occasion when the General Synod got it right

08 December 2010


From Canon Simon Killwick

Sir, — May I offer a different perspective on the General Synod debate on the Anglican Covenant (Letters, 3 December), which has been designed to help the Anglican Communion to have more of a sense of coherence and unity, while still allowing for some diversity — a very Anglican kind of covenant.

The newly elected General Synod faced its first test of a controversial debate at its first meeting, and passed with flying colours.

The debate showed the Synod at its best: strongly held views for and against the Covenant were expressed by a large number of speakers with clarity and courtesy. Equal numbers of speakers for and against were called, allowing for a full and fair exploration of the issues in a lengthy debate. The result was an overwhelming vote in favour of the Covenant; just 57 voted against, while 331 voted in favour.

It was great to see the Synod strongly supporting the Archbishop of Canterbury in this matter, and to see the House of Bishops united behind him. What a change from the vote in July on the Archbishops’ amendment to the draft women-bishops legislation. Then, despite majority support for the amendment, the House of Clergy defeated it by just five votes, while 15 bishops voted against the Archbishops’ lead.

Now, in this new Synod, in this November vote, those who worked so hard to secure the defeat of the Archbishops’ amendment in July appear to be in a small minority.

The outcome of this debate bodes well for the new Synod; a new spirit of unity and responsibility has appeared; let us hope and pray that this will continue as the Synod carries out its work over the next five years.

The House of Bishops must now consider how it will need to amend the draft women-bishops legislation so that it can be passed at final approval with a similarly resounding vote in favour. To achieve this, the Bishops will need to ensure that the legislation provides for a proper Anglican diversity, so as to include those who, out of genuine theological conviction, cannot receive the episcopal oversight of women — those whom the Lambeth Conference and the General Synod have affirmed to be loyal Anglicans.

It is a pity that the GAFCON Primates composed their statement a full month before the Synod debate on the Covenant, and then issued it after the debate. I hope that they will now reflect on the decisive vote that has been taken, and stay on board to make the Covenant work, because it can only work if every Province of the Communion plays its part.

Chairman of the Catholic Group in the General Synod
Christ Church Rectory
Monton Street
Manchester M14 4GP

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