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Church in Wales: Clarification on Communion sought

26 April 2012

by Gavin Drake

Looking to the future: the Governing Body discussion GAVIN DRAKE

Looking to the future: the Governing Body discussion GAVIN DRAKE

Anglican Covenant

THE Church in Wales has put off its decision whether to subscribe to the Anglican Communion Coven­ant, pend­ing clarification about its cur­rent status.

The Covenant was rejected by the majority of Church of England dio­cesan synods, and cannot return to the General Synod, “if at all”, until 2015, the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, told the Governing Body.

But the Bishop, who played an important part in drafting the Coven­ant when he worked as deputy secretary-general of the Anglican Communion, said that he made “no apology” for proposing that the Church in Wales went ahead and subscribed to the Covenant anyway, saying the rejection of the Covenant in England was based on a false reading.

He rejected arguments that the Covenant had been “designed to punish the American Church, and to discipline anyone who took a liberal line on sexuality”. He described it as being “about finding out what holds us together and calling us back to the foundations of what it is to be Anglican”.

Seconding the motion that the Church in Wales subscribe to the Covenant, Helen Biggin, a co-opted member of the GB and the Church’s lay representative on the ACC, de­scribed attending her first ACC meeting, in Jamaica in 2009. She said the Covenant was that “workable compromise” that “will allow differ­ent parts of the Anglican Commun­ion to keep talking and listening and sharing and praying together”.

The Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd John Davies, moved an amendment that affirmed the com­mitment of the Church in Wales to the life of the Anglican Com­munion, and its readiness to engage with any ongoing process of con­sidera­tion of the Covenant, but said that it would seek “clarification” from the ACC “as to the status and direction of the Covenant process in the light of the position of the Church of England.”

The amendment also urged the Instruments of Communion to “con­­tinue to seek reconciliation and the preservation of the Communion as a family of interdependent but autono­­mous Churches.”

Bishop Davies said that he sup­ported the Covenant, but: “We are in an anomalous situation.”

His Honour Philip Price QC (Monmouth) said that he feared that the rejection of the Covenant by many C of E dioceses could mean that “we go back to the disgraceful behaviour that existed before we went down this particular journey”, with “provinces shouting at each other, and condemning each other unheard”.

The Bishop of Monmouth, the Rt Revd Dominic Walker, said that the documents sent to GB members were all positive about the Covenant, and asked for arguments against to be circulated if the matter came back to the GB.

The Revd Janice Gourdie (Bangor) said: “We can make our own de­cision” and recommended: “Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus, on God’s word, on his purpose for the Church in Wales, for Wales.”

The Archdeacon of St Davids, the Ven. William Strange, expressed “a fear that the Anglican Communion may not survive without something like the Covenant”. He said that the reason that the last ACC and Pri­m-ates Meetings had been “better tempered” was because “large sec­tions of our Communion, represent­ing the majority of Anglicans in the world, are simply and quietly moving away and disengaging from the rest of us.”

The Revd Jan Gould (Llandaff) regretted that “The text of the Covenant as we have it today doesn’t enable me to say it will preserve the liberal Anglicanism which is at the heart of my being.”

Sandy Blair (co-opted) suggested: “The message from the Church in Wales should be that we believe the Covenant is important, and we should say that we would subscribe to it.”

The Assistant Bishop of Llandaff, the Rt Revd David Wilbourne, said that the Church in Wales should sub­scribe to the Covenant as an act of loyalty to the Archbishop of Canter­bury and the Bishop of St Asaph.“If my short experience of Wales is anything to go by, what England rejects, we wholeheartedly and rather perversely embrace.”

Jim Thompson (Monmouth) said: “Pausing does not mean a passive approach. . . Through active listening, we will be able to develop appropriate actions that will support the Anglican Communion through­out the world.”

But Canon Dennis Wight (co-opted) disagreed: “The time to pause will be when everybody in the An­glican Communion — every diocese and every province — has said something about the Covenant.”

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, spoke of “a wider issue here”, mentioning the Arch­bishop of Canterbury as “the head of the Church of England”. “If his Church has rejected the Covenant, then it seems to me we need to ask as a province what is the implication of that for the Covenant, because we are in a relationship with the Arch­bishop of Canterbury, as indeed are all the other provinces.” The amend­ment to postpone a decision, pend­ing clarification, was carried by 77 votes to 31, with three abstentions.

The Bishop of Bangor, the Rt Revd Andrew John, spoke of the need to “have a process for com­municating one with another. . . The pre­vious ways of communicating were not working.” He described the amended motion as a “commitment to the Covenant, and to an ongoing consideration of where it might take us, and where it might take us as an autonomous but interdependent prov­ince within the life of the Church”.

The amended motion was carried overwhelmingly, with two votes against, and two abstentions.

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