Challenges remain, Primate warns, after dioceses block Anglican Covenant

by
28 March 2012

by Ed Thornton

SHUTTERSTOCK

SHUTTERSTOCK

THE Archbishop of Canterbury warned this week that challenges in the Anglican Communion “will not go away”. Dr Williams was speaking after a majority of diocesan synods rejected the Anglican Covenant.

Last weekend, three more diocesan synods — Lincoln, Oxford, and Guildford — voted against the Covenant. Three others — Black­burn, Exeter, and Peterborough — endorsed it. This brought the total number of diocesan synods in favour of the Covenant to 15, and the total number against to 23.

Since a majority of dioceses have voted against, it will not return to the General Synod during this quin­quennium (2011-15).

Speaking on Monday, Dr Williams said: “This is, of course, a disap­pointing outcome for many of us in the Church of England and many more in the Communion. Unfor­tunately, the challenges the Covenant was meant to address will not go away just because people vote against it.

"We shall still have to work at vehicles for consultation and manag­ing disagreement. And nothing should lessen the priority of sus­taining relationships, especially with some of those smaller and vulner­able Churches for whom strong international links are so crucial.”

Speaking on Monday, Dr Williams said: “This is, of course, a disap­pointing outcome for many of us in the Church of England and many more in the Communion. Unfor­tunately, the challenges the Covenant was meant to address will not go away just because people vote against it.

"We shall still have to work at vehicles for consultation and manag­ing disagreement. And nothing should lessen the priority of sus­taining relationships, especially with some of those smaller and vulner­able Churches for whom strong international links are so crucial.”

The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, a patron of the Yes to the Covenant Coalition, said on Tuesday that he was “disappointed”; but “we have to trust the mind of the Church. I simply hope that the Anglican Communion can flourish a different way, without what I thought was its best hope.”

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The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, who voted against the Covenant in Oxford diocesan synod, said that its defeat in the C of E was an “opportunity to grow up, to take stock, and to get real. It’s very sad that a large number of bishops were out of touch on this one.”

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, the Professor of the History of the Church in the University of Oxford, the Revd Dr Diarmaid MacCulloch, a patron of the No Coalition, said that the fact that about 80 per cent of bishops had voted for the Covenant, while the clergy and laity had “split around 50-50 for and against”, suggested “an episcopate that is seriously out of touch . . . even with faithful An-gli­can churchgoers and clergy in England”.

The moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, the Revd Dr Lesley Crawley, said: “We found, as the debate went on, that the more people read and studied the Covenant, the less they liked it.”

Prudence Dailey, a co-founder of Yes to the Covenant, said: “I deeply regret what I believe to be a pro­foundly mistaken decision, especially when the General Synod had pre­viously given the Covenant such overwhelming support.

“Many in the worldwide Anglican Communion were pinning their hopes on the Covenant as the only way forward, and I cannot help wondering what they — and especially those provinces that have already ratified the Covenant — will make of us in the Church of England.” She said that it would be “symbolically significant” if the diocesan synods that had not yet voted endorsed it.

The Covenant text states that only representatives of provinces “who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption”, can participate in the Standing Committee of the Angli-can Com­munion when it acts to resolve disputes between provinces.

Dr Crawley said that the C of E’s rejection of the Covenant would mean that the Archbishop of Canterbury would be “in the second tier of the Anglican Communion and excluded from central com­mittees”. She said that this would pose “serious problems for the Covenant in other provinces”.

In an article published on the website of Fulcrum on Wednesday, however, the Bishop of Sherborne, Dr Graham Kings, a patron of the Yes Coalition, wrote: “The English vote may have an impact on, but cannot bring to a halt, the Covenant movement in the Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury . . . presides at the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meetings and the Anglican Consultative Council . . . as an ‘Instrument of Communion’, rather than as ‘Primate of All England’, and so will continue to fulfil these roles.”

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Giles Fraser

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Question of the week: Were the diocesan synods wrong to reject the Anglican Covenant?

Letters

Question of the week: Were the diocesan synods wrong to reject the Anglican Covenant?

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