Each of the three houses of the Church of England General Synod recommended the draft “Act of Synod” keeping alive the Anglican Covenant recommended by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and sending it on to the Dioceses for consideration. The bishops voted 39-0, with 1 abstention; the clergy voted 145-32 with 11 abstentions; and the laity voted 147-25 with 8 abstentions.
The proposed resolution is a set of principles intended to bind the Anglican Communion despite the many differences in views over sexuality, the role of women and the authority of the Bible among the independent national churches which make up the Communion.
The proposed Covenant will come back to the Synod in 2012 for approval, but that action was small comfort for Archbishop Williams who saw his fellow primates reject the proposal at a separate Primates’ Council session in Oxford. Nonetheless Williams urged the Synod to keep moving forward:
“The drift of the covenant has been towards … ways with which we can, in some sense, act in coherence together for the sake of God’s mission,” he said. “I hear and partly understand the anxieties about legislating family relations [but] I do want to resist very strongly that the covenant creates a central authority.”
The Primates stuck to their more conservative traditional views and were clearly in no mood for compromise calling the covenant “fatally flawed”:
“While we acknowledge that the efforts to heal our brokenness through the introduction of an Anglican Covenant were well intentioned, we have come to the conclusion the current text is fatally flawed and so support for this initiative is no longer appropriate,” according to the statement from leaders of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans and the GAFCON movement. The statement was endorsed by archbishops from West Africa, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Australia and Anglican Church of North America, a breakaway group of Dioceses from the US Episcopal Church that have sought supervision instead from this more conservative group of bishops.
Even worse, despite the fact that the Covenant signers would pledge to “respect the constitutional autonomy of all of the churches of the Anglican Communion,” a liberal group on the other side of most of the issues in contention also rejected the proposed covenant as an inappropriate intrusion in the independence of the national churches. “It would … make the Church of England subject to an outside power for the first time since Henry VIII,” said a statement by the Inclusive Church.
Do you see where this idea is going?
Speaking at the opening of the General Synod, Archbishop Williams said the covenant “offers the possibility of a voluntary promise to consult,” but he conceded that disagreement may continue and break the communion apart. “Now the risk and reality of such rupture is already there, make no mistake. The question is whether we are able to make an intelligent decision about how we deal with it.”