Sunday, June 3, 2007

Response to Draft Covenant

Responses to the 14 Questions posed in the Study Guide to the Draft Anglican Covenant

(1) Do you think an Anglican Covenant is necessary and/or will help to strengthen the interdependent life of the Anglican Communion? Why or why not?

No. The Covenant sounded like a potentially positive idea when proposed at the 2006 General Convention. My understanding was that we would enter into a long process (many years), during which time the provinces could gather and reflect on our commonality. These reflections would lead to a concise statement of what makes us uniquely Anglican.

I do not believe that an Anglican Covenant process as reflected in this draft document will strengthen the interdependent life of the member churches. This draft goes much further than the CDG’s representation that the purpose here is to state our common foundations.

You cannot legislate trust as the CDG seems to attempt in this rushed process. We have conflicts within our communion, and rushing to put together a document without a common mind is not helpful or trust building. This document seems more like an amalgam of two viewpoints, rather than a covenant written from a common mind.

The document speaks with two voices: it begins with relational wording; but later shifts to a list of rules. The Anglican Communion members are not of common mind, and that is reflected in the Draft Covenant. The timing is too soon for a document of this type.

(2) How closely does this view of communion accord with your understanding of the development and vocation of the Anglican Communion?
Mostly, this is section acceptable. I have concerns with “mutual commitment and discipline” as well as “historic faith” in this section. Looking at the document as a whole, I am concerned these phrases may be used in a legalistic and punitive context, and therefore not supportive of our interdependence and autonomy.

(3) Is this a sufficient rationale for entering into a Covenant? Why or why not?
It is a helpful start, but needs more. We are autonomous, we are different, we interpret Scripture differently, yet together we offer God’s love in our broken world. We recognize that unity is a sign of God’s presence. We acknowledge that unity does not mean uniformity.

(4) Do these six affirmations adequately describe The Episcopal Church’s understanding of “common catholicity, apostolicity, and confession of faith”? Why or why not?
No. The purpose of this section is to provide a precise statement of our common beliefs. Replace Section 2 with the following:

Each member church, and the Communion as a whole, affirms:
¨ The mission of the church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.
¨ The Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed state our basic beliefs about God.
¨ The Trinity is one God: Father, Son & Holy Spirit.
¨ The great sacraments of the Gospel are Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist. We recognize other sacramental rites including confirmation, ordination, holy matrimony, reconciliation of a penitent, and unction.
¨ The Holy Scriptures consist of the Old Testament, New Testament, and Apocrypha. We believe the Scriptures are the Word of God because God inspired them and God still speaks to us through the Bible. We recognize that each of our provinces struggle with what it means to proclaim the Good News faithfully in our distinctive cultural context.
¨ The ministers of the church are lay persons, bishops, priests and deacons.
¨ The tradition of common prayer is foundational to the Anglican Communion.

(5) The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (of the Church of England) are not currently authoritative documents for The Episcopal Church. Do you think they should be? Why or why not?
No. See above. The purpose of the covenant is to provide a precise statement of our common beliefs. The standing of these historical documents is not uniform within the communion as a whole, and this section needs to be deleted as written.

(6) Is each of these commitments clear and understandable with respect to what is being asked of the member churches and are they consistent with statements and actions made by the Episcopal Church in the General Convention? Why or why not?

No. Need to delete “biblically derived moral values” language. We do not have a uniform understanding of the meaning of scriptures within our communion as a whole. We need to acknowledge that.

We acknowledge that each province struggles with what it means to proclaim the Good News faithfully within the context of its own history, tradition, culture, and mission imperatives. Differences of interpretation may be seen as occasions to respectfully challenge each other to a greater understanding of one another’s culture as well as deeper faithfulness to biblical faith.

(7) Is the mission vision offered here helpful in advancing a common life of the Anglican Communion and does this need to be a part of the Draft Covenant? Why or why not?
Yes, it is helpful. Delete phrase “with mutual accountability.” Add/include in list:
¨ To seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves;
¨ To strive for justice and peace among all people; and
¨ To respect the dignity of every human being.

(8) Does this section adequately describe your understanding of the history and respective roles of the “Four Instruments of Communion”? Why or why not?
No. Section 5 of the draft covenant is not accurate.
In the 2nd paragraph, delete first sentence, retain 2nd sentence “While each member Church orders and regulates its own affairs …”

Replace the rest of Section 5 with the following:
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the spiritual leader and senior clergyman of the Church of England, recognized by convention as the head of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The archbishop, although without legal authority outside England, is recognized by convention as primus inter pares ("first among equals") of all Anglican primates worldwide. Since 1867 he has convened more or less decennial meetings of worldwide Anglican bishops, the Lambeth Conferences.

The Lambeth Conferences are the periodical assemblies of bishops of the Anglican Communion. The conferences began in 1867. The Lambeth Conference has no “constitution” or formal powers; it is not a formal Synod or Council of the bishops of the Communion.

The Anglican Communion Primates' Meetings are regular meetings of the Anglican Primates, i.e. the senior archbishops and bishops of each ecclesiastical province of the Anglican Communion. The Primates come together from the geographic Provinces around the world. The Archbishop of Canterbury chairs the meetings, with the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion serving as secretary. The Primates' Meeting was established in 1978 as an opportunity for “leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation”. The first meeting was held in 1979.

The Anglican Consultative Council was created by a resolution of the 1968 Lambeth Conference. The council, which includes Anglican bishops, clergy and laity, meets every two or three years in different parts of the world. The Anglican Consultative Council has a permanent secretariat (the Anglican Communion Office), based at Saint Andrew's House, London. The Archbishop of Canterbury is ex officio the President of the Council. The council has eight functions:

1. To share information about developments in one or more provinces with the other parts of the Communion and to serve as needed as an instrument of common action.
2. To advise on inter-Anglican, provincial, and diocesan relationships, including the division of provinces, the formation of new provinces and of regional councils, and the problems of extra-provincial dioceses.
3. To develop as far as possible agreed Anglican policies in the world mission of the Church and to encourage national and regional Churches to engage together in developing and implementing such policies by sharing their resources of manpower, money, and experience to the best advantage of all.
4. To keep before national and regional Churches the importance of the fullest possible Anglican collaboration with other Christian Churches.
5. To encourage and guide Anglican participation in the ecumenical movement and the ecumenical organizations; to co-operate with the World Council of Churches and the world confessional bodies on behalf of the Anglican Communion; and to make arrangements for the conduct of pan-Anglican conversations with the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, and other Churches.
6. To advise on matters arising out of national or regional Church union negotiations or conversations and on subsequent relations with united Churches.
7. To advise on problems on inter-Anglican communication and to help in the dissemination of Anglican and ecumenical information.
8. To keep in review the needs that may arise for further study and, where necessary, to promote inquiry and research.

(9) Do you think there needs to be an executive or judicial body for resolving disagreements or disputes in the Anglican Communion? If so, do you think it should be the Primates Meeting as recommended by the Draft Covenant? Explain.

No. Issues can be addressed through our currently available bodies of communication. Section 6 presents a host of problems as written. What are “matters of essential concern”? There appears to be no limit as to what might qualify under this provision.

Section 2 seems fine, except “all therefore need to be tested by shared discernment in the life of the Church.” What does that mean?

Section 3 seems to be moving us towards uniformity, rather than “unity in spirit.” Our tradition supports unity in diversity.

Section 4 -- replace “heed” with “respectfully consider”. Who determines which matters “threaten the unity of the Communion”?

Section 5 -- keep first sentence, ending at “mutual admonition and counsel.” Delete 3 points following.

Section 6 – delete entirely. Juridical, penal, dishonest. No juridical authority should be created.

(10) What does the phrase “a common mind about matters of essential concern. . .” mean to you?
Too ambiguous. Such a phrase would need definition. Does it mean matters identified in the creeds? Salvation issues?

(11) Can you affirm the “fundamental shape” of the Draft Covenant? Why or why not?
See comments above. I could support a covenant that truly stated what we share as Anglicans, a document that described our relationship with one another within the Anglican Communion. This document attempts to do much more than that. The leanings toward uniformity, the blatant misrepresentations of the “Instruments of Communion,” and the attempt to introduce juridical authority are serious problems.

(12) What do you think are the consequences of signing such a Covenant as proposed in the Draft?
I cannot even contemplate signing a document with the type of problems identified above. If thoroughly rewritten as suggested above, the consequences of signing a covenant would be a positive reaffirmation of our commitment to remain in communion with the other members of the Anglican Communion.

(13) Having read the Draft Covenant as a whole do you agree with the CDG’s assertion that “nothing which is commended in the draft text of the Covenant can be said to be ‘new’”? Why or why not?
No. The Primates Meeting is new as an “Instrument of Communion.” I do not affirm the Primates’ meeting as a traditionally accepted “Instrument of Communion.” The entire Section 6, especially the granting of juridical powers to excommunicate a member church, is also not a reflection of current Anglican Communion structures.

(14) In general, what is your response to the Draft Covenant taken as a whole? What is helpful in the draft? What is not-helpful? What is missing? Additional comments?

¨ The covenant should not be a legal document.
¨ Description of roles of “Instruments of Communion” is not helpful or accurate.
¨ Imposition of uniformity is not helpful.
¨ The timing is too rushed. This fast pace means that the members of our congregations do not have much time to review and reflect and pray about this draft before responding. This is not the Anglican way, as I have lived it and understand it.
¨ We celebrate unity in diversity. Missing
¨ We look to scripture, tradition and reason. Missing.
¨ Common prayer. Missing.
¨ Concise statement of what makes us uniquely Anglican. Missing.
¨ Acknowledgment that we interpret scripture differently within the Anglican Communion. Missing.
¨ A covenant needs to be an honest statement of our relationship with one another within the Anglican Communion. It needs to accurately describe the roles of the Archbishop, Lambeth, ACC, and Primates. It needs to acknowledge our differences.

Thank you for seeking and considering our comments.

Kathryn Dyer
Deputy – Diocese of Missouri
2049 Rule Avenue
Maryland Heights, MO 63043

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