Alexandria, day 2: Aspinall reports on covenant discussion

The primates got down to business on day 2, and there are several reports mostly drawing of the end of day news conference given by the primates’ media spokesperson, the Most Rev. Philip Aspinall, Archbishop of Australia.

Matthew Davies (ENS) reports:

Aspinall said there had been a “general warming” to the idea of a covenant, but acknowledged that there was “increasing realism” among the primates about what a covenant can and can’t do. “We’re probably pulling back from language about sanctions and teeth,” he said, noting that there had been lots of discussion about a framework for “koinonia” — a Greek word that refers to the relationships of communion.

“If there is a failure in communion, then there needs to be more of an investment” in relationships, Aspinall said. “There is a pulling back from stick-over-the-head sanctions and a move towards deeper relationships of what will make a covenant work.”

Riazat Butt (The Guardian) writes:

Aspinall, however, indicated that the primates, at least, were softening their position and recognising the disadvantages to a strident covenant.

The only sanction that could be applied was not being invited to a meeting, he added.

On Tuesday the primates will receive a report from the group charged with proposing solutions to disagreements over same-sex blessings, cross-border interventions and ordination of homosexuals to the episcopate.

ACNS, and, moreover, has the 50 minute press conference in audio. Aspinall said the provinces were asked how a covenant would be introduced in their province. Using his local context as an example — he said it was not dissimilar to other provinces — Aspinall said any covenant would most likely be adopted via a resolution of Australia’s General Synod (rather than through the constitution or by canon) “but then it would have no legal force.” He said the “pulling back” he was referring to was the sense coming out of Lambeth 2008, but he acknowledged not all primates were prepared to move in that direction.

On sanctions Aspinall also said there was a “workability” issue, that there a report in Church of England that it was “constitutionally impossible to grant authority to an outside body.” (Emphasis added.)

The press conference ended with questions about the instruments of communion and the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Aspinall said, the primates were grappling with how to adapt the instruments so they could be responsive in a timely way.

Want more? Thinking Anglicans is maintaining a rather complete and updated summary of reports on the meeting.

Colin Coward of Changing Attitudes is in Alexandria. He senses that the primates, including the African primates, are ready to move on. He writes,

In my Sunday blog, I assumed that we would meet most of the American and UK conservatives who have regularly been present on the outside of these meetings – Bishop Martyn Minns, Bishop David Anderson, Canon Chris Sugden – I was wrong – they are not here…. I was told yesterday that they were given strict instructions not to come, probably by the Archbishop to whom they owe prime allegiance.

Their decision not to come reflects a profound change of authority and tactics within the broad conservative coalition.

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