Building walls or raising sails?

Archbishop of York John Sentamu kicked off debate about the Anglican Covenant with the comment that he doesn’t feel the covenant is creating walls of exclusion but rather is “sails to empower the boat of Communion to sail again unafraid of the storms,” according to a story in Episcopal Life Online. The story includes comments from several delegates to the synod, which reflect a wide range of reactions and emotions, including weariness, admiration, reservation, and excitement. Several offered specific criticisms they hoped would improve the document, but it is clear that there remain two distinct interpretations of what the covenant is meant to offer: one of achieving unity and the other of legitimizing exclusivity:

Sentamu told Synod February 13 that the covenant is not intended as “a new creed or Anglican-wide Canon law, nor an 11th commandment chiseled on Mount Kilamanjaro by the Anglican Primates.”

“The whole intention of the covenant is ‘to identify the fundamentals that we have in common and to state the common basis on which our mutual trust can be rebuilt,'” Sentamu said, citing the words of Gomez during his address to the Synod in July 2007.

The Rev. Brian Lewis of the Diocese of Chelmsford told Synod he disagrees with the idea of a covenant saying he feels it is “a mistake to introduce a formalized mechanism of exclusion into the life of the Communion. When you have an institutionalized method of division is it much more difficult to come back together again.”

Lewis said he regrets that the Church of England was not more directly involved in the early stages of developing the covenant. “We might have got somewhere better,” he said, questioning whether a covenant that “institutionalizes a method of exclusion” would receive the necessary two thirds majority from Synod.

The rest of the comments are definitely worth a read, and you can find them here.

Additional coverage from the Church of England General Synod ishere.

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