Is this Covenant reasonable and necessary?

The Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Rev David Chillingworth, wants his Church to come up with a way to discuss the Anglican Covenant over the next year or two.

He shared his feelings about the Covenant and the direction it might take the Anglican Communion.

Is the Anglican Covenant a reasonable and necessary instrument to strengthen the cohesion of a very diverse Communion? Is it helpful to attempt to define the essence of what we are – so that it becomes easier to see who we are and who we are not? Or is it an unhelpful and unanglican attempt to define a single view of what we are and to substitute a central authority for Anglican co-responsibility.

My task today is not to attempt to resolve those issues. Rather it is to say that I hope that we shall discuss this over the next year or two in a measured way. As a church we have found it very difficult to discuss the issues which have given rise to the Anglican Covenant. It may be that discussion of the Anglican Covenant may itself help us to go back and do that. As Primus, one of my tasks is to engage on your behalf with the church beyond our Province. We may be a small church. But I can assure you that other people look to us and want to know what we think – as we do from them.

The decision by the Scottish Bishops to consecrate Samuel Seabury as the first bishop of the American church in 1784 was one of the points at which we became a Communion of independent provinces. Then – and sadly now – colonialism influences the tone of debate in the Communion. But mix the metaphors as you wish – midwives …foundation members … we were part of the beginnings. And in our reflection about the Anglican Covenant, we need to think about how we can be part of a new beginning for the Anglican Communion.

The difficulties which the Anglican Communion faces are being faced or will be faced by every other church across the world. In our case, they arise contextually out of the spectacular success of Anglicanism as a missionary faith in the so-called developing world – while still being a strong presence in the most highly-developed societies of the world. They are rooted in fundamental questions about what it means to be human, about the authority and interpretation of scripture and about the nature of God. On some levels, our cohesion is remarkable – go to almost any part of the world where Anglicans gather and you will find yourself in the presence of authentic and recognisable Anglicanism. And yet obviously, our response to issues of human sexuality creates tension across the Communion between provinces – but also within


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