Latest draft covenant available

Updated at 4:55 p. m. with statement from Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church. To read the statement, click Read more at the end of this entry.

The Covenant Design Group has issued its latest draft, the Ridley Cambridge Draft [RCD], along with responses it received to the St. Andrews Draft. It has also issued its commentary on the RCD.

Anglican Communion News:

The CDG has worked with the twenty or so Provincial responses which have been received to the St Andrew’s Draft, and which are listed in Appendix One of this Report. We also received a large number of responses from individuals, diocesan synods and other institutions, including ecumenical partners, which were also circulated among the group. All these responses are in the process of being published now on the Anglican Communion website. [Here are the responses.]

The Ridley Cambridge Draft (RCD) of the Covenant text follows the pattern established in the St. Andrew’s Draft, of an Introduction, a Preamble, three Sections (to which a fourth is now added), and a Declaration. “We recognise the importance of renewing in a solemn way our commitment to one another, and to the common understanding of faith and order we have received, so that the bonds of affection which hold us together may be re-affirmed and intensified.”

Read all of the ACN report all.

The Ridley Cambridge Draft is here.

One of many sections to attention could be drawn:

4.2 The Maintenance of the Covenant and Dispute Resolution

(4.2.1) The Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and of the Primates’ Meeting, or any body that succeeds it, shall have the duty of overseeing the functioning of the Covenant in the life of the Anglican Communion. The Joint Standing Committee may nominate or appoint another committee or commission to assist in carrying out this function and to advise it on questions relating to the Covenant.

(4.2.2) If a question relating to the meaning of the Covenant, or of compatibility to the principles incorporated in it, should arise, the Joint Standing Committee may make a request to any covenanting Church to defer action until the processes set out below have been completed. It shall further take advice from such bodies as its feels appropriate on the nature and relational consequences of the matter and may make a recommendation to be referred for advice to both the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting.

(4.2.3) If a Church refuses to defer a controversial action, the Joint Standing Committee may recommend to any Instrument of Communion relational consequences which specify a provisional limitation of participation in, or suspension from, that Instrument until the completion of the process set out below.

(4.2.4) On the basis of advice received from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting, the Joint Standing Committee may make a declaration concerning an action or decision of a covenanting Church that such an action or decision is or would be “incompatible with the Covenant”. A declaration of incompatibility with the Covenant shall not have any force in the Constitution and Canons of any covenanting Church unless or until it is received by the canonical procedures of the Church in question.

(4.2.5) On the basis of the advice received, the Joint Standing Committee may make recommendations as to relational consequences to the Churches of the Anglican Communion or to the Instruments of the Communion. These recommendations may address the extent to which the decision of any covenanting Church to continue with an action or decision which has been found to be “incompatible with the Covenant” impairs or limits the communion between that Church and the other Churches of the Communion. It may recommend whether such action or decision should have a consequence for participation in the life of the Communion and its Instruments. It shall be for each Church and each Instrument to determine its own response to such recommendations.

(4.2.6) Each Church undertakes to put into place such mechanisms, agencies or institutions, consistent with its own Constitution and Canons, as can undertake to oversee the maintenance of the affirmations and commitments of the Covenant in the life of that Church, and to relate to the Instruments of Communion on matters pertinent to the Covenant.

(4.2.7) Participation in the processes set out in this section .shall be limited to those members of the Instruments of Communion who are representatives of those churches who have adopted the Covenant, or who are still in the process of adoption.

Emphasis added.

The CDG’s Commentary on the RCD should also be read. Regarding Section 4, the group says in its commentary,

It is clear that one of the main fears attached to the idea of a Covenant is that it would limit Provincial autonomy. In the responses, this fear worked itself out in two directions. In the first place, there was substantial resistance to the idea that there should be any development of a body which could be seen to be exercising universal jurisdiction in Anglican polity. Anglicans wished to keep the autonomy of their Churches. Secondly, it became clear that the processes of adoption of the Covenant would be immensely complicated if the Covenant were seen to interfere with or to necessitate a change to the Constitution and Canons of any Province. The surrender of any legislative autonomy would in itself prove a stumbling block to the implementation of Covenant.

Section Four of the RCD is therefore constructed on the fundamental principle of the constitutional autonomy of each Church. The Covenant of itself cannot amend or override the Constitution and Canons of any Province. The Instruments of Communion cannot intervene in any jurisdictional way in the internal life of any of the Anglican Churches. The Covenant can only speak to the relationship between the Churches, and of the relational consequences of internal autonomous actions by a Church.

The draft text of Section Four therefore explicitly reaffirms that the Covenant and the Instruments of Communion of themselves do not impose or have any jurisdiction or authority to alter the internal governance of any Church of the Communion.

Addendum: Coincidentally, the full debate of the covenant by the General Synod of the Church of England is now available.


Bonnie Anderson, President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church:

On first reading it appears that the covenant design group demonstrates a faithfulness to the discussions at Lambeth and to the comments made by TEC on the St. Andrew’s draft. The most recent draft underscores, in Section Four, that the covenant does not undercut canons and constitution (read “local authority”) of churches. That is reassuring.

While Section Three begins to canonize and empower the “Instruments of Communion”, Section Four demonstrates the structural focus of, what many of us would prefer to see as a relationship-based, covenant rather than a covenant based on institutional structures.

Section Four institutionalizes, in a new way, the Primates meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council by providing for their acting, with the Joint Standing Committee, in “overseeing the maintenance of covenanted life”.

While the drafting group has moved forward with great care and has listened to the concerns raised by the Provinces, the draft covenant remains much too structurally focused. Why is there such emphasis on strengthening the “Instruments” and “institutions”?

God calls us together into a more relational and missional, way of being the body of Christ. We do not need structures to determine relationships.

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