Question 11 answered

In yesterday’s ACC media briefing on the Anglican covenant adoption process Anglican Communion Deputy Secretary General Gregory Cameron answered a question about the meaning of the word “Church.” In his answer Cameron referred an October 2008 document entitled,

A Lambeth Commentary: The Reflections on the St Andrew’s Draft for an Anglican Covenant by the bishops gathered at the 2008 Lambeth Conference together with responses from the Covenant Design Group, and in particular to Question 11 as still applicable:

11. “The Churches of the Communion”

Q: Bishops asked how the term “Churches of the Communion” should be understood in the draft covenant. If the diocese was the local Church, could a diocese sign up for the covenant?

A: In Anglican ecclesiology, there is a creative tension between the understanding of “local Church”, which is that portion of God’s people gathered around their bishop, usually in the form of a territorial diocese, and “Church” as a term or description for a national or regional ecclesial community, which is bound together by a national character, and/or common liturgical life, governance and canon law. Traditionally, Anglicans have asserted the ecclesial character of the national Church as the privileged unit of ecclesiastical life. The Church of England’s very existence was predicated upon such an assumption at the time of the Reformation. Recognised in most cases as “Provinces”, these national or regional Churches are the historical bodies through which the life of the Anglican Communion has been expressed, and they are the primary parties for whom the covenant has been designed. If, however, the canons and constitutions of a Province permit, there is no reason why a diocesan synod should not commit itself to the covenant, thus strengthening its commitment to the interdependent life of the Communion.

Cameron went on to give the example of Wales whose provincial constitution would not allow a diocesan synod to sign without the permission of the province. But he also said that it was the “opinion of the CDG” that otherwise “there was no reason a diocese could not express its solidarity with the Covenant.” Cameron did not address the directly put question of whether groups like ACNA were welcome. Gomez referred directly to 4.1.5 of the Ridley draft which “opened the door to other churches” once the Covenant came “into force” (Gomez’s words in quotes). Cameron answered after Gomez and it appeared he was seeking to subtly reframe Gomez’s answer.

For those interested in the details the entire 30 minute briefing is worth your time. Answering a question that continues to be raised, Cameron said the JSC is recommending the ACC not get into revising the Ridley draft; it’s all or nothing. Gomez answers that Section 4 is integral to the whole and should not be jettisoned. Cameron resurrects the specter of two tiers of membership in the Communion. In the last minute or so Gomez answers a question about when said resolutions for General Convention 2009 that he seen circulating on the web could imperil the Communion.

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