Will the real Anglican Covenant please stand up?

For the Cafe’s analysis of the St. Andrew’s Draft of the proposed Anglican covenant, see these articles by Tobias Haller, Marshall Scott, Nicholas Knisely (2), Sally Johnson and Mark Harris–all of whom are members of the Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies. The Episcopal Church has also published a study guide.

By Bonnie Anderson

After the Windsor Report, the Anglican Communion’s Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism (IASCOME) made a key proposal that had the potential to mobilize the Communion toward common mission and strengthen the bonds of affection at the same time.

Unfortunately, amidst the clamor for an Anglican covenant that reads more like a contract, the Covenant for Communion in Mission proposed by IASCOME and received, forwarded and commended by the Anglican Consultative Council, got lost.

The IASCOME made its report at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Nottingham, June, 2005.

In November, 2006 the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church passed a resolution commending the Covenant for Communion in Mission for study. So what happened to it?

The IASCOME report says in its introduction, “We believe the Covenant for Communion in Mission can provide a focus for binding the Communion together in a way rather different from that envisaged by the Windsor Report.”

I agree. Has this Covenant for Communion in Mission received virtually no attention because it was too creative, too prophetic, too real, and too “different” from that envisaged by the Windsor Report?

While the Covenant for Communion in Mission has faded into near obscurity, the Five Marks of Mission are repeatedly given center stage, even though their adequacy has been repeatedly questioned.

For example, in its review of the Five Marks of Mission, MISSIO (the first Standing Commission of the Anglican Communion, serving from 1994-1999) states: We recognise with gratitude that the Five Marks have won wide acceptance among Anglicans, and have given parishes and dioceses around the world a practical and memorable ‘checklist’ for mission activities. However, we have come to believe that, as our Communion travels further along the road towards being mission-centred, the Five Marks need to be revisited. Faithful action is the measure of our response to… Christ (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; James 2:14-26). However, the challenge facing us is not just to do mission but to be a people of mission.

Why do the Five Marks of Mission continue to be put forward as the standard for holistic Mission (a term now being used by the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion and others)?

Perhaps we are taking the easy road by settling for an easy-to-understand checklist of mission parameters instead of doing the hard work it will take to come to agreement and understanding of God’s mission call to us. If we want to take our call to mission and evangelism seriously, then we have to do the hard work it demands to clearly develop the foundational understanding upon which the response to mission will be built.

“A Covenant for Communion in Mission” is THE covenant the Anglican Communion should be discussing. As a Communion, we need an understanding of and commitment to mission that calls us together. As a Communion, we need accountability for our call to God’s mission and evangelism in this world. As a Communion, we need to become a people of mission. Given the primary importance of our call to mission, it is reasonable to go in another direction. It is reasonable to consider the document “A Covenant for Communion in Mission” as the covenant that strengthens our bonds of affection in the communion and binds us closer together as a people of mission.

“For, you see, so many out-of-the-way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible.”

(Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, p.21)

Bonnie Anderson is president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church. This article originally appeared in the Lambeth Witness.

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