[Episcopal News Service – Indianapolis] One of the “thorny issues” on General Convention’s agenda is the Anglican Covenant, a document that supporters say offers a way to bind Anglicans globally across cultural and theological differences.
For some, the sticking point is not so much in the spirit of the document, but in the proposed text, in particular its future interpretation.
Bishop David Alvarez of Puerto Rico said: “I believe that in essence we all agree with the Anglican Covenant, but some of us have reservations regarding section IV. As it is, it leaves an open door for potential conflicts between the Anglican Church and some provinces.”
By way of example, Alvarez made a reference to views of the church regarding human sexuality and said that some fear that the Anglican Covenant may be used as an instrument of control.
“The problem is more in the form that in the concept,” said Alvarez. “I believe that in general the Anglican Covenant is positive but before moving forward we must sort out the ambiguities.”
Bishop Orlando Guerrero of Venezuela holds a similar position. “The idea [of the covenant] has merits overall, but there is no need to rush.” He adds that it is necessary to resolve beforehand all potential contentious issues to do things right from the onset, and “if someone has reservations, the responsible thing is to openly say so. To do otherwise would be a disservice to the communion.”
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, in an interview in Spanish with the Webradio service of the Latino/Hispanic Ministry, said the covenant “is something very British, and many sectors within the communion see it as an attempt to re-create the empire. For some parts of the communion — for example, in New Zealand with its mostly indigenous church — many people don’t like the form of the Section IV of the Anglican Covenant.”
The presiding bishop said she believes that nowadays many within the Episcopal Church and other churches within the communion “have more opportunities to establish relations and work in unity, which results in stronger bonds than those that may come out of the Anglican Covenant.”
The Anglican Covenant first was proposed in the 2004 Windsor Report as a way that the communion and its 38 autonomous provinces might maintain unity despite differences, especially relating to biblical interpretation and human sexuality issues. The report came in the wake of the 2003 election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as bishop of New Hampshire, a development that caused some provinces to declare broken or impaired communion with the Episcopal Church. The covenant also was a response to some church leaders crossing borders into other provinces to minister to disaffected Anglicans.
Following five years of discussion and several draft versions, the final text of the covenant was sent in December 2009 to the communion’s provinces for formal consideration.
— Cesar Cardoza is a member of the Episcopal News Service team at General Convention.