Monday, November 15, 2010

International campaign launched against Anglican Covenant

 The campaign against the Anglican Covenantwas stepped up a gear on Nov. 3 with the formation of an international coalition that says the covenant would constitute "unwarranted interference in the internal life of the member churches of the Anglican Communion, would narrow the acceptable range of belief and practice within Anglicanism, and would prevent further development of Anglican thought."The coalition -- made up of Anglicans in Canada, England, New Zealand and the United States -- has launched a website, called "No Anglican Covenant" that it says provides resources "for Anglicans around the world to learn about the potential risks of the proposed Anglican Covenant."
"We believe that the majority of the clergy and laity in the Anglican Communion would not wish to endorse this document," said the Rev. Lesley Fellows, the coalition's moderator and a member of the Church of England. "Apart from church insiders, very few people are aware of the covenant. We want to encourage a wider discussion and to highlight the problems the covenant will cause."
The covenant first was proposed in the 2004 Windsor Report as a way that the Anglican Communion and its 38 autonomous provinces might maintain unity despite differences, especially relating to biblical interpretation and human sexuality issues.
But some Anglicans, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the Episcopal Church's Executive Council, have raised concerns about the covenant being used as an instrument of control, particularly in section 4, which outlines a method for resolving disputes in the communion.
Two progressive U.K.-based Anglican groups, Inclusive Church and Modern Churchjoined together in late October to campaign against the covenant, which they say is "an attempt by some leaders of the Anglican Communion to subordinate national churches to a centralized international authority, with power to forbid developments when another province objects."

The groups, which took out full-page anti-covenant ads in two U.K. religious newspapers, are campaigning ahead of the Church of England's General Synod, which on Nov. 24 will be asked to approve the covenant.
The international coalition said in a Nov. 3 press release that critics of the Anglican Covenant "believe that it will fundamentally alter the nature of historic Anglicanism in several ways, including the narrowing of theological views deemed acceptable, the erosion of the freedom of the member churches to govern themselves, and the concentration of authority in the hands of a small number of bishops."
The launch of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition website coincides with the church’s commemoration of the 16th-century theologian Richard Hooker, who believed in the three-legged stool principle of Scripture, tradition and reason as being the fundamental basis for Anglicanism.
According to the press release, the coalition began in late October "with a series of informal e-mail conversations among several international Anglican bloggers concerned that the covenant was being rushed through the approval process before most Anglicans had any opportunity to learn how the proposed new structures would affect them." Among the international bloggers is Lionel Deimel, a computer consultant from the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh and the first vice president of theProgressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh coalition.
Following years of discussion and several draft versions, the final text of the covenant was sent in December 2009 to the communion's 38 provinces for formal consideration.
In the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, congregations are being urged to study and discuss the covenant during the next two years in preparation for General Convention in 2012.
Executive Council has predicted that any formal approval of the covenant by the Episcopal Church could not come until at least 2015 should endorsement require changes to the church's constitution.
The Anglican Church of Mexico, meeting in General Synod in June, became the first province formally toadopt the covenant. The Anglican Church of Southern Africa on Oct. 1 voted in favor of adopting the covenant, but that decision will need to be ratified by the next meeting of provincial synod in 2013.
-- Matthew Davies is editor and international correspondent of the Episcopal News Service.

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