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Covenant resolutions addressed at public hearing

General Convention’s legislative committee on World Mission heard public testimony July 6 on eight resolutions regarding Anglican Communion relationships and the Anglican Covenant, a document that supporters say offers a way to bind Anglicans globally across cultural and theological differences.

The resolutions range from rejecting to approving the covenant, with one proposing a via media approach, urging continued study and committing the church to ongoing participation in the process. All eight resolutions affirm the Episcopal Church’s membership in and commitment to the Anglican Communion.

The first resolution to emerge was A126, submitted by the Episcopal Church’s Executive Council, which would have the church say it is “unable to adopt the Anglican Covenant in its present form.” Another council resolution (A145) expresses gratitude to those who have worked on drafting the covenant and commits the church to continued dialogue and participation in the Anglican Communion.

Then in April, another two resolutions were filed.

Resolution B006, proposed by Bishop John Bauerschmidt of Tennessee and endorsed by 10 other bishops, asks the church to affirm and adopt the covenant.

At the July 6 hearing, Bauerschmidt said his resolution commits the church “to continue the process” and to discern how to modify the covenant according to the Episcopal Church’s constitutions and canons. “This is necessary if we are really seeking as a communion to be of one mind and one heart and to share a common life,” he said. “We have seen how much damage has been done in the Episcopal Church in the absence of a process to resolve widely disputed questions.”

Resolution B005, proposed by Connecticut Bishop Ian Douglas and backed by two other bishops, would encourage the church to embrace the preamble and first three sections of the four-section document. This, Douglas told ENS, would ensure that the church does not remove itself from the ongoing covenant process.

The document’s fourth section, which outlines a disciplinary method for resolving disputes in the communion, has been the covenant’s main sticking point.

Other proposed resolutions include D006, which calls on the church to decline to adopt the covenant, saying that after extensive study the church is “unable to reach a clear consensus and is therefore unwilling to continue expending funds, time and energy on this proposed covenant.” Instead, the resolution asks the Episcopal Church to commit itself to “A Covenant for Communion in Mission,” developed by the Inter Anglican Standing Commission on Mission and Evangelism, “so that provinces of the Anglican Communion can be effective in promoting God’s presence and healing to those in our world that are broken and disenfranchised,” according to the proposed text.

Another resolution (D007) also urges the church to decline to adopt  the covenant, saying it is “contrary to Anglican ecclesiology and tradition and to the best interests of the Anglican Communion.”

The World Mission committee will discuss the testimony from the hearings and consider all the resolutions that have been proposed before recommending legislation to the houses of General Convention.

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.

Throughout the Anglican Communion, seven provinces have approved or subscribed to the Anglican Covenant. They are Ireland, Mexico, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, South East Asia, Southern Cone of America, and the West Indies.

In March, it became clear that the Church of England could not adopt the covenant in its current form when a majority of its dioceses voted the document down.

For more information about the Anglican Covenant, see the tab above “Background on Resolutions” and click on “Proposed Anglican Covenant.”

Taken from a report by Matthew Davies for Episcopal News Service

 

 

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