From The Living Church:
Posted on: March 24, 2009
As the Covenant Design Group readies its handiwork for deliberation by the Anglican Consultative Council, the group’s chairman acknowledges that selling a unity document to a divided communion will be neither automatic nor easy.
Retired West Indies’ Archbishop Drexel Wellington Gomez identified current Episcopal Church attitudes as a danger to ratification of the proposed Covenant.
Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori already has said General Convention this summer should decline to take up for consideration the design group’s yet-to-be perfected recommendations for measures aimed at respecting local autonomy while providing accountability for divisive actions.
“The Episcopal Church has its own agenda,” Archbishop Gomez said in Dallas March 22, “and that agenda does not have much accommodation with the rest of the Communion.”
The archbishop spoke at the end of a week-long stay at Church of the Incarnation, where he was featured guest for the parish’s “Listening to the Anglican World” series.
The Covenant Design Group is to complete its work – essentially a statement about Anglican vocation, unity, and interdependence – just before delivering the covenant to the Anglican Consultative Council’s May meeting in Jamaica.
The ACC, which represents every Anglican province and comprises bishops, priests, and laity, is expected to send out the covenant for ratification by the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces. Two-thirds majority approval is necessary for implementation.
Archbishop Gomez underscored the importance of the enterprise, saying, “The covenant is the only thing we have on the table at present that offers any hope of coherence within the Communion. But it is not an easy selling job.”
Americans and Canadians, he said, are likely to resist undertakings they see as tying their hands on supposedly prophetic steps and measures. The Episcopal Church’s consecration in 2003 of an actively gay bishop helped precipitate the Communion-wide clamor that led to creation of the Covenant Design Group under authority of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
The proposed covenant’s final section pledges participants to “act with diligence, care and caution,” respecting actions that might “threaten the unity of the Communion and the effectiveness or credibility of its mission.”
Archbishop Gomez said a new fourth section of the now-three-section covenant will address the question of “how we get agreement on how we stay together and work together.” He noted that many Anglicans are “not fond of being told they are wrong.
“That’s our biggest fight, and that fight is not over,” he said. Nonetheless, he said in answer to a question, “The bigger body has to take precedence over the lesser.”
The archbishop said, absent countervailing measures, he feared the loss of the Anglican Communion’s catholicity. “That is something I will fight, and fight to the bitter end,” he said.