From Religious Intelligence via TitusOneNine:
Wednesday, 15th April 2009. 3:02pm
By: George Conger.
Churches which violate the boundaries of Anglican faith and order would be subject to a disciplinary process overseen by the joint standing committee of the Primates and the Anglican Consultative Council, the third draft of the Anglican Covenant has proposed.
Muted response to latest ‘Anglican Covenant’ draft
Scofflaws could be adjudged to be acting in a manner “incompatible with the Covenant" and subject to possible suspension from participation in international Anglican forums, the documents said. However, discipline would not be automatic, and would be exercised by the individual provinces and the communion; for “it shall be for each Church and each Instrument to determine its own response to such recommendations” for discipline, the proposed Covenant stated.
Meeting from March 29 to April 2 at Ridley Hall, the Covenant Design Group (CDG) revised the second “St Andrew’s” draft of the document. Originally envisioned as setting the parameters of Anglicanism, the third draft of the Covenant was reworked in light of comments received from over 20 provinces, the bishops at the 2008 Lambeth Conference and other comments.
Initial reactions to the document have been poor. While applauding the diminution of the earlier draft’s disciplinary provisions, liberals have voiced concern over the centralization of authority in entities outside existing provincial structures. Conservatives have been disappointed with the third draft for weakening the disciplinary provisions, pardoning the current crop of ecclesiastical malefactors, and advocating a tepid Anglicanism divorced from Scripture, the Prayer Book and Church history.
The President of the US House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson, stated the third draft “remains much too structurally focused. Why is there such emphasis on strengthening the ‘Instruments’ and ‘institutions’? ,” she asked. “God calls us together into a more relational and missional way of being the body of Christ. We do not need structures to determine relationships.”
One global south archbishop told ReligiousIntelligence.com he was disappointed by draft, saying it was a turgid document written in “late 20th century ecumenese.” Some of its theological suppositions were foreign to the evangelical tradition within Anglicanism, he said, and added that it offered no new way forward for dealing with the crisis in the Communion as it “grandfathered in” the Episcopal Church’s current practices on gay bishops and blessings.
Divided into four sections, the document restates traditional creedal beliefs from a high church perspective, but seeks to mollify both the liberal and conservative wings of the communion.
Churches are to “teach and act in continuity and consonance with Scripture and the catholic and apostolic faith, order and tradition, as received by the Churches of the Anglican Communion.” However, the churches are to “encourage and be open to prophetic and faithful leadership in ministry and mission” while studying the “Scriptures in our different contexts,” with the aim of maintaining “the solemn obligation to nurture and sustain Eucharistic communion.”
The document reaffirms the constitutional and canonical autonomy of individual provinces of the Anglican Communion and acknowledges that within the “life of communion” there is “an ongoing engagement with the diverse expressions of apostolic authority, from synods and episcopal councils to local witness, in a way which continually interprets and articulates the common faith of the Church's members.
This freedom of innovation however is set in tension with the role of bishops as “guardians and teachers of faith, as leaders in mission, and as a visible sign of unity, representing the universal Church to the local, and the local Church to the universal and the local Churches to one another.” The four instruments of communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates’ Meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council are briefly defined, with each asked to “consult with, respond to, and support each other.”
Matters of doctrinal and moral innovation should be “tested by shared discernment,” by seeking the “shared mind with other Churches, through the Communion's councils, about matters of common concern, in a way consistent with the Scriptures, the common standards of faith, and the canon laws of our churches.”
Those adopting the Covenant should agree to “participate in mediated conversations” when disputes arise, and commit to “see such processes through.” If unwilling to abide by the Covenant’s terms, a disciplinary process overseen by the joint standing committee of the Primates and ACC may be introduced, with the potential for suspension from participation in global church councils. However, the ultimate decision of how a church in violation of the Covenant is treated rests with individual provinces.
By vesting provinces with the ultimate authority in determining the meaning of the Covenant, the document effectively concedes that the national churches, not dioceses, are the primary ecclesial units of the Anglican Communion.
Adoption of the Covenant is also vested with provinces and not individual dioceses: “Every Church of the Anglican Communion, as recognized in accordance with the Constitution of the Anglican Consultative Council, is invited to adopt this Covenant in its life according to its own constitutional procedures.”