Sunday, 25 March 2012

The Archbishop Responds...

I think it is about the right time to indicate what my position is regarding the Anglican Communion Covenant, now that it will not formally be returning to the Church in England General Synod, in that rather early in the process it has been rejected by sufficient houses within diocesan synods, although I suggest that it is fair to say that on a simpler majoritarian consultation it might have been passed more easily, especially as the remaining dioceses vote upon it in the near future running up to the next General Synod.

Therefore I would consider on reflection that it must be reasonable to consider altering the basis on which, in future, dioceses are to be consulted on matters that are especially for the Communion level. There need to be a number of reforms, I think, starting with the leadership of the bishops that can be actual, effective and weighty in terms of the voting, and a simpler structure of consultation among representatives of those who only attend church or are engaged in localised pastoral situations. This is not a denial of the extent of the Body of Christ; however, if any institution is a theocracy and not a democracy, it must be that of the Church, and the proper balance needs to be in place of leadership according to reading the ordinal.

I said in a previous Synod that the vote in the Church in England could not alter the outcome of the Covenant, and indeed nothing changes regarding my role, and my successor's role, nor indeed of any of the other instruments. As Anglican General Secretary Keiron Kenneth has recently pointed out, seven to eight of Anglican provinces have signed up to the Covenant already.

The Covenant functions as soon as it is adopted, and so we will begin its effective operations very soon. Indeed the Instruments have slowly and rightly become active in recent years. Those provinces that have not adopted the Covenant will still be invited to bring their contentious legislation to the Instruments for processes of internal debate and consideration, and will be asked for patience, simply by means of persuasion and responses by provinces (as was ever the presentation made), and of course whilst there cannot be any relational consequences for those presently not adopting the Covenant this does not prevent opinion being expressed about actions taken (and therefore potentially not taken) by some members of the Anglican Communion if those actions would be incompatible with the Covenant, if they were adopting it.

Also the Instruments of Communion will continue to invite provinces to adopt the Covenant - even those that have not already - and perhaps after some have seen it working they may be persuaded to adopt the responsibility of joining. The Church in England will be asked to engage through hopefully streamlined processes to adopt the Covenant in about three years time, or perhaps soon after those processes are in place that make such an adoption more practical.

I simply cannot see any alternative to the Anglican Communion Covenant if, in the medium to longer term, the process of uniting our bishops in the provinces and making the Communion more of a Church is to proceed. This is the inevitable direction ecumenically and I am pleased that a good number of the provinces are already so well advanced along this pathway.

To emphasise a point: it should be clear that the Church in England and indeed all provinces of the Anglican Communion are properly episcopal, hierarchical Churches, with a recognition needed of the charism of bishops, and that in this day of closer ecumenical relations there needs to be a wider but institutionally embedded recognition of this fact. I urge the Church in England to consider this need with some urgency. But such rationalising changes I must leave to my successor.


June Butler said...

Adrian, you had me fooled there for a minute. I looked for the link to the source.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

As soon as you read 'Church in England' then that should be a sufficient giveaway. However, I wonder just how similar his reponse to this will be. I could be giving him ideas; I could be his speechwriter.