Archive for March 2010

Anglican Covenant Forum

March 10, 2010

On February 25, CDSP sponsored a forum on the proposed Anglican Covenant. The panelists, drawn from the Bay Area, provided a lively discussion on this controversial document. The three panelists present were two lay deputies from the Diocese of California for the 2009 General Convention, Ms. Sarah Lawton (member of the Standing Commission on Public Policy and Social Justice) and Dr. Rod Dugliss (Dean of the School for Deacons), and the Rev. Dr. Ruth Meyers of CDSP, clerical deputy from the Diocese of Chicago and former chair of the Chicago Consultation.

The lively panel of the Anglican Covenant Forum

Sarah Lawton began the evening emphasizing the importance of lay perspectives on the proposed covenant. Lawton affirmed much contained in the document, especially sections 1 and 2 on the inheritance of faith and the common life of the Anglican Communion. Turning to section 3, titled “Our Unity and Common Life,” Lawton noted the significant role given to bishops and the lack of mention of the role of laity in calling the church to mission. Lawton also raised the issue of whether the four Instruments of Communion articulated in the covenant are the only means by which the Episcopal Church can be in relation with other members of the communion. Lawton concluded by noting that TEC desires relationship with other churches in a shared commitment to mission.

Rod Dugliss offered a close reading of the proposed covenant, beginning with a categorization of this document as an “ecclesial-political covenant” rather than as a confessional document. To Dugliss, this is a document concerned primarily about order, not belief. This makes sections 1-3 of this text a preface to the disciplinary mechanisms of section 4. The end result is the proposed creation of a “supra-provincial” governing structure designed to create greater conformity and uniformity across the Anglican Communion. Building on this, Dugliss suggested that the best analogous model for the governance model for the Anglican Communion presented in the proposed covenant is the British Commonwealth of Nations, both of which grew out of the British Empire. The caution then with adopting this covenant for TEC is that it would endorse the creation of a more tightly controlled communion of churches than currently exists.

The cozy crowd of forum participants.

Ruth Meyers initiated her reflections by building on Dugliss’ observations by noting that it was not clear in section 4 of the proposed covenant at what stage this moved from a proposed document to an official document. Meyers then moved on to commend the Covenant Design Group for clearly listening to feedback at every stage of the drafting process; significant revisions occurred because of feedback from all corners of the communion. In Meyers’ opinion that led to significant strengths in sections 1 and 2 with their respective emphases on the ideas of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the importance of mission for the member churches of the Anglican Communion. But like Lawton, Meyers expressed concern over the insufficient attention to the role of the laity in this document. With its emphasis on the roles of bishops and synods, the proposed covenant does not attend to the emerging baptismal ecclesiology of TEC and other member churches of the communion. Meyers also expressed concern over the power in section 4 given to the newly constructed Standing Commission of the Anglican Communion. It remains unclear exactly what type of authority this body, composed of members from the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates Meeting, holds. Meyers concluded by affirming Lawton’s prior assessment of the importance of mission for TEC, declaring a trust in the Holy Spirit to guide the church into mission.

The evening concluded with questions from the audience and further thoughts on the proposed Anglican Covenant from the panelists.

A full video of the panel is on CDSP’s Vimeo Channel

Anglican Communion Covenant Forum from CDSP on Vimeo.