On the sixth legislative day of the triennial General Convention of The Episcopal Church, July 10, the House of Bishops concurred with the deputies to “decline to take a position on the Anglican Covenant,” but they affirmed their participation in the wider Anglican Communion.
Work on the Covenant began in 2004 as an attempt to set norms for common beliefs and practices among the Anglican Communion’s 38 provinces. Impetus for the effort came from moves within a minority of provinces, most notably The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada, to authorize practices that are out of step and unacceptable in the larger Anglican world.
The Covenant is designed to heal rifts among the provinces over those practices, including same-sex unions and openly gay bishops.
General Convention’s Committee on World Mission boiled down eight separately proposed resolutions into two: D008, which supports participation in the Anglican Communion; and B005, which declines to sign on to the Covenant.
In introducing the resolutions to the house, Bishop Ian Douglas, Connecticut, chairman of the committee, said the committee was “blessed” by having seven of the proposers of the eight initial resolutions on it.
As the committee worked, it became clear that “this church holds a wide variety of ecclesiological positions and opinions on the Anglican Covenant and its position in the Anglican Communion at this point in time.
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Resolution B005 reflects that sentiment, calling itself, in part, “a pastoral response to The Episcopal Church.”
B005 also asks that the presiding bishop and the president of the House of Deputies appoint a task force of Executive Council, “to continue to monitor the ongoing developments with respect to the Anglican Covenant and how this church might continue its participation,” and report those findings back to the next General Convention.
Resolution B005, submitted by Bishop Douglas, originally resolved that, the General Convention endorse the preamble and first three sections of the four-part Covenant, “as a demonstration of The Episcopal Church’s dedication to the unity of the Anglican Communion.”
The Covenant’s fourth section sets disciplinary rules for resolving disputes in the communion.
Resolution D008 says The Episcopal Church reaffirms, “our historic commitment to and constituent membership in the Anglican Communion as expressed in the Preamble of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church.”
The resolution calls on The Episcopal Church to “deepen its involvement with communion ministries and networks,” and encourages “dioceses, congregations and individual Episcopalians to educate themselves about the Communion as well as promote and support the Anglican Communion and its work.”
Douglas told the bishops that the resolution “gives gratitude for diversity of churches, celebrates relationships across differences, reaffirms our membership in the Anglican Communion, promises ongoing participation in the councils of the communion, and also lifts up and supports the good work that our church and other churches have been doing in the Continuing Indaba and commits us to educating our own so that we can deeper support the Anglican Communion.”
Discussion of the resolutions was light in the House of Bishops.
Bishop William O. Gregg, North Carolina, said he was for the resolutions in part because he appreciated the process used for coming up with an official position toward the Covenant.
“The gift and the grace of the Covenant has not been that document, but has been the particularly Anglican process,” including the relationship building and “connectedness” that have developed.
R. William Franklin, Western New York, asked for clarification about the line in B005 that calls for continued Episcopal Church “participation.”
Douglas responded that participation would involve, among other things, attending the upcoming Anglican Consultative Council meeting in October. He said Episcopal Church participants would bring questions about “how many churches need to sign on to the Covenant for it to come into effect, and should there be a time limit” for considering the Covenant.