How to Approach the Covenant

Mark Harris has penned a thoughtful reflection on the state of the Anglican Covenant, in particular in light of the finally released opinion of the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons. (All such committees and commissions are very conscious of the fact that only the General Convention can speak with final authority on the meaning of its own documents; which may in part have been behind the, shall we say, shyness about the release of this report. No harm done, and it is good to see their thoughts, even though they are not the last word.)

One of the long-term concerns about approaching the Covenant is the awareness that its genesis was in part in response to actions of the Episcopal Church (and the Anglican Church of Canada), and given our unwillingness to refrain (after a season of restraint) from acting on our best determinations, some have said that we cannot in good conscience sign the Covenant.

This seems to me to lay too much emphasis on the genesis and not enough on the deuteronomy -- that is, on what the Covenant actually says.

As I see it, the way to "not cross our fingers" is to reject Lambeth 1.10 and the Windsor Report as authoritative from the start, and to reaffirm that the "mind of the communion" is not settled on the matters on which some seem to think it is. And to reaffirm our belief that the "objectionable" actions of TEC are in fact in accord with Scripture, Tradition, and Reason, even to the extent and in the manner described in the Covenant. And then move forward from there, whether we adopt or refuse or commit for further study. In other words, to take a stand and allow our response to the Covenant to be informed by that stand.

This approach is possible because, unlike the Jerusalem Declaration, the Covenant does not address specific issues, specifically not the specific issues that brought us to this place. (Hence its rejection by some who wanted a specific checklist on the hot topics, much in the manner of the classic confessions). It is up to us to make our case, or re-make it, if need be, and then have the courage, if the case cannot be accepted, to say, then fare well -- we have no wish to be part of a Communion which imposes doctrinal conditions that cannot be proven from Scripture, itself a violation of a timeworn Anglican touchstone. (Obviously there is disagreement across the communion, and no true consensus on the sexuality issues: a result of this very lack of convincing proof of the moral wrongness of same-sex marriage or the ordination of men or women who happen to live in such covenanted relationships.)

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

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