The Anglican Church of Canada’s triennial General Synod on July 5 approved a motion that urges its faithful to continue conversations on the proposed Anglican Covenant and delays a final decision on whether to accept or reject it until 2016.
The Covenant is a set of principles prescribed as a way of healing relationships among member provinces of the Anglican Communion, which have been damaged by divisions over human sexuality. It was recommended in the 2004 Windsor Report, written by a group of bishops, priests and theologians appointed by then- Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
“At this time, there is no clear consensus within our church on whether to accept or reject the Covenant,” said the new prolocutor, Archdeacon Harry Huskins, who presented the resolution on behalf of the governance working group (GWG). He added that the motion “allows us to hold our place at the table of Communion discussions.”
The motion was met with mixed reactions on the floor.
The Rev. Malcolm French, diocese of Qu’Appelle, argued that “there’s more consensus than one might believe.” French, moderator of the No Anglican Covenant Coalition, likened the Covenant to demanding “a pre-nuptial agreement when you’re already married.”
Archdeacon Edward Simonton, diocese of Quebec, wondered, “Is this not a motion that is basically a very Canadian, polite way of saying no?” He added: “It seems like a good way to hedge our bets, one way or the other…”
Canon Gene Packwood, diocese of Calgary, expressed concern about the “standing” of the Canadian church in other parts of the world.
Others argued, however, that the church’s relationships with other members of the Communion are not only being healed but are flourishing through the bishops’ dialogue with their counterparts from Africa, companion relationships between dioceses in Canada and overseas, and through partnerships.
The approved motion asks the Anglican Communion Working Group (ACWG) to “monitor continued developments” around the proposed Covenant. It requests that the ACWG render a report to the spring 2016 meeting of CoGS, and directs CoGS “to bring a recommendation regarding the adoption of the Covenant” to the next General Synod in 2016.
In 2010, General Synod had approved a resolution that received the final text of the Covenant, requested the ACWG to prepare study and consultation materials for parishes and dioceses, and requested that the faith, worship and ministry committee and the governance working group provide advice on the “theological, ecclesiological, legal and constitutional implications of the decision to adopt or not adopt the Covenant.” It also directed CoGS “to bring a recommendation regarding the adoption of the Covenant” to the 2013 General Synod.