Canadian Anglican one of four on new covenant working group

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The Archbishop of Canterbury has appointed the members of a small working group that will “consider and consult” with provinces of the Anglican Communion on the controversial section of the proposed Anglican Covenant dealing with dispute resolution and the definition of which entities can sign on to the covenant.

The appointees include Eileen Scully, co-ordinator for worship and ministry of the Anglican Church of Canada’s faith, worship and ministry department.

The working group, to be chaired by the Church of Ireland’s Archbishop of Dublin, John Neill, also includes the primate of the Church of the Province of Southeast Asia, Archbishop John Chew, and the bishop of the Church of Wales’ diocese of St. Asaph, Gregory Cameron.

Ms. Scully, Archbishop Neill and Archbishop Chew were all members of the Covenant Design Group (CDG) that produced the second and third drafts of the proposed Anglican Covenant; Bishop Cameron served as secretary.

The group was created following a request made by the recent 14th Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting that a ‘small working group” be appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to “consider and consult with the provinces” on Section 4 of the Ridley-Cambridge draft “and its possible revision.”

After a long, drawn-out debate, the ACC had voted to postpone sending the Ridley-Cambridge draft of the proposed covenant to provinces for consideration and approval. Those opposed to sending the draft as the final text raised questions regarding Section 4 of the draft, Our Covenanted Life Together, and cited lack of consultation with provinces on the matter. The draft was finalized and sent out to provinces only in March.

Some delegates, however, expressed concern that any delay would further damage the already fragile state of the Anglican Communion, which has been deeply divided over the issue of sexuality.

In response, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams promised that the working group would be constituted immediately.

Ms. Scully said she was “incredibly honoured” by the appointment. “It really is an
amazing privilege, along with the responsibility.” She said that, although members of the CDG reached a general consensus, “getting there was a long and, at times, rocky road.”

Ms. Scully said that she left the last meeting that produced the Ridley-Cambridge draft “with a sense of dissatisfaction about some of the underlying questions relating to Section 4,” which she said the Anglican Church of Canada had also identified as needing further work. “These have to do with the meaning of ‘church’ throughout the document, which comes to a head in Section 4 around questions of signing on and participation in the life of the communion,” she said. “It’s been my contention since the beginning of not only this ‘covenant’ work, but within the IATDC (Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission) that Anglicans need to do some serious theological work on the ecclesiology of ‘province.'”

She added, “While we’re not going to solve this within the limitations of a covenant and Section 4 in particular, it does seem to me that there are some principles relating to the identity of Anglican ‘provinces’ that need to be clarified.”

Ms. Scully said that the debate on Section 4 has “predictably focused” on who can sign on to the covenant: Is it just provinces (entities that make up the membership of the ACC) or can it include dioceses (“those entities that are commonly called the basic ecclesiological unit”) and associations (those “not recognized as provinces except by themselves”)?

Provinces of the Anglican Communion have until late October to send their comments about Section 4 of the Ridley-Cambridge draft to the Anglican Communion office. (The Anglican Communion, with an estimated 80 million members, is composed of 34 provinces, four United churches, and six other churches worldwide.)

The working group is scheduled to meet in London on Nov. 20 and 21 and will report to the joint standing committee in mid-December.

The establishment of a covenant was a key recommendation of the 2004 Windsor Report, a document published by the Lambeth Commission on Communion. The commission was created by Archbishop Williams to seek ways of preventing a schism within the Anglican Communion following the approval of the blessing of same-sex unions in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster in 2002, and the ordination of a gay bishop in The Episcopal Church in 2003.

Most recently, Ms. Scully served as part of the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission, which was charged by Archbishop Williams with finding ways to maintain unity in the face of increasing diversity in the Anglican Communion.
Ms. Scully has a doctorate in theology from St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. She has served as a member of the Primate’s Theological Commission (1998 to 2003) and was a consultant for the faith, worship and ministry department (1995 to 2001) before becoming staff.

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Marites N. Sison
Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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